Bear Creek Farms Gets a New Tractor
When I made up my mind to grow dahlias at Bear Creek Farm, I knew I was joining a select group. Most commercial dahlia growers raise their crops in the Pacific Northwest. I, on the other hand, work the soil here in Stanfordville in Dutchess County, New York, where the competition is sparse, so friendly advice from experienced dahlia farmers is hard to come by. So when I realized my ancient tractor was not up to the job, I knew I needed expert guidance before investing in a new piece of essential but very expensive farm equipment.
I was fortunate to enlist the help of Mark Harvey in Portland, Oregon. Mark gave all the information I needed to buy the right tractor and the right attachments for a dahlia farm. I’m very grateful to him for his generous wisdom and advice.
One piece of advice Mark did not give me, unfortunately, was sartorial. Who would have guessed that wearing high heels, oversized sunglasses and snug capris is perhaps not the best look for driving a hard bargain with a tractor salesman? My first visit to a tractor dealership yielded me nothing, and trips to a second ended just as badly. But, three time’s a charm, and I finally found a helpful salesman in the person of Frank at Pine Plains Tractor and Equipment, who overlooked my unconventional attire and listened to what I needed. Frank explained why the other salesman ignored me, “Well, we are not used to seeing women buying tractors, and especially such large tractors!”
What I needed turned out to require extensive research on Frank’s part, because of the peculiar specifics of growing commercial dahlias. I needed a “disc bedder” that would enable me to cut back the dahlias when they reach a certain height, so that the plants will bush out and create more blossoms. I also needed what’s called a “potato digger” that I could use to unearth the delicate dahlia tubers when it is time to store them over winter.
But what I needed most of all was a tractor with “thin” (a relative term!) agricultural (as opposed to the more commonly available industrial) tires than would let the tractor ride at least 16 inches off the ground. This height allows the rider to use the disc bedder properly and also to create hilling in the soil, while the dahlias are first starting to grow. Commercial dahlias are not staked; they are supported by soil mounded up to 20 inches around the stalks.
Frank’s good research found me the right tractor and the right tires.
Bear Creek is now home to this bright, orange beauty. What started out as a simple shopping trip to buy a tractor turned out to be a complicated, but invaluable learning experience. Who knew that buying a used tractor is usually a more expensive proposition than purchasing new? (New tractors can be bought without interest but used tractors have interest tacked on the loan so over the life of the loan actually cost more than a new one.) Who knew that finding the right potato digger would mean attaching an Italian-made implement to a Korean-made tractor— that is, when I can afford that costly and esoteric add-on.
Who knew riding a tractor could be so much fun! To be continued…