When a Small Bale of Grass is So Much More than Just a Small Bale of Grass
As you know, the Divide Feed barn has been empty of small bales of grass hay for a couple months now; and as I hope you’ve heard, it’s starting to fill back up with them. But there’s so much more to this story than just a store being out of stock of something, and if you have a few minutes I’d love to tell you the tale of Triple F Feeds, and extend some well due thanks at the end…
There are bad hay years, and there are good hay years in every place around the world that grows hay, and if you’ve lived in this particular place for long enough, you know our bad years are peppered in between a bunch of pretty good ones. Well this year was bad, really bad, and there weren’t enough good years between it and the last bad one, and Nathan noticed. (You all know Nathan, he’s the man in the camo hat running around the store, or loading up your feed, or delivering hay to your barns. But you honestly may not know that he owns Divide Feed, because I’d never encountered a business owner who worked so darn hard beside his employees, but we’ll come back to this later.) Nathan noticed, and knew this year was going to be exceptionally bad. He knew it before grass even started growing, he knew it before the ranch in Westcliffe from whom we buy a semi-load a week during the season didn’t bale a single bale and our other yearly contracts came in with astronomical prices, he knew it before anyone really even started thinking about filling up their barns for the coming winter. He saw it coming and he handled it when it happened, but he sure as heck was not going to let our community take such a huge hit. And that’s when this absolutely crazy journey officially began.
So, first, we got round bales at the store. It’s true, they’re big, they’re kinda inconvenient to get home, there’s a bit of waste; but they’re cost effective, horses and livestock eat ‘em right up, and they have lightened the load on a lot of people’s bank accounts this year. Being new to the round bale game, we started taking them home to the ranch to feed our herd of horses to ensure quality from as many loads that came in as possible. But as soon as we dropped that first bale in our hay barn (a process during which we most certainly did not dent any metal joists) and having realized that the hay market was not going to recover from this drought any time soon, we knew that we needed solution to the shortage that went way beyond rounds. And that’s when Nathan spoke the words “we should just get a processor and turn these bigs into smalls right here” & that’s when Triple F Feeds officially began.
We started researching the few processor manufacturers out there, pricing the machines and buildings and support equipment we’d need, and sent John, our hay driver, out on a mission to find the best rounds he could find. A couple months later, we had done our research, had wrapped our heads around the costs, and had almost come to terms with them, when out of the blue came a used processor for sale, and that was that. This was happening. Nathan flew to Texas to see it, and put down a payment. A few weeks later, John drove down, got it on his truck, and brought her home to Divide Feed just a couple days before Christmas. And that’s when the real work officially began.
For the next 4 months, yes, 4 whole months, every single spare moment Nathan had between deliveries and work and his family, was spent cleaning, fixing, researching, and replacing parts on the processor. We were essentially handed the shell of a machine the likes of which no one here had ever seen, and had to make it go. Housing was built, electrical was run, hoses were replaced, belts were replaced, big metal pieces were replaced, motors and pumps were replaced, even tanks were replaced. Fat Albert, as we now affectionately call her, is a brand new machine at this point, and it’s all thanks to Nathan’s incredible dedication. After a few test starts, that ended in finding even more things to replace, on April 27th 2019, we hooked up the baler, started her up, put a round bale on the table (backwards, but hey, it was our first try) and processed our very first small bale of hay. And that’s when our endeavor to provide affordable, high quality small bales of grass hay to our wonderful customers in bad hay years and good hay years, so we never have to go through months of empty barns and hand wringing waiting for first cutting officially began.
Now, on to the “Thank Yous”
To Nathan. That whole intro was basically a giant “thank you” to you but it deserves repeating. You have sacrificed so much to make this thing happen and have worked so hard to ensure that no one really noticed. Your time working on the processor, and even more time delivering hay, and even more time working on the day-to-day at the store has taken you away from your family every single day since this began. I know seeing them so little has been incredibly difficult, but you powered through for the betterment of our equine and livestock community. It’s been an absolute honor supporting you through this endeavor and I couldn’t be more proud, and I can’t wait to see how uncomfortable you get with all this praise. So that’s enough of that. But seriously, this is awesome and we’re all so flippin’ proud of you.
To Olya, Nathan’s outrageously supportive better half. Thank you for keeping him going. And being positive and encouraging through the hardships and setbacks and (not) broken hot tubs. And preemptively for all the amazing work you’ll be doing in the future as Triple F Feeds grows.
To James, for your patience and hard work, as usual. Your barn has been an absolute disaster since we started this, so thank you for dealing with this giant mess, and the giant mess it will continue to be. You’ve kept the barn tidy and clean through it all, and there’s no way this process would have stayed as organized as it did without that. And of course, for all that Walden you bagged to keep people going through the shortage. You are the heart and soul of this place.
To Sue, our newest family member. You walked right into a tough business going through a very weird time with no hesitation at all. I’m sure our customers appreciate your positivity and sunshinyness as much as I do.
To JJ, my outrageously supportive, much much better half. When all of my not so subtle pestering finally paid off and you joined the team, I couldn’t believe how lucky we got. You jumped into this processor business headfirst (literally) and have risked lung and limb (literally) to make this work. Thank you for being a sounding board for me, and Nathan. Thank you for rapidly learning all about hydraulic systems to that you could be as much help to Nathan as possible while he was replacing all the things. Thank you for being a part of this adventure with us.
To Britt, who introduced us to Fat Albert in the first place. We may never have found that ad online and this would have been a very different story without you.
To Steve, who helped us replace so many of the things. Each project we handed you came back better than we could have imagined. She wouldn’t be in one piece right now without you.
To the Gentleman Al Cooper, the original builder of this machine, for the advice and support you provided as we rebuild our processor.
To John. Thank you for finding us beautiful hay in a year with very little of it. When the smalls ran out you kept us well stocked with bigs, and are bringing us the rounds to make more smalls. Heck, you brought the processor across the country to us. You listened to our crazy idea and acted like it was a completely normal and sane thing to do, and rolled with it. We probably don’t say it enough, but Divide Feed wouldn’t be what it is without your tireless work.
And finally, to you. To each and every one of you wonderful people reading this, and those who aren’t, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. The patience you’ve given us while we put this together has been extraordinary, and the trust you’ve placed in us to do this is astounding. We realize that switching to big bales, or taking bags of hay these last couple months has been a strain on your regular ranch routines; the magnitude of lacking small grass bales has not been lost on us one bit. We are so grateful to be a part of this community and a part of your lives and we look forward to providing you with the resources you need to care for your animals for many, many years to come. Because of you, we were able to undertake this endeavor in the first place. Because your patience and patronage we will be able to do everything in our power to never see our community struggle through a bad hay season ever again.
Ok, one last thank you: if you’re still with me, thanks for powering through all that. I hope this post made what’s been going on at Divide Feed a whole lot clearer, but if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to ask. We’re always happy to chat, Have an absolutely lovely day!