New Generation Produces Hay on Family Farm
Siblings Casie and Cody Buck feel good about providing a quality product and working on the land that’s been in their family for four generations.
Photo by Megan Hendrix
Producing great hay and seeing the joy on their grandfather’s face are two of the reasons Casie Buck, 28, and her brother, Cody, 25, choose to work in their four-generation family hay field in Franklin County.
“This was our great-grandparent’s land,” Cody says during a rare break on the farm one recent afternoon.
It is where William Henry and Allie Mae Buck raised the siblings’ grandfather, Gary Buck, and where Gary cut hay for many years.
Now, his grandchildren are creating their own hay on the old home place and Buck Hay Farm is in full swing.
They began producing in 2012 after Casie realized she and her brother could fill a need for better quality horse hay.
A Certified Equine Therapeutic Instructor in her full-time job, Casie has first-hand knowledge of what horses need and she said it was hard to find good hay for them.
With her skills, combined with her grandfather’s understanding of hay, her dad’s knowledge of the family farm, and Cody’s mechanical skills, she knew they could fill that gap.
And they accomplished just that, selling out every year since they started. They get much of their new business from satisfied customers spreading the word.
Casie Buck feeds a horse hay she creates with her brother on their family farm. Courtesy Photo
“The strand we have has a really thin stem and really fluffy leaves, which is what horses love,” Casie says. “Most Coastal (grass) has a thicker stem and thinner leaves.”
Although their biggest market is in East Texas, a horse-boarding operation in Arlington gets a delivery of 100-120 bales every three to four weeks and they have taken loads as far south as Stephenville, Texas.
“The horses eat it up,” Casie said. “We’ll pull around the corner and you’ll see everybody pop out. They know when the food truck is coming.”
Customers sometimes ask them what “secret ingredient” they put in the hay.
“Getting asked if it has crack in it is the best,” Cody says with a laugh.
Cody also has a full-time job away from the hay field. Monday through Thursdays he is a department manager at Priefert Manufacturing in Mount Pleasant where they build farm, ranch, and rodeo equipment like corral fencing, feeders, gates, cattle chutes, and horse walkers.
“I get up at 2:30 in the morning and get to work at 4,” he says. “I get off at 2 p.m.”
During hay season, he hits the field after his shift, with bedtime coming between 7 and 8 p.m. Turning in that early has cut into his social life.
“He becomes a pumpkin at 7,” Casie jokes. “We can’t ask him any questions after 7.”
However, Cody’s new girlfriend seems to be adjusting well to his haying schedule so far, but he knows things might get tough. This is their first season as a couple.
“After so many days without a whole lot of sleep, I become a jerk,” he admitted, with a wry smile. “I’ve warned her. She understands a lot more than I figured she would.”
Cody lives in a recently-finished room inside the shop they use for storage on the farm.
“Who can say they walk out their back door to 200 acres,” he asks.
The Buck siblings grew up and graduated from high school in Longview but trips to the family farm were a regular occurrence. Casie remembers spending summers with her great-grandmother and the gardens that used to line both sides of the road near the house.
“We would pick vegetables early in the morning and we’d come inside and shell peas while watching whatever sitcom was on,” she remembers. “After shelling peas, we would make lunch. Then, we would start all over again.”
Producing hay is kind of an endless cycle like that during haying season, which can last from April through November, depending on the weather.
The operation consists of cutting the grass, drying it out, and putting it in to square or round bales. Their clientele calls for making a lot more square than round.
“Horse people want square bales,” Casie says.
“You can take a square bale and chunk it in the back of truck and head off to a rodeo,” Cody explains.
Four cuttings is “a good year” and they can put 4,000 square bales and 300-500 round bales in their barn.
A square bale weighs 60 pounds, while a round bale can top 1,800 pounds.
In the first year of the business their equipment was a bit outdated and they were still wet behind the ears when it came to the mechanics of baling.
“When we started we had an elevator that would pick the hay off the ground, then we had to grab it,” Cody remembers. “We stood on the back of our Ford flatbed, putting 50-70 bales on it. The first 1,500 bales, we were stupid. We didn’t use gloves. We couldn’t hardly open a bottle that night.”
Now, with newer equipment, Cody picks up 10 bales at a time with a grapple and takes them to the barn. Their tractor cabs are now closed and air conditioned, and they keep them stocked with Dr Pepper, Gatorade, Reese’s Pieces, and chips for snacking.
Cody says it’s best to cut and bale when it’s 100 degrees, there’s a light breeze, and there’s no chance of rain, although sometimes a surprise rain catches them off guard. Casie says she and her brother are grateful for their weather-sensitive family who usually shows up before a storm hits.
“Our family must have sonar because they all pull in at the right moment,” she notes. “All of a sudden, we’ll have plenty of help. More than once, we’ve literally pulled trailers into the barn, backed them in loaded down, and it will start dumping rain.”
Help comes in the form of their Buck grandparents; mom and dad, Larry and Brenda Buck; cousins; and friends.
Cody Buck is good with mechanics and keeping equipment in good order. Courtesy Photo.
When it does rain, Cody uses the down time to tinker with the equipment, keeping it in tip-top shape. When something breaks, it falls to him to fix it or search out someone who can.
Cody spends the off season tackling big projects like rebuilding an engine. He’s got a special room with environmental control in the new shop that helps.
They plan on spending many more seasons producing hay on the family farm.
“I’m very connected to this land,” Cody said. “I really enjoy what I’m doing. There are many days when I could stay in the field until 2 in the morning.”
“It does run in the blood,” Casie agrees.
She also says improvements on the land make her grandfather happy and that makes her happy, too.
“Today, sitting in the tractor, going in circles, it just brought me joy,” she says. “At the end of the day, you know people love your product. They keep coming back. And we’re happy about giving them something that is good.”
Photo by Megan Hendrix