“Expand and move ahead.” Those are the succinct goals of Gary Smith, a Mission Hill, SD, grower and new president of the 114-year-old National Hay Association (NHA).

To accomplish both goals, he'd like to see more young hay growers join NHA's ranks, Smith said at the recent World Dairy Expo, where he was meeting current and potential customers at the NHA booth.

He'd like young growers to understand the value of sharing ideas or ways they've found to improve quality, increase markets or operate machinery. “Sometimes, instead of trying something new, you can talk with someone who's already done it and get experience from him,” said Smith, who raises 800-1,000 acres of alfalfa and grasses and rotates them with 400-500 acres each of corn and soybeans.

Issues he's likely to deal with as a grower and as president in the coming year: export opportunities and transportation costs. “Export markets are growing and we hope to keep them growing,” he said. Being efficient will be a key to keeping transportation costs under control, thinks Smith, who delivers his own hay.

A key to marketing well domestically, he added, is to have one-on-one contact with buyers. When he delivers his hay, he's able to talk to customers face-to-face each year. And that makes customers loyal to his business.

“Yesterday, at the (NHA) booth, one of my customers stopped. I realized I'm on the third generation in this family. I sold hay to six siblings, their kids and their fathers. They're great customers.”

For more on NHA, visit its Web site at www.nationalhay.org or call 800-707-0014.