Once the loft is full of hay for the year, I let out a huge sigh of relief. There are precious few folks in our area that do small square bales anymore. Actually, there aren?t all that many farmers that do hay at all. it's just not as lucrative as soybeans or sunflower seeds. So on Monday (Happy 4th of? July to me) I cleaned out the loft to make room for this year?s hay and, yesterday, my wonderful husband helped put 400 bales of hay up for the year?at least we hope it will last a year. Much of that depends upon the winter. I love our hay lady. She is truly a gem. SHe's a horse person, too, actively involved in things in our horse community, and she knows what we need in horse hay. it's really good hay, and our horses devour it. But, like us, sHe's no spring chicken, and I worry about the future years. This year?s load was $1400 (that's $3.50/bale), and I don't know how she was able to sell it to us at that price with the cost of gas and labor going up, up, up, but I am certainly relieved. Keeping horses is getting tougher financially every year (one of the reasons Horse Journal focuses its content so heavily on money and how to keep costs low), and my retirement plans include paying for horses. But I don't just worry about finances. I also worry about who's going to grow the hay, who will be willing to do the work and, very much where the grass is going to grow. It?ll all sift down to dollars and cents, of course, as the laws of supply and demand take over. (Note to self: More retirement funds needed.) Like a lot of people, I take that comments like, ?Across the country, we are losing 6,000 acres of agricultural, forest and other lands each day. Conservatively, we need 36,000,000 acres to feed the estimated 9 million horses in the U.S.? with a grain of salt. that's directly from the ELCR, or Equine Land Conservation Resource (www.elcr.org). it's difficult to imagine that we could be losing 6,000 acres per day. However, if it's actually even half that amount, it's enough to give you pause. John Strassburger, Horse Journal?s Performance Editor, is a board member of the group. He's been a close friend for nearly 20 years, and I know him well. He insists that the statistics show this great a continued loss of open land is really true, and that worries me. He's a straight talker, not prone to hype and hysteria. Folks, We've got a problem on our hands, maybe not in this decade, but surely during the next. ?Go to the ELCR.org to see if you can do anything in your area. If you hear about a group protesting a development or someone trying to do something to preserve open land in your area, think about lending a hand.?I don't know about you, but filling the loft with expensive bags of hay pellets, shipped in from some distant country, ?just won't be nearly as satisfying as traditional, healthy hay bales.