Local farmer sees success with organic hay production

Ryan Riggs' hay equiptment sits indoors, at his Torrington farm location, awaiting the baling of the first cutting of alfalfa.

A first-generation Goshen County farmer Ryan Riggs is one of a few organic agricultural producers in eastern Wyoming. Riggs continues to see success with his organic dairy hay production as the market has yielded higher prices over the years.

Riggs said the higher commodity price for organic products is what drew him to grow organically.

Riggs said organic products are just better than traditional ag products including milk. Riggs sends all of the alfalfa grown on his 600-acre plot of land to an organic milk producer in Texas.

“We ship hay down there all year round, not just in the summer or winter months” Riggs said.

Alfalfa is the primary hay used in dairy farms in the U.S., so milk producers seek out the highest quality because of the demand for organic milk, he said.

Riggs said demand for organic goods has been rising. He said he expects the market and prices will continue to grow.

According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2019 state agriculture overview, Wyoming produced over 2 million tons of alfalfa, and according to NSSA data, Goshen County is the number one producer of alfalfa in the state with records of 251,500 tons of production in 2017. Producers such as Riggs have continued to contribute to the success of Goshen County’s hay production for the last 18 years.

Rigg’s 600-acre alfalfa operation supplying him with four cuttings a year, are all produced and maintained with GPS pivots and flood irrigated farm ground.

Riggs said with his specific operation he doesn’t use any chemical supplementation and has continued to keep the growth of weeds under control through harrowing the alfalfa farm ground.

Over the last decade, Riggs said, his alfalfa has not required much intervention throughout the growing process and he simply, “lets it grow,” then cuts, rakes and bales throughout the hay season.

During these early parts of the hay season, Riggs and a number of other producers in Goshen County have begun first cutting efforts and will continue throughout the growing season. Riggs said he has not ran into many pest issues.

“I would absolutely recommend organic,” Riggs said.

As a producer who has been a part of the organic industry for a number of years, Riggs said he highly recommends organic farming to other producers, simply because of the “very good prices.”

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