Instead of having two main farming seasons – planting and harvest – we have three. The third being straw season. We bale a lot of straw. Like over 5,000 bales a lot.
Our straw supply comes from three different sources.
- Our own fields. After we take off the wheat grain, we bring in the balers.
- Other farmers’ fields after they take off their wheat. We go in right away with the balers because most times the farmers want to get back in to plant double crop beans. So we have to work fast.
- Buying straw bales off of other farmers. We don’t do the baling, but we do the loading, hauling, and sometimes un-loading.
The first two sources make up the majority of our supply, and we do both small and big bales. Small bales weigh on average 40 lbs, while the big bales weigh around 800 lbs. In the last year we have switched to mostly big bales — they are a little more convenient because the process is quicker and handling them is easier. Plus, the demand has increased!
The farm built a new barn in 2011 to hold all the straw as the business started to take off. Then just last year an addition was put on to the barn. We call the main barn the “straw shed,” – it is anything but a shed, and we have definitely used it to its capacity. Bales are stacked in a very structured way so we make the most of the space, and we strategically place equipment inside also.
You might wonder, Where does all that straw go??
For the small bales we work pretty exclusively with a straw buyer that runs a pretty big hauling operation. The company sends drivers our way to drop off semi trailers, we load them within 1-2 days, and make a call to get them picked back up. Most of this straw finds its way to pipeline construction sites, where it’s blown onto the ground to prevent sediment runoff.
Most of our large bales go to a company that makes straw mats for erosion control. You might have seen these along some highways or major roads. We are contracted to supply so many tons, and we deliver the bales.
It can be a lot of work, and make for a really busy summer, but my farmer loves the straw business. And loving what you do is what it’s all about.