New machinery

New machinery is on display last year at the Iowa State Fair. Manufacturers are announcing new equipment at farm shows later this month.

State fairs and farm shows provide the opportunity to see the latest farm equipment up close and provide farmers with ideas of what is needed for an operation.

When the first state fairs started in the 1800s, much of America farmed. Fairs served to educate, farm families gathered to share new technology, and competitions encouraged agricultural excellence. Fairs paid prizes to those with the best cows and hogs and the tallest corn.

These days, livestock are still part of the fair, and the shows give both farmers and city dwellers a view of new farm technology and what is available.

“The Iowa State Fair started with agriculture competitions and farm machinery,” says Mindy Williamson, marketing director for the Iowa State Fair. “Although equipment looks different today and the machinery is now surrounded by modern foods and booths, we always have a strong ag equipment component to our fair.”

Many state fairs run the same week in August, and many of the Midwestern fairs are already underway. Some manufacturers use these large, outdoor farm shows to unveil their new products.

At state fairs, more regional or local equipment dealers display large and small equipment for farmers and consumers who want to see everything from large tractors to lawn mowers.

“The Iowa State Fair is still an agricultural fair,” Williamson says. “Many of our fairgoers have rural roots and like to see the new equipment. In addition, equipment dealers continue to find customers and potential customers at the fair and that is what keeps them coming back every year.”

Fairs and farm shows might provide time for farmers and dealers to chat about equipment on display. Having multiple dealerships in one location allows farmers to see many offerings at once rather than traveling to various dealerships.

Equipment dealers are always eager to visit and educate customers about new equipment. It’s a great time to “kick some tires” and see what’s available.

With caution, climb into tractor cabs and look at engines and components up close. Always keep an eye on small children who may be climbing on the equipment. Keep all safety measures in place so no one is accidently hurt.

Consider what you need

Before you get serious about buying a tractor, consider what you need to get done on your farm or acreage. What equipment will help you accomplish that? Tractors are extremely important to any size farm. Will you need to move snow, mow grass, dig holes or haul loads?

Purchasing a tractor and associated equipment is a substantial investment. No matter if you’re looking for large or small equipment, choosing the right size tractor for your acres can save time and money.

A tractor that is too small can result in long hours in the field, long delays and premature replacement, while a tractor that is too large can result in excessive operating and overhead costs.

Consider your tasks, what crops you’re raising and what you’re doing with the land you have.

“The ideal equipment should get the work done on time at the lowest possible cost,” says Paul Sumner, Extension engineer for the University of Georgia.

“The size of the largest tractor should be based on getting critical, high-horsepower jobs done within a specified time period.”

Consider how many acres you have and what type of land is it. Does it have a lot of hills, wet spots, thick woods, rocks? All of these things go into what type of tractor you might want. For example, hilly terrain will call for a wider tractor with a low center of gravity.

Also consider whether the tractor will need to maneuver around trees, small rows or driveways where you’ll need it. Will you need to work with livestock?

Consider tasks you want to do with the tractor now and what your plans are for the future. Will you be increasing your acreage?

“Tractors are a considerable investment but they do hold their value,” says John Nowatzki, ag machine systems specialist with North Dakota State University Extension.

Many subcompact tractors at 20 to 30 horsepower (hp) can tackle small jobs around your property. These tractors can range in transmission and hydraulic options as well as offering three-point hitch operation and PTO control.

Implements including loaders, mowers, tillers and backhoes can be found for most subcompact tractors.

Compact tractors at 25 to 60 hp and utility tractors in the range of 40 to 70 hp can handle even more tasks, including heavier loads and more.

Do your research, review options and visit various manufacturers. Iowa State University Extension Ag Decision Maker offers information on matching tractors and implements. Visit

On the web

A list of companies displaying in the machinery grounds at the Iowa State Fair this year:

A list of merchants at the Illinois State Fair this year: