At the age of 15, I decided I wanted to get into the hay industry and raise hay and custom bale hay in Central Oregon.  I am now 17, and have learned so much in the last two years.  I have both good and bad experiences, scary accidents, as well as humorous adventures. But most of all, It has helped me transform from a high school student with no vision, to a busy, driven business owner. 

I don’t know of any other young men my age who have entered agriculture without being raised on a farm or ranch.  Our society has created guys who just are not up for the brutal work, long hours, or responsablity that defines farming.  I am a dying breed, there is a huge generation gap with agriculture, and there are few teenagers my age who are looking for a career in farming.  Because of this, I think there is a huge opportunity for others my age to gain a foothold in the industry if they are willing for the work and dedication it takes.  The generation who took took farming to new heights in the 70’s and 80’s are now older and close to retirement.  Who is going to step up and take the reins?

Farming is hard work;  expecially starting out without experience or years of past generation’s hard work to pave your path.  I learned this the first cutting I ever put up.  I was barely 16 and I was working 16-18 hour days putting up my own hay as well as some custom work.  I had older, used equipment that always needing tinkering and work on.  I had never ran farm equipment before, so I had a huge learning curve, figuring out how to run a baler at peak performance speeds, which began with a lot of broken shear bolts!  Even small things, such as querks of hooking up PTO shafts and keeping PTO RPM speeds at the optimum rates were a huge deal to me. Looking back, I am amazed that I pushed through all the difficulties I encountered.  Towards the end of the year, the long hours were getting to me, and I was relieved when the last bale of the year was stacked.

Another concept I had to learn was delayed gratification on my money investment.  I invested my life savings in my equipment, firtalizer, and power bills, and I could not get paid until I sold my hay.  Custom work helped, as I was paid fairly soon after performing the service.  Most people are paid every month, or sometimes twice a month, but I did not sell enough hay to cover my input costs until the end of November, a full year after my initial investment!  Delayed gratification was a hard lesson for me, but I am so glad I have had that experience.

Although haying in the summer is hard, as well as sweaty work,  there are also some great benifates.  I enjoy being my own boss, setting up my own contracts, and lining buyers for my own hay.  I get a sense of pride in knowing that I will enjoy the fruits of my own labor.  I also like driving tractor, mowing, raking and baling, while listening to my Ipod and soaking in the summer’s rays.  I enjoy the physical work, I really enjoy hand-stacking hay, which has eliminated the need for a gym membership! 

The reason why I am writing this post is to encourage any young readers to really consider agriculture as a career.  I know its not for everyone, but it is been a great decision for me.  I think there will be a huge demand for teenagers as the next generation of farmers.  GO FOR IT!