The Wrights: Farms Working for Grassland Birds
Barry Wright was born and raised in Erin on his family’s dairy farm. Today, he and his wife Tina enjoy hiking, walking their dog and watching birds on their own farm, not far from where Barry grew up. Although the farm isn’t their primary income, they produce hay on 35 acres on their own land along with additional acreage rented from neighbors.
In 2014, Barry and Tina enrolled a portion of their hay acreage in CVC’s Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program. In these areas, Barry delays the hay cut each summer until grassland birds have finished nesting in the fields to make sure his cutting doesn’t damage their nests or kill their young. According to Barry, “the flexibility of enrolling only a portion of my farmland allows me to balance my desire to grow higher-protein early-cut hay with my desire to leave a little space for the birds”.
Being able to market their hay as “bird-friendly” is a bonus for the Wright’s hay business. They enjoy telling customers about what they’re doing for grassland birds, but it’s actually the quality of their late-cut hay that drives their sales. Their equine customers like the hay’s bright green colour, fresh smell and very little dust, which means no rain on the hay before or after its baled. “Recently, it seems like it’s the middle of July before we get the right conditions to cut dry hay, so this program is a win-win for us and the birds,” says Barry.
The Wrights think it’s important that smaller farmers stay in the Credit River Watershed because they have the ability to farm smaller fields of productive land. Smaller fields typically have old fencelines with mature trees, flowering shrubs, brambles and rockpiles. These spaces provide ecological value for wildlife such as rabbits, birds, rodents, snakes and insects. Without smaller farmers many of these old fencelines would likely be removed to make way for larger equipment.
Barry and Tina sell their bird-friendly hay directly from their farm or they’ll deliver to customers. Either way, they have no trouble selling their bales. It’s good quality, supports local biodiversity and there’s a growing market for it.
Interested in growing bird-friendly hay? Have land you’d like hayed by a bird-friendly farmer? Visit birdfriendlyhay.ca.