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Buying A Tractor? What’s Your RONI?

November 14, 2012

Martin Diffley on Farmall Super M – Photo by Atina Diffley

Recently I came across notes I jotted down at a workshop offered back in February during the Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference in St. Paul. The workshop, “Learning About Equipment”, was taught by long-time organic farmer Martin Diffley, and I was trying to capture his advice about farm equipment – its cost, usefulness, and what or whether to buy. After all those months, his pearls of hard-earned wisdom invited me to pay attention once again.

A purveyor of used tractors and a wealth of knowledge about employing the right equipment for the right job, Martin talked about the Allis Chalmers G and the International Harvester Farmall, but he also said hand tools work well for 1-acre (or 200’x 200’) plots. Not all farm equipment has to have an expensive price tag.

For equipment purchases, Martin’s guidelines are a series of questions he considers before making a decision.

Do I need it?

How long?

Why do I want it?

Do I need to own it?

Could I consider rental versus ownership, or lease with an option to buy?

Could I hire custom work instead?

Could I trade or barter instead of buying?

Am I buying a solution or a problem?

Does it (equipment purchase) bring me closer to my personal and financial farm goals?

Am I getting a good return on my investment? Martin writes “RONI” on the board to make the concept easier to remember.

He sounded like a financial planner, and went on to say that generally, farmers in America buy before they think. He called it the “new paint disease”.

Allis Chalmers

I wonder if Martin knows other people get this disease, too.

Thank you, Martin Diffley, for helping me decide that I won’t get that vibrant orange Allis Chalmers (like the one I grew up with as a kid) just now. And by the way, I decided that shopping Thanksgiving evening will not give me a RONI worth my trip. I’ll be having coffee and dessert with family and friends.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2012 2:22 am

    old tractors do the trick

  2. February 1, 2013 9:38 am

    I think you have covered every question people should ask themselves- you see it too often where people buy without thinking about what the tractor will be used for!

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