Yellow is the new farm colour
Farmers buying up used construction equipment to clear their own land
By Brandy Harrison
WILLIAMSTOWN ó When it came time to expand his dairy and cash crop operation to make room for his son, an excavator was at the top of Gary Fournierís shopping list. The heavy-duty construction equipment that now sits in the Williamstown farmerís driveway isnít all that unusual anymore.
"Itís everywhere you look," says Fournier, who bought his excavator in February and hopes to clear 100 acres of unused pasture and fence line. "People have bulldozers and even rock trucks to haul the ground. Itís unbelievable."
Itís easy to run up a hefty bill when someone else does the clearing and with land prices climbing ó Fournier says he heard land near Martinstown recently sold for $8,000 an acre ó buying his own equipment seemed like the best option.
Fournier isnít sure yet what heíll do with the excavator when the land is cleared. He says some area farmers are custom clearing on the side.
"It could pay for itself," says Fournier, who adds heís not considering that yet. "Itís handy to have but itís a lot of money to be sitting around."
Farmers are clearing land so fast the tile drainers canít keep up. Fournier says the wait is two years.
The race to clear land is driven by high crop and land values, says Don Routhier. "Theyíre all at it ó anyone who cash crops is looking at ways to expand his land base," says the owner of D&A Tractor Sales near Williamstown, who has farmers calling him every day looking for used construction equipment.
But Routhier says the price of yellow iron is climbing. During the recession, major manufacturers cut back on production, which put pressure on the used market.
The demand began a few years back and while at first farmers wanted backhoes, Routhier says the hot item is now excavators, which could set a farmer back anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000.
Fournier looked for over a year and ended up paying more than he expected.
"We started off at $35,000, but we couldnít find anything worth taking home," says Fournier, who shelled out $60,000 in the end.
To save a buck or two, some farmers are buying online, but Routhier, who gives all the equipment he sells a tune-up in his shop, says buying sight unseen can be risky.
While Dave Hill says farmers have always bought construction equipment, he also started to notice the bigger excavators heading out to more fields last year. The agricultural sales representative at J.R. Brisson Equipment in Vars says thereís a good chance equipment that was bought to clear stumps on bush land could become a permanent feature on the farm.
"Farmers have always had a use for a backhoe or an excavator ó hauling manure, clearing new tillable land, ditching, taking out fence lines. Thereís always something they can find to use it for," Hill says.
With little "ready to roll" agricultural land on the market and farmland being turned into lots for residential housing, schools, and factories, itís no surprise six farmers in Angela Dorieís area have started to clear land they already own. The reds, greens, and blues in the machinery shed definitely have some company, says the agricultural journalist who is also a partner in a dairy farm northeast of Cornwall. "Yellow is the new farm colour."