How to make hay without tractor on 30 ha of land. Cutting grass – harvesting direct payments. 2016.

This article is about how I made hay on 30 ha small farm without tractor.

It is quite difficult to start a farm in Latvia. There is an invisible political force which does not want you to do anything on your land. Reasons are simple – they want your share of EU direct payments. They will like that you don’t do anything with your land, which means there are less people to divide EU payments among. And big farms will love if you sell or rent your land to them, so that they could have your share of EU payments. EU payments are indeed important now, during times of declining population, that is, shrinking market.

Many people indeed sold or rented their property. Thus big farms became even bigger, also in political influence. Besides direct payments, there is so called “project money” to start a farm or develop an existing farm. This is something not for everyone. This is for big farms. It would make sense, if this support would be for small farms, because they cannot afford much from their direct payments. In reality it is vice versa – the more direct payments you receive, the more is your chance to apply a project. So big farms, that already can afford a tractor or a harvester from their direct payments, have extra income to buy a second tractor or even luxury cars.

This is how I ended up with no tractor to work my land.

Last year I tried scything, small motorized scythe mower (AL-KO Balkenmaher) and a grass trimmer. Grass trimmer (Makita EBH341U, 4tact engine, star with 3 blades, blade guard removed) appeared to be the most reliable, affordable and effective way to cut grass. It may be two times slower as Scythe Mower machine, but it also collects the grass in a row, it has good endurance even when I met stones, it is easy to transport, it is easy to maintain and it can be applied in rough terrain. I must admit, that I wouldn’t use 2-tact trimmer, because of engine oil fumes. As for scythe, I am too slow for it, but I still use it sometimes as a sport.

Last year I managed to cut 20 ha of grass within 200 hours of work, thus earning 3200 Eur of EU direct payments. I must thank Makita for developing 4-tact engine trimmer. It really saved my farm. Otherwise I’d stay stuck in giving my money away to others to mow my grass or end up with some used old T-25 or T-40 tractors, probably spending most of my time in a garage just to keep these museum artifacts alive.

With the help of my relatives I also prepared an extra previously not used 3 ha land to apply this year. This autumn I plan to expand for another extra 7 ha. So I will have 30 ha in total. There is no more land available to buy. Most people understood the value of EU payments and value of land as such. So I am thinking how to use forest lands as grazing area.

Grass mowing issue is solved now. So this hopefully is my last article on the topic. Of course, I still dream about an Amish horse drawn mowing machine, but at the moment a horse alone is just a dream.

Other news from my farm is a young cow Daphne.

My beloved Keiu bought us an old 7-seat Opel Zafira with a trailer hook. Now we need to buy a trailer for it, and it will give a lot of new opportunities to transport stuff, like old solid-wood furniture, stones, hay, firewood and of course trash.

My nearest future plans are to finally move away from my parents house to my own house, which is at the forest.




About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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