Local alfalfa growing season starts earlier than ever before

BURBANK, WA. -- It seems like every year for the past several years, we hear about a new crop growing either earlier than normal because of hot temperatures, or more than normal because of hot temperatures. This time it's alfalfa, and one local farmer says this is the earliest he's ever seen the season start before. 

Here's something you might not know, the alfalfa we grow right here in the Columbia Basin is some of the best alfalfa in the world. 

"Pacific Northwest hay is famous all over the world," farmer Drex Gauntt said.

Consumers, mostly dairy farmers, can't wait to get their hands on this alfalfa to feed their cows. This year they won't have to wait. Farmer Drex Gauntt has been farming alfalfa his entire life. This year was the earliest he's ever seen the crop cut and that's good news for him. 

"This year we cut this alfalfa field about April 22nd," Gauntt said. "It's the earliest that we've ever cut alfalfa before. Last year was early. The warm spring that we've had in 2016 made this year even earlier. It's been an excellent year for growing hay."

The bad news, farmers like Drex are still seeing negative effects from the Seattle, Tacoma port slowdown the last two winters. Drex says some hay is still sitting at the dock, waiting to be shipped. 

"So we will still seem some ripples from the slowdown that happened in 2014 and 2015," Gauntt told us. "The quality of the hay looks really good this year. the markets are just fair this year unfortunately."

The alfalfa season lasts until September. Drex says they'll cut this field about 5 times before then.


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