Dec 07

Reality kicks in when I start weeding and feeding what is to become the kitchen garden beside the house. A neighbour brings the manure in a transport box on the back of his tractor. By wheelbarrow from the village, it would take me ten trips each of half an hour, with a break for lunch it would take all day. Now, our quinta has three olive groves spread over six acres, a citrus orchard, an acre of vineyard which is not wired in neat rows, a six-acre cereal field, and fifteen acres of woodland and scrub. It is one thing to own a patch of land, but it is quite another to resurrect and transform it into a working farm. Agriculture on this scale is not veggie-garden digging; my two spades, a garden fork and a trowel seem hopelessly inadequate.

What is needed is a tractor. As I know nothing at all about tractors, we call at Agrifundão on the way home from our next shopping trip, in April. The salesman tells me that to clear around the olive trees he has just the thing, a mini-tractor will be ideal, sixteen horsepower.

After a test drive and a tour of the workshops, armed with info and a special good price just for me, only €12,000, we return to the farm and contemplate how much easier it will be with a tractor. After a week we get to thinking, at least, it will be good for working on the olives, vines, and veg garden. But what about hauling dead trees out of the burnt-out hillside north of the house? We need to consider something a bit bigger, maybe 21 HorsePower.

The previous owner of the quinta wants to set us on the right path, so in May he joins us in a trip to Fundão, where he introduces us to his agro supplier. Then we visit a tractor business started by a man he used to hunt with, His daughter M is his successor, a lovely lady and a sharp businesswoman.

No problem with a 21HP minitractor, on the right is the New Holland model ideal for you. She can do me a special deal as a friend of Don Manel. The one on the left is 35HP, much more a real tractor. I am daunted. It is Rather Big.

Back at the quinta one day in late May, as we arrived so did a sales rep from Fundão, his boss had quoted me a good price for a Yanmar tractor and he was in the area seeing another client. He said he’d like to look over the farm and discuss which tractor would best suit my needs. Two hours later and another quote (this time for a Kioti 30HP and full set of attachments) he left, promising a return visit as part of their policy of looking after clients. More a threat than a promise . .

secondhand Goldoni

Some weeks later it’s June, the plants are growing fast and I’m thinking that maybe we should seriously consider second-hand, as around £12,000 is a lot of money. So as we return from shopping we call in at two likely-looking places offering used Mitsubishi, and a used Goldoni 30HP, only done 1300hrs. It will soon be as good as new, special price to you.

Does M have any used tractors? Yes, but a used Massey-Ferguson is €7,500 and a brand new Ferrari tractor (no kidding!), the Vivid 300, is €12,500.

Well, suppose we want to use the farm to the full and sow the field with cereal? A larger tractor would cover that area in 2/3 the time, and could even move earth around more effectively in a larger rear box.

C on New Holland 31

By now I´m open to even traditional methods of ploughing and sowing!

Talking with the workers whilst having the water boreholes drilled during September, one of them suggests visiting his friend Gonçalo to look at second-hand machines. Weeks later, on the market in Fundão we encounter a man selling rotovators, his employer is Gonçalagro, and he books us in to see a used tractor at their workshops the next day.

We find the enterprise and it is huge, specialising in irrigation for commercial growers. The tractor in question is in excellent condition but only 21HP. Gonçalo asks if we have considered a new tractor. Little does he know that by now he´s the only tractor vendor in Fundão that isn’t on first name terms with me! He sells tractors up to 200HP.

The smallest tractor he does is 35HP, bigger than I want, but “please to have a look.” Well, love at first sight! I decided not to even sit in it or I´d buy it there and then! Nice machine, German design and look at the size of the fields they have. Good ground clearance, designed to run up slopes like those on our farm with decent-sized front tyres and 4-wheel drive. Double set of auxiliary hydraulics. He gave us a price only €3,000 higher than the 16HP Yanmar I originally looked at.

Clive on Agrokid 35

I considered a John Deere tractor which is top-of –the-range, but as the price of the 35HP Millenio was €4000 higher than Gonçalo’s I rejected it.  A week later a phone call “Its your friend from Fundão! When are you coming over to see me?” I had to explain to Gonçalo that we live on the other side of the country, but would call in on our next trip, which was a week later. By chance(?!), the market salesman was passing when we next went to the quinta. He looked over our land and priced the attachments we would need.

Clive's tractor with front loader

Sr Gonçalo came to our quinta in mid-November. We agreed to buy the Deutz-Fahr tractor and a plough,a scarifier, a rear box, a chain brushcutter, a rotovator, and a seed-sower.  The tractor will be modified to take a front-loader with a bucket, so after brush-cutting I can clear roads around the quinta. He agreed to spray-paint all the accessories green to match the tractor, nice . . . !  It’s a big investment, well over €20,000, but a necessary one.

Delivery will be in the first week of January.