It has become fashionable to complain about the high price of farmland and how it’s difficult or even impossible for young people to get a start in farming these days.
However, if you look at the selling price of older farm equipment, this is a great time to start farming. You can be very well equipped at a reasonable price.
At a recent consignment auction sale in my neck of the woods of southwestern Saskatchewan, I watched a 2002 Morris Maxim 11 39-foot air drill with a 240-bushel, two-compartment tank sell for a mere $7,000. The unit appeared to be in great shape;the one knock against it being that it was single shoot.
Units that are 15 or 20 years old sell relatively cheaply whether they are Morris, Flexi-Coil or Bourgault, even if they have double shoot capability.
And cheap horsepower is available to pull older drills. If you’re willing to run something that isn’t fancy, but still has years of life left, you can find a seeding tractor for under $25,000.
Most producers have moved to high-clearance sprayers and as a result pull-type sprayers are a dime a dozen. At this particular auction, some very serviceable rigs sold for under $1,000.
There may be jobs for which you would want to hire a custom high-clearance operator, but on a small- to medium-sized acreage, you can get by without the expense of owning one.
As well, if your budget allows, there are smaller and older high-clearance sprayers for less than $30,000. They won’t be as fast as your neighbour’s newer model, but they will still cover a lot of acres in a day.
Used combines are available to fit almost any budget. They might not have the newest technology, but the basic principles of threshing grain haven’t changed.
Of course, equipment needs don’t stop there. You’ll need another tractor for the pull-type sprayer, a grain truck or two, augers, water tanks, tools and a bunch of other stuff. However, a 2,000-acre farm can be nicely equipped for less than the cost of one brand new combine.
We’re in an era where the biggest tractors hooked to the biggest and best new air drills have a price tag in the range of $1.5 million. You can look at that and say beginning farmers don’t have a chance, but in reality, good used equipment is available at a wide range of price points.
This doesn’t overcome the record high price of buying farmland, but many get their start by renting land. You always hear about the sky-high rental rates. In Saskatchewan, there are cash rents in the $100 to $130 per acre range, but there are also areas where the cash rent on good farmland is less than half those amounts.
Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t cheap or easy to build a farming operation from scratch. Almost all farmers get their start within a family operation. That’s the way it’s been since this region was originally homesteaded.
But there are enterprising individuals who continue to develop very successful farms with hard work, good budgeting and incremental growth.
There’s no shame in running older equipment, but it is a shame to run into financial trouble because you want to run the newest and best when you can’t afford it.