Farm & Ranch Living

The Humble Hayliner

On the farm, lessons can come from family and machinery alike.

- TOM STERMER LAWTON, MICHIGAN

Nearly every piece of farm equipment my dad ever owned was purchased secondhand from a neighbor or at auction. But in 1973, 12 years after he and Mom moved to our family’s farm in Lawton, Dad was doing enough hay and straw that he took the plunge and bought a new New Holland 273 Hayliner square baler and a New Holland sickle mower.

Over the years, that baler has seen more than its share of action, at its peak sending more than 20,000 bales per year through its chute. My brothers and I estimate it has handled upward of a half million bales of everything from first-cutting grass to second-cutting alfalfa, as well as wheat, oat and rye straw, cornstalks, asparagus ferns and even the occasional snake.

Things have changed a great deal on my family’s farm. Both of our parents have passed, and much of the tillable land was sold o to neighborin­g farmers. The livestock is also gone, and pastures for grazing have given way to fields of hay and small grains. But 29 acres of the original parcel remain in the family and are farmed by three of my brothers—with an assist from my son, who earned a degree in agribusine­ss management from Michigan State University.

The one constant seems to be this old baler. As time and technology march on, my brothers mostly put up larger round bales, which they use to feed their own cattle, selling the rest. But every once in a while, our trusty square baler comes out of hiding, and despite the occasional broken twine or sheared pin, it does its job.

My childhood was a magical time. Strange as it may sound, our baler was a big part of it for me. It was central to my family’s ability to live o the land we loved. In a way, I think it’s emblematic of all of us: not shiny or flashy, but always steady and dependable.

My four brothers, my sister and I learned a lot from our mom and dad, and from growing up on the farm. But we also learned from this big hunk of metal that has processed countless square bales throughout the years: Work hard. Be humble. As it approaches 50 years of service to our family, the Hayliner is still doing exactly that, and it is still going strong.

 ?? ?? The Hayliner is rigged up to a 4020—ready for Tom, his son, Bret, and his brother John (L-R above), to bale and load hay.
The Hayliner is rigged up to a 4020—ready for Tom, his son, Bret, and his brother John (L-R above), to bale and load hay.
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