Andrew Clarkson, Oakley, IL, is finding some innovative ways to sell hay and straw – by contracting and by using Craig’s List and Facebook. Last year, Clarkson and his wife, Jessica, produced nearly 5,000 small square bales of alfalfa-grass hay, sold mostly to horse owners and the local Amish community. They also baled some rye straw.

Although they sell 60-70% of their crop via their Web site, www.clarksonfarms.com, this past year they also contracted hay with a local customer.

“I said, ‘We know that you’re going to use roughly 300 bales all winter. Why don’t I lock you in at that and put it in our shed if you’ll give me your word that you’ll buy it until it’s gone?’ ”

Another grower wants to do the same thing this year, Clarkson adds. “He said, ‘I want 300 bales of your second and third cuttings, and I want to speak for it now before anyone gets to it.’ ”

It’s tough to lock in a price, Clarkson says. “But it’s money in the bank. He’s going to spend that money with me, and I’m willing to trade possibly a little bit higher price for the guarantee that he’s going to get it. The one rule I’ve made, though, is if I can’t trust the person, I don’t do business with him.”

Clarkson, who commutes to a fulltime job from the eastern side of Decatur to Harristown on the city's west side, also posted straw for sale on Craig’s List. “I got on Craig’s List in September and put on, ‘Hey, if you need straw, I’m driving through Decatur every day. For a $20 minimum charge, I’ll deliver anywhere in the metro area of Decatur for $4/bale.’ And I got cleaned out by November doing that.” He also was able to write off mileage to work as a farm expense, he says.

So far, Clarkson has had one hay sale using Facebook, a type of social media that he started using in January. For more on Clarkson’s experience with Facebook, see our social media stories in the May issue of Hay & Forage Grower. Or visit hayandforage.com and search for social media.

To contact Clarkson, email info@clarksonfarms.com or call 217-972-9640.