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Farming Foibles: Equipment Review (BCS Tractor)

I have waxed poetic on several of my blog posts about our BCS 2-wheel tractor.  It allows us to engage in a number of non-standard farming pursuits, and it also really excels as an all-around farming/yard tractor.  These tractors are used extensively in Europe where parcels are much smaller, and the land has more interesting terrain.  

We purchased our BCS (and a number of attachments) a little over 4 years ago from Earth Tools, and have been delighted with it.  One of the very nice features of the BCS is that there is quite a list of attachments that you can purchase (all with the same quick-connect attachment), so you can have the functionality of dozens of tools with the engine maintenance of one.  Among the attachments we purchased are:

  • Sickle Bar Mower
  • Power Harrow
  • Rotary Plow (great for breaking new ground)
  • Mower deck
  • Snowthrower
  • Hay Rake/Tedder
  • Tiller
  • Dozer Blade

On my wish list is the baby hay baler (which is more expensive than the tractor itself), and the chipper/shredder.  You can also buy a roller/crimper (developed by the Rodale Institute) if you want to add cover cropping on your farm.  

Needless to say, our trailer was quite full on the drive back from Kentucky!

In addition to the quick connect that makes swapping out the attachments relatively painless (generally the work of 5 minutes or less),  the handlebars swing around so you can use the BCS with either front (power harrow, mower, sickle-bar) or rear mount (tiller, rotary plow) attachments and always be facing the right direction.

One downside is that my hands are a bit small for the clutch and brake on the handles (my finger span is short enough that I don't have the strength to pull them back with my fingertips), so Ben gets to do all the driving.

The BCS is a great option for somebody who doesn't have the resources to purchase a large tractor, or somebody who has the need for a number of specialty attachments.  It's also great exercise because you get to walk along with it.   This is really the perfect tool for the small market gardener (or the crazy hobbiest).  We use this inside our hoop house for bed preparation and it works very well in the tight conditions (I do not think we could use a conventional tractor in our hoophouse without worry).

Our favorite attachment is the sickle bar mower which we use for a number of tasks (including cutting down our 12' tall Miscanthus Giganteus, harvesting wheat, and cutting down landscaping grasses).  It is very robust (will cut down 1" saplings with no problem).  

Our second favorite is the power harrow.  To borrow text from the Earth Tools website:  "Multiple sets of tines rotate on vertical axles for totally horizontal tillage of the soil – NO inversion of soil layers and NO vertical compression leading to hardpan formation. Also, the “stirring” action does not over-pulverize the soil such as can be done with a rototiller; the soil stays in better shape, and can be worked more times in a season without risk of seriously damaging soil structure. The mesh roller in the rear perfectly levels and pre-tamps seedbed for precision seeding and good seed-to-soil contact, and the roller adjusts incrementally up & down for perfect depth adjustments ranging from 0” to 5.5” working depth."  We sized our garden beds to the width of our power harrow, so we can prep them easily with one pass.

A third attachment that we keep as insurance is the snow thrower.  While we have used this a few times, mostly it sits lonely and forlorn throughout the nearly snow-free winters while the tractor dreams of spring and gardening.

While the purchase price of the tractor and the implements was not insignificant by any means, it gives us a huge amount of flexilibity in what we can do with our property.   If you are working several acres for yourself or as a small business, you cannot go wrong with the BCS (the UIUC Sustainable Student Farm has 2).   I strongly recommend you consider it.




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