Community Agriculture Alliance: The smell of fresh cut grass
July 15, 2007
There are smells that nature formulates that stun man into realizing how lucky and fortunate he is to be on this planet. While these smells of nature can be different for everyone, some of the most common – and my favorites – are the cleansing smell of the earth after a rain, the fragrant smell of lilac blooms in the spring, and the musty yet sweet smell of decaying plant material in the fall.
One of my favorite smells of the summer occurs when man and nature come together to produce what happens to be the biggest crop in Routt County. This is the smell of fresh cut hay. There is no other smell like it, and you can experience it right now because all across various parts of Routt County, grass for hay is being cut. If you have allergies, this could be one of the worst times of the summer for you, so you probably shouldn’t be taking a big whiff; but if you don’t, take a drive until you find a tractor out in the field cutting, roll down your window and fill your lungs with that wonderful fresh smell. It’ll transport you to another place for a few short seconds.
In Northwest Colorado, hay is so important we actually celebrate it. Hay Day is celebrated every other year in rotating counties. Hay Day was celebrated in Jackson County this year, and the folks in Walden and North Park did an excellent job of organizing the celebration. As participants, we learned hay can be a complicated crop, and Hay Day helped educate producers and interested folks by providing excellent speakers to address the importance of testing hay and what the numbers in the test really mean as far as benefit to livestock, the effects of certain grasses and forbs with the addition of fertilizer, the importance of proper water management in irrigated hay, and those pesky weeds that can get into a hay field and ruin the product.
Marketing is also a very important aspect for producers of hay. They may have some of the best hay within the lower 48 states, but if there is not a buyer, it sure doesn’t do them any good. Believe it or not, people from all across the state and many other states come to buy Northwest Colorado hay, and we should take advantage of this hook.
There were also harvesting equipment demonstrations during Hay Day. This is always a favorite of every spectator who is still a kid at heart. It’s like playing in the sandbox, but with much bigger toys. The types of machinery that have been manufactured to harvest this wonderful crop keep getting better and better. The local equipment dealers were happy to show us how the latest and greatest tools work. It is always a great event.
We celebrate hay because without it, the local rancher would not be in business. Grass is the essential element in Routt County agricultural productions. It is also the essential element in our local wildlife ecosystems, from large animals such as deer and elk to small animals such as the sharp tailed grouse. There is a science and complexity to hay that most people don’t realize, and this biannual celebration helps not only educate everyone about hay, but also celebrate its importance in our agricultural livelihoods. Without it, there are many things in this great state that would not exist.
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The next celebration of this special crop will be in Routt County in July 2009. I bet you didn’t realize that great smelling fresh-cut grass was so important.
Jazwick is a district conservationist
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