If you walked Hollow Fields in Richmond last week, perhaps you wondered whether we would ever cut the hay. And now we have. Pittsfield farmer George Noble is baling right now!
The hot and stormy weather of early to mid-August delayed us, but the plan was to mow on August 1. Mowing that late means low-quality hay: the nutritional content of the hay is low, the hay is full of weeds, and the entire field will shift toward weeds every year if you wait that late. But mowing that late is essential if we want our fields to produce bobolinks.
These grassland-nesting songbirds need 65 days to get their young off the ground. If we cut the hay in the middle of summer, it’s possible that nests would be destroyed and our “fledging” success rate could be zero. That’s a big deal when you consider that grassland bird populations have crashed in the last few decades – some by as much as 80%.
We are trying to manage our hayfields for wildlife and for agriculture. It’s a balancing act that leaves everyone a little unhappy in the moment, but we hope that we’re also helping create space for everyone to be happy many years from now.