The Wallowa County Hay Growers Association was formed in March 2003. The primary purpose of the association is to promote the quality and availability of weed-free and premium forage products produced by local farmers.
The Association also provides a central, simple point of contact to many local hay growers for various customers, including brokers, exporters, ranchers, horse owners, and backcountry enthusiasts.
At a recent meeting of growers, Mark Butterfield, Association president, described the Association’s three main goals for the coming year. They are:
- Establish and promote Wallowa County as a premier hay growing region;
- Find and establish new markets; and determine market needs (bale size, quality, weed-free, transportation,….)
- Provide info on new methods and technology for growers
The Wallowa County Hay Growers Association plans to differentiate itself in the Western hay market by providing premium quality hay and straw. Jim Petty expressed the consensus of the local growers when he explained,”We want to establish a quality product and a solid reputation.
Customer service in addition to quality is important to keep a good reputation. The growers need to back up any sales.” Over time and a solid history of sales, the Association’s goal is to create a strong reputation for the highest quality hay and straw. There are currently many participating growers who produce a variety of products, including Alfalfa, Alfalfa mixes, Timothy and wheat straw.
These will be available as premium quality products, judged by nutrient content, stage of maturity at harvest, harvest conditions, lack of weather damage, proper storage, and customer preference. The Association also provides certified weed-free hay and straw.
In order to maintain high quality forage, strict field inspections and certification process are crucial. The Wallowa County government provides a 3rd party inspection process through its vegetation manager or a contract employee.
The county, through its Wallowa County Weed-Free Forage Inspection Program provides the farmer with a certificate of inspection and a separate transit certificate if needed.
This documentation is important to customers purchasing weed-free hay as well as local and state governments monitoring hay transportation. John Williams, the Agriculture Extension Agent in Wallowa County, maintains the inspection records and serves as the store front for the growers offering a common place to sign up at the local Oregon State Extension office.
Williams says, “I have been amazed at the dedication, professionalism and the follow through that the growers have displayed in the process of creating a weed free forage program and the development of the association.
As an Extension agent one of the important items in having a successful outcome is to have the right producers in the room. We have had that at every step.