Walk-behind Tractors: Miracle Multitaskers

These powerful walk-behind tractors ‘cut’ the need for a barn full of machines.

| December 2006/January 2007

Most homesteads need a sturdy mower, a garden tiller and maybe a way to clear snow from driveways. But buying and maintaining three or more engines can get pretty expensive. Many of us dream of owning a standard tractor with various attachments, but tractors, too, may be out of reach unless you farm for a living.

There’s a third option that may be the perfect, more affordable choice for many of us­ — a two wheeled, walk-behind tractor. These machines have bigger engines than most single-function power equipment, and they can accept a wide range of attachments, allowing you to buy and maintain just one high-quality engine to perform a variety of tasks. We tried out two leading walk-behind tractors: the DR Field and Brush Mower, sold by Country Home Products of Vermont, and the BCS Walk-Behind Tractor, made in Italy but with dealers throughout the United States. Prices start at less than $3,000 — far less than a riding tractor, and less than several separate machines.

As co-owner of the Wild Onion Farm, a small market-garden enterprise in Lawrence, Kan., I needed something that could easily switch from tilling our flower beds, to mowing the grass rows between them, to clearing brush from the sides of our pond dams. With the help of my wife and business partner, Lynn, I was able to compare the DR and BCS models. .

Both brands are great products that any landowner could use with pleasure. Both are well-built and intelligently designed. Neither is inexpensive, but when I talked with friends who have owned them for many years, I became convinced that their longevity makes them a far better value than multiple pieces of less-expensive equipment that do the same work.

The DR Mower

We tested the DR Field and Brush Mower 15 horsepower Pro, the second-largest of four available DR models. It comes with a Kawasaki V-Twin Pro overhead valve gas engine that leaped to life at the touch of the electric starter. The engine was powerful enough to take me for a ride on corners until I learned its nuances. According to our 17-year-old son, who does most of the mowing on our farm, “This is not a mower for the meek.” The 26-inch-wide brush mower never faltered through cattails and rough, overgrown areas with small woody shrubs. With its sturdy, heavy duty blades, it mowed cleaner than I expected and cut through everything without bogging down.

We also tested the 42-inch finish mower attachment. This mower has two swiveling caster wheels in front that allow for tight turns. The whole device is built low and can mow under bushes or fences higher than 17 inches from the ground. It really ate up the acres. DR estimates it can mow a half-acre lawn in just under 30 minutes. Farms aren’t lawns, though. Our “lawn” hides a perilous collection of limestone rocks, sawed-off fence posts and potholes caused by who knows what. The DR’s wide rear tires and large caster wheels kept the mower deck above the fray, preventing bent or dented blades. This attachment also features two high-lift mulching blades that do a superior job of lifting the vegetation prior to cutting and mulching.

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