National Hay Association
"Not for Self, but for All"
Carl (left) introduces his grandchildren, Gracie and Gaven
Every year, at the NHA Convention, The National Hay Association acknowledges a member that has excelled in the forage industry. The chosen member is someone with integrity, someone who hurdles challenges with innovation and plenty of hard work, and someone who has enriched our organization. This year, on September 24th at the annual banquet, Livonia, NY farmer Carl Blackmer of Old Fort Farm was chosen as the 2022 Haymaker of the Year.
NHA’s 2022 Haymaker is the seventh generation of his family to live and farm on land purchased immediately after the American Revolution when settlers poured west from New England. Named for a Seneca tribal log fortification, the farm began with 150 forested acres, priced at $3/acre, and grew to over 1000 acres in the first generation, starting with just a yoke of oxen and some “farming utensils.”
The Haymaker grew up at this farmstead, where his parents kept chickens, beef cattle, and sheep…and an airplane in the hangar out back! His dad was active in the Flying Farmers and qualified as a flight instructor. Since his first tractor, the Haymaker’s toys have increased in size and complexity, and he is an early adopter of new technology. He thinks he first baled hay around age six.
His phone never seems to stop ringing, whether the calls are from hay buyers, salespeople, employees, or other NHA members.
The family was completed with the birth of a brother, Tom, a few years later.
This Haymaker got to travel far more than his peers, often taking family trips to International Flying Farmers’ conventions, and whet his appetite for adventures.
Six days after his 17th birthday, when he could legally get his private pilot’s license, he was already planning to earn his commercial and flight instructor’s ratings. Rumor has it that he campaigned for high school student body president by dropping candy from the plane onto the school grounds.
The Haymaker was also a member of his high school’s football and wrestling teams, graduating in 1971, and was accepted to study at the New England Aeronautical Institute in New Hampshire.
But a funny thing happened during college. His career goal of becoming a commercial pilot was thwarted by the vast number of US military pilots being discharged as the Vietnam War was winding down, and they got hiring preference for airline jobs. He acquired his education and a wife in New Hampshire, and then came home to take over and expand the family farm, while his parents welcomed the chance to travel and spend winters in warmer climates.
This Haymaker acquired more and bigger machines, introduced soybeans to the rotation along with grain and hay, erected buildings (including a new house), and worked construction with family in the slower winter season.
Some of the things he has enjoyed when time allows include cutting firewood in winter, visiting in-laws at their cottages on the New Hampshire shore, churning ice cream (now with the grandchildren), and relaxing with a beloved dog - and always, traveling to new places.
In 1987 he joined NHA, sponsored by member Gerry Yerkes from Pennsylvania. In that era he also needed two letters of reference from business associates and a third from his banker, with no negative feedback after his proposed membership was published in Hay There! twice. At first he was busy building his business and attending meetings was tough. Around that time his son joined the operation.
It was 15 years before the Haymaker became very active in NHA and was named to committees, after attending the 2000 convention in Saratoga Springs. In 2006 he put in a Steffen hay press, and many NHA members came to the open house to celebrate this significant addition.
Elected to the board of directors at Gary Smith’s 2009 convention, he enjoys driving to as many meetings as time allows, always happy to take along neighbors and prospective members. We have no idea how many times he’s driven coast to coast, but a good many convention adventures have included hay judging samples packed into the back of the Suburban. Usually there are intermediate stops along the way visiting NHA friends. If there’s time between the Louisville show and a winter meeting, the Haymaker is always ready for a few nights in Nashville, or a week on South Padre Island, or a little detour into Florida to ride motorcycles with his uncle. Little known facts: he likes a “real” road atlas just as well as the fancy screen on his dashboard, he has an innate sense of direction, and is the only NHA president to preside at a Zoom convention.
Please join us in Congratulating Carl Blackmer and thanking him for his service and support of the NHA!
The Haymaker of the Year Award was created and sponsored by Kemin Industries in the early 1980′s Members were asked for nominations at the awards banquet annually. In the early 1990′s, the NHA Board of Directors created the Haymaker Award Committee to continue the tradition.
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