Field Tryout

Alabama couple grades the Can-Am Defender XT HD8 after giving it a workout.

Jamie Blythe found the Can-Am Defender to be as multipurpose as her operation. (Progressive Farmer image by Brent Warren)

Jamie Blythe, Town Creek, Alabama, takes a close, hands-on approach in running her farm, where she manages in zones rather than by field.

Her 3,600-acre operation has a lot of diversity within each field with what she says are varying microclimates, soil types and yield potential. That's more visible, she says, when you know your fields intimately.

She uses satellite and drone imagery as part of her agronomic management strategies, but it's boots-on-the-ground attention of scouting fields regularly that she finds a side-by-side vehicle to be a big help.

Blythe, who is one of DTN/Progressive Farmer's 2018 America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers, was given a test drive of a Can-Am Defender XT HD8 side-by-side for a couple of months to use in her diversified operation. She grows corn, cotton, wheat and soybeans on the rolling hills of her north Alabama farm, and has a herd of Angus-Holstein heifers with horned Hereford bulls, in addition to a few horses.

"It really helps in scouting fields," she says of the vehicle. "And, it's versatile. We use it when spraying the fencelines and around grain bins."

"It's also good for feeding cattle. It's quiet relative to our other (side-by-side), so it doesn't spook the animals while getting into the field."


One aspect of the Defender XT Blythe likes is a capability before it even hits the field -- customization.

"I like being able to pick out the features I like online. You can order features geared toward your operation," she says. "For me, I looked for things for working with cattle."

The significant add-on for Blythe was the bed wall extender. This increases the capacity of the box, which requires no tools to modify the configurations, including variable full or half-height settings. The foldable top panels can come off quickly, and the removable rear door can be latched open. This feature adds capacity for tools and bags of feed.

The extender requires the deluxe headache rack, which protects passengers and cab components from items in the bed.

The base model Defender XT HD8 has a Rotax 799.9-cc V-twin engine putting out 59 hp. It's 125.7 inches long, 62 inches wide and 78 inches high. The cargo box capacity is 1,000 pounds, and tailgate load capacity is 250 pounds. Towing capacity is 2,500 pounds. Three people can sit across the VERSA-PRO bench seat. The vehicle also offers a 4,500-pound winch with roller fairlead, XT front bumper, HMWPE full skid plate, full hard roof and 27-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires.

Other added components to Blythe's test vehicle include half doors made from plastic but with metal frame, with rear hinge wide opening and pockets and liners. Her vehicle also had a flip windshield and rear plastic window.


"I like the windshield option we got; it keeps bugs out of your face when driving," Blythe laughs.

Her husband, K.P. Arnold, also used the Defender XT around the farm and in nonfarm activities.

"I say it's been my husband's stress release," she adds. That may be the case, but in our visit to the farm, he indicated he hasn't been on it as much as he'd like because Blythe uses it so much.

Even so, he finds the power and capability of the vehicle useful.

"We don't need a trailer to haul it," he says. "We can get to other fields. I can go 7 miles in about 15 minutes. With our other (side-by-side), we have to load on a trailer. With this one, we don't have to. It's also much quieter."

One feature they disagreed a bit on was the windshield, but he makes concessions.

"It's not great when it's hot but good for most other uses," Arnold says. "I like the up-and-down action of it so you can move it if you need to."

Both agree on appreciating the size of the Defender XT HD8 -- it's bigger than their current side-by-side -- and the agility of the vehicle. "We can use it to get into tight places, like in the woods," Blythe explains.

Arnold has used it on several occasions for one possible stress-reliever. "I've used it to look for duck holes," he adds.

As a mother of two small children, Blythe also sees the value in the vehicle and its additional features. "With kids on the farm, I see this as being super kid-safe.

"This Can-Am is definitely on the radar now around here," Blythe says. "Other people are asking us about it."

The MSRP for the base model Can-Am Defender XT HD8 is $15,899. More information on Can-Am off-road vehicles is available at


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