It’s been a year of ups and downs for Dansville, NY, hay grower Phil Saunders, owner of Sugar Creek Farm. On the production side, he fought armyworms; drought and a severe, late-season weed outbreak.

Ordinarily, he bales 25,000-27,000 small squares, weighing 65 lbs each, from 370 acres of timothy. This year, he harvested just 20,000 bales, relying on several brokers to market it to horse-racing tracks, large stables and other high-end customers up and down the East Coast.

Prices have been “fantastic” – Saunders sold all of his hay at around $300/ton. “That’s the most I’ve ever got for New York hay. It’s almost unbelievable what people are paying. Last year, the highest price I got was $240. And I held that all winter.”

“There just isn’t any hay out here,” he adds. “And the demand for hay is huge. The market is upside down. Mixed alfalfa-timothy hay is going for more than straight timothy. I haven’t seen that in a long, long time.”

The grower has had opportunities to sell at even higher prices. “We have 10 loads left in the barn, but it’s all spoken for. I don’t want to squeeze my regular customers. Once you make a commitment, you stick to it.”

Anticipating that prices will stay strong, Saunders, who also grows vegetables and grain crops, seeded another 150 acres to timothy this fall. Over the next three to four years, he plans to boost that by another 100-200 acres. “Eventually, we’d like to produce somewhere around 40,000 bales each year. If you have the markets, timothy can be a very competitive crop.”

To contact Saunders, call 585-370-7301 or email haygrower@rocketmail.com.