Farmer bales 940,000 small square bales during his career
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 08/02/2012 2:05 PM
BOONE, Iowa —Edwin Fibikar knows a thing or two about making hay.
During his 50-year career, the 77-year-old Boone farmer baled 940,000 small square bales. He had hoped to make it to one million, but retired when he turned 70.
Fibikar watced the machinery demonstrations at last week's Farm Progress Hay Expo. Fibikar said he never advertised for baling business.
His father and uncle bought his first baler, a New Holland 66, in 1955 and he ran it.
"I didn't have any money because I was just out of high school," Fibikar said.
Fibikar was in the Army in 1958 to 1959 and his father traded in the first baler for a New Holland 68.
"We'd generally run 150,000 bales through them and trade them off," Fibikar said. "We had a dealer in Webster City who could sell our used balers, but he couldn't sell new ones. He'd trade with me for half price."
He had three hay mowers, up to 14 hay rakes, eight flat racks and one baler.
"On a day like today with rain coming, you wouldn't want to be fixing a baler," Fibikar said. "I kept my baler in good shape."
He bought nine new balers in his career, all New Holland.
The most hay ground he ever had was 90 acres of the 160 acres he owned, and he rented another 35 acres. He did an additional 70 to 80 acres on shares for his neighbors.
"My dad kept track of everything," Fibikar said. "He passed away in 1991 at 92, and he drove the baler until he was 89."
Fibikar remembers one year when he got $5.25 per bale at a hay auction when $3.50 to $4 was a good price.
"Excuse me for saying this, but two ladies were bidding against each other," Fibikar said.
The only time he baled big round bales was in 1993, a wet year.
"I couldn't get first crop up, and it was past due getting mowed, so I cut it and had the neighbor come in with his big round baler," Fibikar said.
Good hay requires good weather, he said.
"You need a good seed bed and good fertility, especially potash," he said.
When Fibikar started, he got 10 cents per bale for his custom work. When he quit baling, he was getting 35 cents.
He said oats was a good crop for him as well.
"I bought a fanning mill," he said. "My horse customers complained that the oats they bought at the elevator was dirty and dusty. I got into the oats business the last 20 years. I'd clean oats and bag it up. That was how I made my money —hay and oats. In the '60s and 80s farmers growing corn and soybeans were going broke. I could gross $600 per acre on alfalfa and they were lucky to gross $200 per acre on corn, and their expenses were more. It was a good time for me."
Fibikar said he was at the Hay Expo for entertainment, looking at how things have changed over the past 60 years. With today's equipment, one person can harvest hay from start to finish.
"When I was doing it, I had a crew of six to seven people," Fibikar said. "It was very labor intensive, but a good payoff."