Farming has always been a part of the American landscape and hay farming has been a part of Colby Spencer’s family for generations. This heritage helped Spencer, an agriculture science major from Orderville, Utah, and senior at Southern Utah University, develop a unique EDGE project.
Spencer leased an alfalfa hay field over the summer as part of his project in order to gain experience running a small agriculture business.
“I wanted to make decisions in a way that forced me to learn and take risks,” said Spencer. “When the field became available, I decided this was my chance so I went to the owner and got the lease.”
One of the biggest challenges he faced while growing the hay was the unpredictable weather.
“I lost part of a crop to early frost,” said Spencer. “Rain damaged a crop, and I just had to adjust my expectations and lower my hay prices to sell the damaged alfalfa.”
Spencer also experienced successes as well. He felt that his ability to adapt to change and challenges grew during his project. Being paid for a product he grew and harvested also left a distinct sense of pride and satisfaction.
“Colby came into our program with a lot of practical experience,” said Dean Winward, associate professor of agriculture. “That sometimes means knowing how to do things, but not always why we do things. He's smart enough to take what he's learned in class and couple that with his applied background. This has enabled him to better understand the situations he deals with and make good decisions with his resources.”
Spencer feels that SUU and its faculty have played a large role in inspiring and encouraging him. He felt that his professors took a personal interest in his success and looked for opportunities to help him with his project.
“After I decided I was doing this project, I went to my Ag professor, Dean Winward,” said Spencer. “He has been a huge help, and I have come to him with many questions. He has not only answered them but given me tons of extra feedback as well. I feel like the agriculture professors all do a great job of encouraging us to start preparing for our futures.”
Spencer is unsure what the future may hold for him but feels that the experience his EDGE project has given him is invaluable.
“My project will continue through the next few years,” said Spencer. “The original hay field has grown into two hay fields for the upcoming year, and I am brokering other farmers’ hay as well. I am proud of my business, and I’m excited to see where it will be in the upcoming years.”