Tending the Farm's Most Vital Crop
Manhattan Country School Farm-raised crops are celebrated in the Farm’s garden, greenhouse, kitchen and dining room each and every day. We eat student-prepared meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Freshly harvested peppers, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers line the taco bar. Yogurt, created with milk from our own cow, is topped with blueberries and strawberries picked by MCS students and MCS Farm-raised broccoli, onions and shiitake mushrooms are used to make risotto.
Ironically, one of our most vital and visible crops, hay, is often taken for granted. MCS students handle bales of hay on a daily basis during farm trips. They drop it from the mow and stack it, move it by tractor and cart from the dairy barn to the steer pen and, of course, feed it directly to cattle and sheep. However, the hay mow is almost always full with nearly 3,000 bales by the time farm trips begin in September.
This year, due to steady summer rains, farmers in the northeast have been delayed in harvesting their hay crop. Hay, once mowed, can take several days to dry prior to baling. As Spanish novelist Miguel De Cervantes said, “Let us make hay while the sun shines.” This week, seventh and eighth grade Norte homeroom had the rare experience of both watching the mechanized work of the hay harvest and throwing and stacking bales in the hay mow. Hay in the Catskills contains various grasses and legumes, such as red and white clover.
The hay was mowed on Monday, tedded on Tuesday, then raked and baled on Wednesday by a neighboring farmer who provides this service. Mowing lays the hay out in flat rows; tedding swirls and flips the hay over to dry all sides. The hay is then raked into long windrows and then scooped, compacted, tied with twine and launched into the wagon by the baler. The kids and adults were then responsible for unloading wagons containing about one hundred bales each. Some people tossed bales from the wagon to the mow below, while others stacked them tightly. We unloaded six full wagons, which yielded approximately 550 bales. The group, all sweaty and tired after this type of work, then settled in for a delicious dinner of chicken and vegetable stir fry, prepared by two classmates.