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Serving: Central

Making hay between showers

Tennessee farmer takes advantage of good weather to bale hay.

On a hot, clear, still afternoon in early June, Joe Shell and his son, David, were, excuse the cliché, "making hay while the sun shines."

The Washington County, Tenn., region has been wet since last fall, creating harvest challenges for corn and soybeans and delaying seeding for wheat and for grass planted for straw.

Spring planting also occurred between frequent rain showers, Joe says.

They plan to put up 1,000 bales of hay they'll need for the 150 mama cows they manage. They'll also make 10,000 bales of grass for a straw business started back in the 1950s.

Joe says an extra round baler is improving efficiency as he tries to pare labor down to family, one employee and occasional help.

Farming has been a family tradition for multiple generations. The original family farm still operating in Carter County is nine years from earning Century Farm status, Joe says.

Agriculture remains a family business. Shell says his wife, Lisa, has a seeding business and uses straw from the farm.

His daughter, Julia, has a degree in agriculture from the University of Arkansas and works for a farm supply company.

David earned a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee but passed up opportunities in that field to come back to the farm.

"Being able to work outside has an appeal," Joe says.

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