This time of year, western Colorado farmers get hay fever
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Leo Jammaron watched as the faded-green John Deere tractor lumbered around his hay field, vacuuming up windrows of cut hay.
Every now and then, the tractor would stop and spit out a five-foot round bale, neatly tied with twine, packaged like it had been gift wrapped.
“It’s a lot easier work, nowadays, than it used to be,” Jammaron said. “The machinery makes all the difference in the world.”
If you ask the 76-year-old Jammaron about growing hay, he’ll tell you, “It’s a relatively simple process.”
Jammaron has been growing and cutting hay in the Roaring Fork Valley for most of his life. His family moved to the ranch, which he still farms near the Orrison Distributing building south of Glenwood Springs just off of Highway 82, when he was only 5 years old.
And he’s been helping with the hay production for more than seven decades.
Being involved in producing hay for close to 72 years, Jammaron has seen plenty of changes. Like so many industries, the advancement of technology has been the biggest difference.
One of the most memorable advancements was switching to the use of mechanized equipment over the more traditional methods.
“You bet. You bet,” he said. “All the way from bouncing around on a horse mower to a $70,000 swather.”
A swather is a piece of equipment that cuts hay or small grain crops into windrows before baling.
“Early in my years of working, the horse probably knew more about what he was doing than I did,” Jammaron said with a laugh. “But we got along.”
Jammaron jokes about how the operation has changed, but growing up, it was the work ethic and commitment to getting the job done that was essential to working in the field.
Jammaron explained how the process, which is now being done by one person and a single piece of equipment, used to take three people and the aid of a horse.
One person would handle the horse-drawn sweep rake, which would gather the cut hay. Another person would throw the gathered hay into a stack, where the “stack man” would arrange the hay into a well-balanced haystack. They did not bale the hay back then, just haystacks, which would sometimes reach 15 to 20 feet high.
“The guy on the haystack used to have his work cut out for him,” Jammaron said.
Ranchers would then come by and just take the amount of hay right off the stack needed for feed for the day, Jammaron explained.
Cutting hay back then was a physically demanding chore to say the least, plus it was much more time consuming as well.
Jammaron still remembers the first time he used a tractor for production. Going from a horse and putting in lots of demanding work, to a tractor was indeed a time to remember.
“It was quite a difference,” he said. “We got a lot more done.”
But even though the tools of the trade have changed, he’ll still tell you that it’s a pretty simple process.
Jammaron says haying season begins as soon as the snow melts in the spring and the plants start growing. Usually sometime in June the first harvest occurs. Typically, Jammaron said, he will get about two harvests in a single year. Farmers in other areas where the seasons are a little longer, like near Silt or Rifle, will get as many as three, or sometimes four hay cuttings a year, depending on what type of hay they grow.
The plant is cut and gathered into windrows where it’s allowed to dry for a couple of days. Then, the bailer comes along and gathers up all the cut hay into tightly packed bales, and wraps it in twine, ready for storage. Most of the hay is used to feed livestock throughout the winter.
The single field Jammaron was working on this day, about 15 acres, would have taken three people about three days to cut and stack. Now, with the use of tractors and mowers, it takes less than half that time.
“It used to be a lot of hard work,” Jammaron said. “But I survived it.”
And he’s still cutting hay. It’s just a little easier and still a pretty simple process.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.