LOOKINGGLASS, Ore. — While working hard at bucking hay last summer, Lucas Saylor and Ryland O’Toole noticed a need in neighboring fields.
Those properties weren’t getting mowed, raked and baled. Although only 14 years old at the time, the two saw a business opportunity — turning fields of grass into hay bales for sale.
So now at age 15, they set themselves up with an informal business during the 2021 hay season. With money saved from last summer’s work, Ryland purchased a used mower and Lucas bought a used rake. They borrowed a tractor from Lucas’ family and a baler from Ryland’s family and went to work.
The two soon-to-be high school sophomores mowed, raked, baled and hauled hay from five fields, ranging from 1 to 15 acres, in central Douglas County.
“It was a joint effort by both of us to come up with a plan to do this,” said Ryland of their informal S&O Custom Haying operation.
“We saw a need out there,” Lucas said.
Both teenagers took a tractor driving and safety class through Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Ore. They earned permits to drive farm equipment on rural roads. When needed, they got driving and mechanical help from Ryland’s grandfather, Terry Fluetsch, and from Lucas’ father, Jason Saylor. Those men also had flatbed trailers that were used to haul the hay equipment and then to haul the bales out of the field and into barns.
Lucas and Ryland helped put up hay from their families’ fields, earning the right to borrow equipment to work in other fields. They had to buy the fuel and twine and pay for any repairs, if needed.
“They have things to learn, but they have the initiative,” Fluetsch said. “I’ve been self-employed and Lucas’ dad is self-employed. They kind of want to follow in the footsteps of their elders.”
All of their production was in two-tie, 50- to 60-pound grass bales. On one job, they got 75% of the bales and the property owner got the other 25%. On their other jobs, they got 60% of the bales and the owner 40%.
Ryland said the hay yield was not as great as past years due to the lack of rainfall and earlier than normal heat, but the partners will earn enough to help buy better equipment for future hay seasons. They already sold some of their share of the hay and have more that they’ll sell through the fall and winter.
The partners were asked this year to work a field that was expected to yield 50 tons of hay, but they turned it down because they didn’t feel they had the right equipment for such a big job. Their goal is to obtain equipment that can handle bigger jobs.
“It’s a challenge,” Ryland said. “There’s a new challenge every day at work, but we’ve got good people around us, helping us with the experience. That’s huge.”
Fluetsch and Jason Saylor, who both operate and maintain heavy equipment in their professions, have been the mentors for the two teens.
Lucas admitted, “We couldn’t have done this without them. When we broke down and didn’t know what to do, we needed them and they helped us.”
“They showed us the right way,” Ryland said.