Machinery & Equipment (BF 105)

Evaluating What’s Right for Your Operation

Many a farm operation has been sunk by “shiny equipment syndrome”; in other words, purchasing too much brand new equipment. On the other end of the scale, many new farmers have burned out their bodies by not adequately powering their farms with machinery. This course will help you strike a happy balance, evaluating what equipment you really need for your scale of operation, whether to buy or make other arrangements, and how to keep your equipment running smoothly if you do purchase it. The course will focus on using and maintain small tractors and implements. There will be some
information included on smaller equipment, such as roto-tillers, but the focus will be on tractors.

Target Audience

You will get the most out of this course if you:

  • Have access to land and have set goals for your property
  • Are actively planning farm start-up in the next year or are already in your first few years of farming
  • Have a basic understanding of agricultural production practices
  • Have already purchased some farm equipment or plan on purchasing in the near future.
  • Aspiring youth farmers are also welcome in the course

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will:

  • Have a better understanding of factors in farm machinery selection
  • Estimate farm machinery acquisition and maintenance costs
  • Evaluate alternatives to acquiring farm machinery
  • Have an understanding of how to do basic equipment setup and maintenance
  • Understand safe operation of farm machinery


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructor to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing. Access details will be posted in MOODLE once you have registered and logged in.

Qualifying for Loans

If you are considering applying for a low-interest beginning farmer loan though the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), completing this course may help you qualify, if you meet other eligibility requirements. For farmers in NY who have already applied for an FSA loan and been told they need borrower training credit, all of our courses are pre-approved to provide you with this credit, if you complete all course requirements. For more information, visit the FSA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loans website.


Dan Welch and Laura Biasillo are Agricultural Educators with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga and Broome Counties, respectively.


This course will not be offered again until early 2015. If you want to make sure you get the announcement about course dates, sign up for Small Farms Program e-news, subscribe to our blog, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter

Course Outline

  • Week 1: Introductions, Welcome to Course; Introduction of case study
  • Week 2: Investment in farm equipment: purchase options – new, used, lease, sharing and/or custom arrangements & what is the right equipment investment level for your farm?
  • Week 3: Evaluation of equipment, new & used, checklist for going to equipment dealers
  • Week 4: Matching implements to the tractor – horsepower, requirements, etc.
  • Week 5: Safety & Maintenance
  • Week 6: Wrap-up, final questions, plans for next steps

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $200. Registration for all courses will open again in mid-August 2013.

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