Being able to show potential customers the hay they're considering actually helps sell it, says hay buyer Brian Foss, of Northern Plains Forage in Volin, SD. Foss has been putting videos of hay lots for sale on his Web site for the past year or so.

"It takes a lot of the guesswork out of buying hay," he says. "Just about everybody who has ever bought hay long distance has been burned at one time or another. This way, they know that if they order a particular load from me, it's the load that they're going to get. They just feel better about buying from you if they can have a look at it first."

Foss buys hay in South Dakota and neighboring states. He sells primarily to horse owners in the southern U.S. – from Texas to Florida. The videos have been especially popular with women buyers.

Creating videos is a relatively straightforward business. Foss carries a small, point-and-shoot still camera with video capability while on buying trips. He shoots several minutes of video when inspecting hay and includes audio commentary. "If I'm alone, I'll set the camera on a tripod. Otherwise, I'll have the other person do the actual shooting." (See Foss at right in photo, with assistant Jake Riter.)

When he gets back home, Foss uses software to edit and convert the videos for his Web site. "The conversion and editing are a little time-consuming. But I have to do it or it would take too long for viewers to download the videos." It still takes 40-45 seconds to download a 45-second video, "but if someone is going to be spending $6,000-8,000 on a load of hay, that doesn't seem like all that long of a wait."

He also pulls hay samples to send to a local testing lab, then posts lab results along with each video.

A local company helped Foss put the Web site together; he pays about $300/year for Web hosting. "If I make one sale because someone has been able to see the hay first, I've paid for the hosting fee," he says.

To contact Foss, call 605-760-4118 or email northernplainsforage@hotmail.com.

To  see a typical video, visit www.northernplainsforage.com,  click on “Hay For Sale,” choose a hay type and download the video within one of  the lots offered.