Harnessing the Harvest: Maximizing Hay Production and Continuing the Legacy in Northern Michigan
By Megan Grusczynski, 2023 Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT Ambassador
With hay season almost in full swing in northern Michigan, Campbell Farms and Forestry Inc. are looking to continue their 105th year of contributing to Michigan agriculture. Campbell Farms is a six generation farm that focuses on producing high quality hay that can be seen all around the country; from Florida, to Texas and South Carolina.
Consumers who appreciate their high-quality hay may have questions about species of grasses and legumes planted, how fertility levels are maintained, what the drying process entails, and how hay quality remains consistent during transportation.
The Campbells, with two cuttings of hay a year, are limited to maximizing the ground’s potential to produce the highest yield of hay. With that, the hay mainly consists of an alfalfa-timothy mix, however as their fields age, native grasses are also seen. The key to maintaining fertility levels is fertilizing before the first cutting and in between the first and second cutting and rotating fields has been important to improving yields.
The drying process plays a crucial role in preserving hay quality. Each of Campbell’s mowers are equipped with Chevron crimpers and conditioners to start the drying process. Then, before raking and baling, the hay will sit on the field for a day or two to ensure that the moisture level is below 14%.
Finally, to maintain the hay quality through transport, all of the hay will sit for about 30 to 40 days depending on what cutting it is to “sweat” inside the barn. “Sweating” of the hay refers to the plants releasing carbon dioxide, moisture, and heat. If the sweating process is not complete the bales could end up catching fire and could increase the risk of spoilage. As long as the bales are loaded onto the semis on sunny days, with no additional water contacting them, the quality of the hay will be maintained during transport.
Of course, to continue the tradition, two years ago, Campbell Farms and Forestry Inc. hired the 6th generation to work on the family farm. Caesen Campbell, a graduate of Central Michigan University with a degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, returned to the farm to help achieve and expand their hay production. As a young farmer, Campbell discussed his struggles and challenges with incorporating newer technologies into their operation. While working with his dad and uncles, finding common ground between “new school and old school” ways of maximizing production has been an enjoyable journey. Looking ahead, Campbell has goals for their family farm, including expansion, improving yields, and increasing harvesting efficiency.
At Campbell Farms, the philosophy of “making hay while the sun shines” allows them to continue their legacy and allows future generations to contribute to Michigan agriculture, proudly making their hay, “Michigan GROWN Michigan GREAT.”
Megan Grusczynski is a 2023 Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT Ambassador. She is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Agriculture Business. Megan grew up on her family farm in Gaylord, MI and is currently applying to veterinary school.