February 27, 2017

As a hobby farmer, you know the value of a quality tractor. They’re basically essential for large-scale farm maintenance and they’re also necessary for using some machines, including cultivators and hay balers.

With special attachments, tractors can even handle digging stumps and drilling fencepost holes—and don’t forget the convenience a tractor can add to even simple farm chores. A good one will more than pay for itself over time.

But tractors come in a wide variety of sizes, and depending on your needs, bigger isn’t always better. Here are four classes of tractors to consider for your hobby farm, along with a few guidelines to give you an idea of the type you need.

1. Lawn Tractor

As its name implies, this tractor is chiefly used for mowing lawns and is fairly limited in terms of power, features and expandability through attachments. If you have a modest-sized lawn to maintain and have an occasional need to move a few supplies around with a small trailer, then a lawn tractor might be all you need.

Horsepower: approximately 17 to 22

2. Garden Tractor

Generally tougher, larger and more powerful than lawn tractors, garden tractors have significantly more options for installing attachments. With their wider mower decks, you can mow more land in less time, and additional features like hydraulic steering and four-wheel drive give them an edge over lawn tractors when it comes to versatility and adaptability. These tractors are a great choice if you need a lawn mower that will withstand heavy use and give you options for working on other farm projects.

Horsepower: approximately 20 to 25

3. Subcompact Tractor

While the smallest of subcompact tractors are similar in appearance to garden tractors, this is where the similarities end: Subcompacts are much more capable for farm chores, and in many cases, the line between the two classifications is roughly divided by the type of engine they contain. Garden tractors tend to have gasoline engines, while subcompact tractors are usually diesel-powered. Many subcompacts are also equipped with PTOs and three-point hitches, making them much more expandable than smaller models; some even have front-end loaders!

Horsepower: approximately 20 to 25

4. Compact Utility Tractor

The pinnacle of small tractors is the compact utility tractor. While they don’t have quite the same horsepower as a utility model, compact tractors can be equipped with attachments ranging from front-end loaders to backhoes and everything in between. Some even come with four-wheel drive and cabs, making them the perfect option if you’re a serious hobby farmer that needs a powerful, adaptable tractor that will serve you in all weather conditions, even when the going gets tough.While the power of a com­pact utility tractor is appealing, some jobs might be better-­suited to a smaller and more maneuverable lawn or garden tractor.

Horsepower: approximately 25 to 65

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Hobby Farms.

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