I’m not known for my generosity towards machinery dealers or “agricultural engineers” as they would prefer to be known. I blame the thin soils that I farm for my tight fisted approach to expenditure on kit, but I think the trade have got me down as just plain old fashioned mean. They may have a point.
While my intention has only ever been to keep my investment in a depreciating asset like farm machinery low, I have at points crossed the line in terms of what is fair and reasonable. I still blush at the memory of one new bright-faced-young-wet-behind-the-ears-kid-on-the-block dealer who turned up on my farm many years ago to sell me a tractor.
I took him around the farm to see a selection of kit that I wanted to trade in against the tractor. This included an Opico mobile grain dryer (worn to within an inch of its life); a John Deere round baler (never quite the same after I reversed it into a gate post); and a Kverneland four furrow reversible plough (that no longer wanted to reverse). On a buyer beware basis I declared these items, and several more of similar vintage, to be “in working order” (taking great care to omit the word “good”).
To my astonishment I soon received a quote in the post that valued my old kit so highly that it hardly involved me even writing a cheque to take possession of a brand new 120 horsepower 4 wheel drive tractor. I quickly rang to confirm the deal and a week later my shiny new toy arrived. The same lorry that brought the tractor took away my array of … er … “well maintained” kit in part exchange.
Since then, I’ve not bought a single new piece of machinery in a decade save for a nine metre gull winged topper to keep my set aside or environmental focus areas tidy. This has made me a near stranger to machinery dealers who hardly ever call by or ‘phone me any more and have obviously come to regard me not so much as mean but simply a lost cause.
In the meantime I have been reduced to gazing with increasing bewilderment across my boundary hedges at my neighbours’ ever more elaborate kit. From rubber tracked combines, to exotic stubble stirring cultivation “trains” to min till discs and drills that rip across 100 acres in the time it takes me to plough and sow five acres with my antiquated plough, power harrow and drill.
But that is not to say that I have given up. We all need a fantasy to keep us going and mine is centred on an article I read recently about arable farmers in the Ukraine who are currently replacing tractors and cultivation techniques that have not changed since the 1960s. The creep creep creep of new technology has passed them by for the past 60 years; now they are simply buying one huge tractor and direct drill with a satellite navigation gizmo and scrapping everything else in one go. And with this one step they have gone from being an anachronism to the definition of modernity.
This is surely the direction I need to take. All I need now is for a local firm of agricultural engineers to send me a suitably naïve young salesperson so that I can show him or her the selection of “working order” and “well maintained” equipment that I would like to trade in against such a purchase.