By Brenna Wiegand
For the Capital Press
The National Hay Association will have its 118th annual convention Sept. 10-13 at the Grand Hotel in Salem, Ore.
Stan Steffen of Steffen Hay Company is this year’s NHA president and expects 250 people from across the country to atend.
The meeting comes at a time when more customers worldwide are expecting third-party certification of hay and there is a growing push to adopt organic practices, he said.
“Farmers can be pretty protective of their chemicals because of the way they’ve helped us produce more, better-looking product with less labor — turns out the product isn’t better. We’re kind of cheating Mother Nature with some of the chemicals we use,” he said.
Forage specialist Steve Fransen from Washington State University will discuss haymaking. In particular, he will talk about high-moisture baling, which is proving a boon to farmers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Steffen said he has been working with the technology for several years.
In other activities, participants will travel to Eugene to visit Hull Oaks Lumber, which is still powered by steam; the Steffen family will host a barbecue; and Boshart Farms will host a “hay rodeo” involving various hay machines showing how to move hay.
There will be tours of several hay exporters, farms and seed research companies.
Guests will also get a look at the arsenal of haymaking machinery Steffen Systems has developed over the past 55 years — custom bale accumulators, loaders, compressors, saws and other inventions that revolutionized the industry.
Steffen developed ways to streamline every stage of the haying process, including systems that accumulate several bales into one and ways of compressing bales to one-third their original size, creating a product that can be cut and configured to meet any customer’s need and exported overseas.
In 1969 he built his own bale-handling system. This was the beginning of the “Steffen System” bale handlers and accumulators. Steffen Systems builds machines to reduce the labor on the bale handling side; the work done after the hay is put into a bale until it reaches its destination.
Stan and Ruth Steffen form the backbone of Steffen Hay Co., a 300-acre farm settled in 1877 by Stan’s great-grandmother and her two sons. It is owned and operated by all seven of their children — their unanimous answer when, a few years ago, the parents asked them to decide the farm’s fate.
Stan Steffen continues to operate the hay farm and his son Troy is heading up a new retail sales division. Steffen Hay Co. exports over 20,000 tons of hay products to Asia each year.
“The export hay business is becoming much more international,” said Stan’s son David, who bought Steffen Systems in 1989. “It used to be just from the West Coast to the Asian countries — now it’s shipping in a variety of directions all over the world.
“Domestic-wise, I’ve seen a big transition toward people being ready to invest in anything that’s labor saving to get rid of having to hire people,” David Steffen said, attributing it to a growing lack of people willing to take on the demanding labor entailed in moving bales of hay.