Success at Bush-N-Vine Farm | Massey Ferguson

Help Wanted: Massey Ferguson Tractor Allows Better Workforce Utilization for Specialty Crop Producers

Whether you chalk it up to generational shifts, global competition, or wages and benefits, operations of every size struggle to find skilled ag labor. This includes fruit and vegetable growers like Bob Hall and his son Sam, whose Bush-N-Vine Farm relies on a significant amount of handpicking. 

“It takes a lot of people to get the crops in and out of the field,” said Sam Hall. “We are 99% hand-harvesting and managing our crops.”

Bush-N-Vine Farm is a multigenerational operation in York, South Carolina. The Halls have leaned into new crops and techniques and technologies to minimize the challenges of specialty crops while still meeting local demands. Today, the 150-acre operation includes a year-round open-air market, CSA, you-pick opportunities and two additional seasonal produce stands. These are stocked with peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, squash, beans, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, watermelons, apples and many more fruits and vegetables.  Year round, the operation has 15 employees, but during peak season that number jumps to 50 between the market and fields. 

With additional hands in short supply, the Halls rely more and more on technology and equipment to better utilize the workers they do have.  

Being named the 2022 Southeastern Farmer of the Year was a huge windfall for Bob Hall. The award came with one year or 250 hours on the Massey Ferguson tractor of his choice. Hall knew exactly what he was looking for — a user-friendly tractor that nearly anyone could operate to help increase crew efficiency.

“You look for efficiencies to help alleviate workforce challenges,” Bob said. “Places where you can do things mechanically and cut down on man and hand labor.”

Spec’ing the Right Tractor

Sitting down with their local Massey Ferguson dealer, the Halls had some specific tractor specs in mind. The tractor would be dedicated to the operation’s specialized picking trailer to help maximize harvest efficiency.

“The trailer holds 20-bushel bins,” Bob Hall said. “It is self-loading and self-unloading, which really helps on labor costs. A chain drive pulls the bins up onto the trailer. You just reverse the chains to unload.”

To navigate the various fruit and vegetable rows, the tractor needed to be narrow — no more than 5 feet on center — and have at least two rear hydraulic remotes to control the trailer’s chain drive and tilt.  

Bush-N-Vine worked with the dealer to custom fit a Massey Ferguson 4700 Series tractor. Like most of the manufacturer’s series, the MF 4700 Series line is available in a number of configurations. The Halls opted for a 75 HP Massey Ferguson 4707 with Dyna-2 transmission. With a best-in-class base weight of 7,125 pounds, the series offers exceptional pulling power and lift capacity — perfect for pulling a picking trailer. It also features a tight turning radius and great maneuverability, which will come in handy for Bush-N-Vine’s tight crop rows. A wide range of wheel-spacing settings means they can achieve a 5-foot width without significant modifications. 

A Workhorse for the Workforce

During the 2022 growing season, the MF 4707 tractor saw daily use at Bush-N-Vine farm. Having a dedicated tractor for the picking trailer minimized downtime for harvesting crews since there was no need to hunt down or hook up the tractor. Additionally, the straightforward design made it easy for multiple operators to handle delivery runs between the field and packinghouse. 

“We had two designated drivers,” Bob said. “Once they learned how to run the chain drive, they really liked not having to get off the tractor to load the bins.”

As long as the bins were lined up correctly, the tractor operator could load empty bins for the field or full bins for the packinghouse without assistance. Field crews could continue working, rather than wait on the driver, which greatly increased productivity. At the packinghouse, the driver simply dropped off the full bins and reloaded with empty ones. A single forklift operator transferred the product from there. 

“It’s been a tremendous help having the Massey Ferguson 4707 to carry the load, so to speak,” Bob said. “Being dedicated to that trailer helped save lots of time and labor loading and unloading.”

The MF 4707 tractor’s simple and straightforward operation allowed the Hall’s to train their designated drivers within 30 minutes to an hour. With such a fast, learning curve, the operation was able to get to work right away and maintain efficiency throughout the season.

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