Homestead Business: Setting up a Rototilling Service

Daniel Ellison explains how to set up your own traveling rototiller service as a homestead business.

| March/April 1975

Four years ago we bought a Troy-Bilt rototiller to work our seven-acre homestead in Missouri. When we then sold the place and moved to a couple of nice rock-free acres in New Hampshire, the Troy-Bilt went with us. Later still, in the summer of 1973 (about the time we decided to sell out once more and join an effort to set up an alternative community), I began to do some rototilling service for other people on the side.

My intention when establishing the tilling enterprise was two fold:

  • To beef up our savings account with some extra money.
  • To test the service as a possible homestead or community business.

The first objective (not necessarily the more important) was realized well beyond my fondest expectations. The second was also realized but hasn't been fully tested at the time this article is being written. Meanwhile-for those anxious to begin such a business right now-here are the pointers I've picked up to date.

Rototilling Service: The Tools of the Trade

First of all, you'll need some basic equipment:

  • A rototiller, and 1 won't hedge on what kind: a TroyBilt, naturally. Thirty-five percent of my work has been on unbroken land, and you just can't put in a new garden with any machine less than a tractor-plow and harrow … or a tractor with a tiller mounted on a three-point hitch and hooked up to a power take-off or a rototiller with rear-mounted tines. (I've also found the Troy-Bilt ideal on small jobs where a tractor — even a little bitty one — would have been inappropriate.)
  •  A vehicle for transporting the tiller. I used our Volkswagen bus with an old door for a loading ramp.
  • A telephone, and someone to answer it during specified hours. This is crucial to the success of the advertising you're about to arrange.

How to Advertise Your Rototilling Service

Place an ad in the classified section of the local paper. And don't just call in the message … go down and talk to the folks at the office. Run the notice continuously — it's less expensive that way — and have the first line set in CAPS. It might also be a good idea to pay extra for position. I noted a strong correlation between where my insertion appeared (at the top, middle, or end of a column) and the number of calls I received that day. The top of a column of type is by far the best, but the bottom of the page is OK if your section happens to start there.

Our paper seemed to be rotating the positions of the ads, and mine fell into an unfavorable spot in the order and appeared first on Monday and last on Saturday. Also, the CAPS I'd requested somehow got left off. I was already getting as many calls as I wanted, though, so I let the message run as it was.

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