A Facebook group aimed at linking hay buyers and sellers in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin is an example of how social media is changing hay marketing.

Called the Twin Cities Hay Exchange, the group was founded by John Strohfus. He’s the owner of Strohfus Stock Farm, a boarding facility for 60 horses in Hastings, MN, just south of horse-rich Minneapolis-St. Paul. Strohfus also direct-markets Angus beef, puts up 50 acres of alfalfa-orchardgrass hay and recently started custom harvesting for small-acreage owners in his area.

He began thinking about a new hay-marketing approach while attending Minnesota Stable Owners Association meetings last winter. “The hay shortage and the high price of hay were topics of discussion at many of the meetings,” he explains. “A lot of people, myself included, were driving 150 miles or more to find hay, and not really very good hay either, and paying more than $300/ton for it. I kept thinking to myself, ‘There has to be a better way for people to stay in touch with more-localized suppliers.’ ”

Existing Internet hay-for-sale sites covered too large of an area, he says. “If you’re a stable owner or horse owner in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, it doesn’t necessarily do you a lot of good to search through listings for hay in Iowa or South or North Dakota. Those supplies will cost so much more after paying trucking fees. What I wanted was something that would be more local, within 25-100 miles of the Twin Cities, ideally.”

A Facebook group page seemed to fit the bill. “The great thing about Facebook is that you can connect so quickly with a large number of people who are like-minded. You do a post or two with some friends, and before you know it, people are joining in. And, of course, the best part is that it’s free.”

Other hay exchange groups also use Facebook. “But they’re for the entire Midwest or other regions. I wanted something close to home and with more emphasis on horse hay.”

Getting the group page up and running took Strohfus “about 15 minutes.” Within the first couple of weeks, about 90 people had joined. Over the next six weeks, another 60 people joined. The group now has 220 members.

Strohfus, who also has a Facebook page for Strohfus Stock Farm, set up the hay-buying page as a “controlled” group. That means he can approve anyone who wants to sign up and delete posts that don’t relate to buying or selling hay.

“So, if someone is trying to advertise some other kind of product on the page not related to hay sales, I can go in and delete it.” He says he spends five to 10 minutes a day monitoring the site. “I haven’t had to do very much of that so far. People have been respectful.”

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As new-crop hay harvest has started in the Twin Cities region, only three to four posts per week are coming to the site. He expects to see more posts soon.

“I don’t really see any significant change in supply happening this next year. Only a few people I know of have seeded new hay ground and much was lost to winterkill this year.”

While most of the posts are likely to be about horse hay, Strohfus stresses that the group is open to all buyers and sellers. Contact him at 612-384-5023 or john@strohfusstockfarm.com.

Editor’s Note: Check out a photo gallery on how winterkill affected stands at Strohfus Stock Farm this past winter.

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