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Jean Kerr and Ian Higginson of Higginson Farm Equipment.

Hobby farmers and new equipment boost farm equipment sales during COVID-19 pandemic

A boost from hobby farmers and some new technology has helped farm equipment sales stay steady in 2020, while other businesses have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been busier than normal and lately it’s been very busy,” said Jean Kerr of Higginson Farm Equipment in Hawkesbury. “With everything that was happening – like shows that closed down on us – we were thinking that might impact sales somewhat, but it did not.”

Kerr said that despite the doors of the business being locked at the beginning of the pandemic, equipment sales stayed steady through the spring.

“That actually worked out pretty well because it allowed us to control our time (without customers in the store),” Kerr commented. “We had really good sales in the spring – in fact it was a bit crazy.”

“We are lucky that we are agriculture related, because the farming industry has got to go no matter what.”

A number of farm equipment sellers noticed a boost to sales early in the spring from hobby farmers, who were looking to prepare for a larger harvest than in a non-pandemic year.

“Hobby farmers in the beginning started coming out looking for more stuff,” noted Kim Howes, of Howes Farm Equipment in Vankleek Hill. “People wanted to do their garden work on their own. Other than that business has been pretty much the same – it’s been great.”

Some equipment businesses did experience somewhat of a slow down in sales to farms, but overall annual sales stayed steady due to the increase in hobby-farm customers.

“We’ve been busy with hobby farmers and homeowners, but (sales to) farmers have been quieter,” commented Michel Poirier, of Carriere & Poirier Equipment in Alfred. “Overall sales are as good or maybe even a little better (than previous years).”

The shutdown of air travel and the inability for people to take their normal holidays was cited as one of the main reasons for a boost in smaller equipment sales.

“A lot of people are staying on their farm this year – normally they would be out on the go, but now they’re looking for little projects to do,” said Higginson Farm Equipment owner Ian Higginson, on how sales to smaller operators have been strong. “They’re starting to refurbish the old tractor that was in the back shed and things like that.”

New equipment has also been popular, with high-speed tillers designed to operate in rocky conditions and smaller fields selling quickly to Eastern Ontario farmers. This type of equipment has been used for several years in Europe, but are only now becoming more popular in North America and local farmers have always been receptive to new technology.”

“The farmers in Prescott-Russell and the area have some serious equipment,”Higginson observed. “This is a well-respected farm area.”

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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