What should I charge for tilling

I was wondering what I should charge a neighbour for working up 2 acres of hay field into a garden. I would have to consider adding insurance on my tractor, the wear and tear on the tractor, the chisel plough and the rototiller. And of course my time.

Any ideas of cost would be appreciated.


When I rented a guy and his (riding) tiller, I paid $50 per hour. I hope that helps.

That sounds like lot but it’s a common hourly rate for all sorts of trades-people and you are supplying equipment & fuel as well your time (and your skills).
Plus you have to do a bit of work prior to arriving and after you leave.
So $80 for the hours that you are on site and working is fair, in my opinion.

1 Like

Continuing the discussion from What should I charge for tilling:

turning a hay field of any size into a garden is not done in one afternoon, but needs to be done in stages over at least one year that includes ideally one winter freeze cycle and maybe part of a summer, summer fallow for killing weeds and the perennial grass.
First, the hay field needs to be cut short. Then yes chisel plow once in one direction, then after couple weeks chisel plow in the 90 degree cross direction. You’ll need to do this best when the field is soft, not baked in the middle of summer. I would avoid roto-tilling as that kills worms, and aerates the soil, tends to dry out the soil and kills beneficial bacteria, microbesl. If you have weeds that propagate via rihzomes, rototilling just makes them grow faster as you chop up the rihzomes. A cultivator will bring weed roots to the surface where the sun can dry the roots, not destroying the worms and not overly drying the soil. Tilling needs to be done sparingly, with passes alternating in different directions. The purpose of summer fallow is to deplete the weed seedbank. Once the weeds are under control, consider tillage radish, buckwheat, clover, rye grain, and then after that either allow winter kill or you have to crimp or mow, then cultivate the cover crop for planting in the spring depending on what you plant as the main crop. Also consider inter row cover crop with a nitrogen builder. As for charging, assuming 50 hp tractor, $100 an hour from the time you turn the key on until you turn the tractor key off. As a baseline, see what a rental agency charges. If there is a rental agency nearby, I would suggest the friend goes there to get the tractor and anything else. Save the wear and tear of your machine for your own farm , and use your own time sparingly. Custom operators don’t have a huge margin and the driver for plowing or doing basic circles in a field is generally somebody paid close to minimum wage.

1 Like

Eric, I appreciate all the info you gave me. I personally farm very conservative and organically and I hope to impart my knowledge and experience with my new neighbours from the city. I dont think they realize the work ahead of them to open up hay field into garden. This will take time and some simple equipment. I would suggest to them, after I go over the land with a flail mower , they lay plastic for the sseason, maybe all the way into the late summer-early fall to kill the grass off and then break it up as you suggested. Then finish the season with a planting of fall rye. All the farmers including me in our area have full time jobs and dont have a lot of time to do custom work for neighbours on this scale. However, I want to encourage them to grow, they are young and enthusiastic and we need them to grow food!

oh yes, as President Eisenhower said many years ago; “farming looks mighty easy if your plow is a pencil and you are a 1000 miles from the cornfield” While there are many books on farming, farming can only really be learned by the school of hard knocks.
I trust you will invite the newbies to join EFAO and COG to network and learn more.

1 Like

I think 80$/hour is a fair price, personally.

1 Like

I wouldn’t charge any less than $100 per hour. Maybe more.

1 Like