Ryan Tammaro, 13, uses a tedder to help dry out hay on his family’s farm where they raise beef cattle. Down Home Farm has struggled to harvest enough hay from rain-soaked, muddy, weedy fields this year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Nick Tammaro and his boys just finished the first hay harvest at Down Home Farm in Cape Elizabeth – two months late and about 100 round bales short of what their beef cattle and other livestock will need this winter.

It’s the soggiest summer since Tammaro established his farm 16 years ago, and one that has left growers across Maine struggling to overcome delayed and diminished hay harvests. Many are already looking to buy hay out of state, despite last year’s record harvest. And some may not survive a crisis that could have ripple effects for years to come.

With heavy rainfall and near constant damp from May into August, Tammaro left muddy fields unmowed for months and saw them nearly swallow his tractors a few times. When ruts appeared, he showed his sons, Ryan, 13, and Ben, 10, how to track over the bumps and try to smooth out the damage. Noxious weeds took over two fields, forcing him to sacrifice 5 acres that normally would produce about 50 round bales.

Ben and Ryan Tammaro feed the pigs on Down Home Farm in Cape Elizabeth. The wrapped round bales of hay harvested this year, at right, fall far short of what they will need to feed their beef cattle and other livestock this winter. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“You can’t get on the field, so you have to abandon it for the year,” said Tammaro, who harvests hay under an agreement with Maxwell Farm-Dyer Field, 76 acres of protected agricultural land next door to his farm.

While the wet summer has been tough on many growers, it has been especially difficult for hay producers.

Farmers across Maine have harvested about one-third of the hay needed to feed farm animals through the coming winter, said Jacki Perkins, a dairy and livestock specialist with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. They should have about two-thirds baled and stacked by now, she said.


This year’s disappointing hay crop follows a larger-than-usual harvest in 2022, when the state reported 134,000 acres baled, up from 120,000 in 2021 and 104,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, last year’s increase doesn’t carry over very well.

“Hay will lose its quality and nutritional value over time,” Perkins said. “Whatever hay is left from last year, it’s been so wet, it most likely has molded.”


Maine is home to 7,600 farms that employ more than 13,000 workers, according to federal data. They include more than 100 dairy farms, Perkins said.

Conventional farmers may augment their hay harvests with corn silage, an option not open to organic growers, she said. Some farmers will be looking to supplement their harvests with hay purchased from Canada, New York and Pennsylvania, she said. Others will consider selling some of their livestock.

“The biggest solution for some will be to sell the mouths they can’t feed,” Perkins said.


Nick Tammaro and his sons, Ryan, 13, left, and Ben, 10, finished harvesting their first crop of hay last weekend – about two months later than usual. Rainy weather has made haying nearly impossible this year.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Farmers will feel the impact of the wet summer of 2023 for one to three years, she said, and some may not survive the financial and logistical challenges of rebuilding diminished flocks and damaged hay fields.

“This year will definitely have an impact on meat and dairy production for years to come,” Perkins said. “For some people who are already suffering from a low-pay price, it could mean the end of their farm.”

Jake Galle and Abby Sadauckas have harvested one-quarter of the hay they will need this winter at Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham. They raise organic, grass-fed livestock, including 24 beef cattle, 40 goats and over 100 sheep; and they manage 200 acres of farmland, including 60 acres leased for hay production.

“It’s been very difficult because a lot of the fields where we harvest hay have heavy, wet soils,” Sadauckas said. “We had 8 inches of rain just this month. The ground is saturated. There’s no where for the water to go. We don’t want to be ripping up people’s land and then riding over those ruts for the next 20 years.”

To augment their hay harvest, they anticipate buying some from a grower in New York, Sadauckas said. They’ve also stepped up rotational grazing, moving livestock to different fields that are too small or have been too wet to harvest hay.

“We’re bringing animals to graze where we can’t cut hay,” she said. “Buying hay from other growers is an expensive proposition, so we’re trying to graze as much as possible before we start using hay.”


Ryan Tammaro, 13, drives a tractor pulling a tedder Wednesday to dry out hay at his family’s farm in Cape Elizabeth, where they raise beef cattle and other livestock. Down Home Farm has struggled to harvest enough hay from rain-soaked, muddy, weedy fields this year.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Sadauckas said people who are concerned about the impact of the wet summer on growers can help by purchasing locally grown meats and other produce.

“Just keep supporting your local farmers,” she said.


The price of a hay bale varies widely depending on the size, location and quality. Second crop may cost more than the first crop if the hay is finer. A round bale can go for $35 to $100, with Maple Lane Farms in Charleston falling somewhere in the middle at $65.

“This year was the toughest in memory for harvesting hay,” said co-owner Randa Higgins. “You need multiple days to dry it and we just didn’t have those conditions for most of the summer.”

One of the largest hay dealers in the Northeast, the Bangor-area farm is a fifth-generation family operation that includes 700 head of beef cattle. The Higgins family commiserates about the poor hay harvest on the farm’s website.


“Unfortunately, this year’s hay production has been to us exactly as it has been for everyone else,” they wrote. “People got half the crop they usually do, and we (are) fully aware how difficult this makes it for everyone, but we are in the same exact boat as everyone else. Let’s hope next season is a lot kinder.”

Nick Tammaro his sons Ben, 10, left, and Ryan, 13, on his farm where he raises beef cattle. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

As the summer days shorten, Tammaro, the Cape Elizabeth farmer, is hoping for enough dry days to harvest an additional 100 round bales before the season ends. That would give him the 300 bales needed to feed 26 beef cattle and other livestock through the winter.

They started harvesting the second crop Monday, heading into a stretch of sunny, breezy, blue-sky days.

“What we need is more days like this,” he said.

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