Photo Credit to Dave Kraeer

Farming is essential to the horse racing industry, with horses requiring nutrition to grow and stay healthy, and the farms supplying the necessities for a strong horse, including hay and grain. One farm in Pennsylvania is an important partner to the harness racing industry and the horsemen.

Located in Hickory, about 15 miles north of Washington, Pennsylvania, is a family-owned farm that was established in 1865. Extremely vital to the horse racing industry, Kraeer Farms sells horse-quality hay and straw, as well as landscaping mulch hay. The staff on the farm are all family, working together daily, as their ancestors did in the past.
Dave Kraeer is a 7th generation farmer, and today, the business consists of Dave and his father, who are there full-time, as well as his mom, who handles the taxes. His uncle, who is retired and living in Florida during the winter, lends a hand during the summer months with the upkeep of the land and helps in the fields with the hay.
Photo Credit to Dave Kraeer

The farm is in close proximity to the Meadows Racetrack, and provides the necessities for the horsemen. “Probably 50-60% of my business is to the track,” Dave said.

“We’ve made hay our number one priority. It makes the most money for us. We’re maxed out now on how much storage space we have, and how much time we have in the summer to get hay baled. In addition to that, we also grow soy beans, oats, and corn.”
In the summer, they are busy getting the hay baled up, and into storage. After hay season is over, typically September to October, the stored hay starts to move out. When it gets cold, the farm typically slows down, but the majority of the work moves in a different direction.
“Winter is more structured,” Dave described. “That’s when I do the majority of my delivering, during the winter time. I don’t have the field work going on at the same time, but that is the heaviest volume of deliveries of hay and straw.”
Busy providing the nutrition for the equine athletes and the horsemen, Dave doesn’t own horses, but he’s a fan of the beautiful animals. “I’ve always had an appreciation for them. My grandfather had a horse when I was a little kid, and he would saddle him up,and give me a ride around the farm. His father, on my mom’s side, he was the first to immigrate from Italy, was really good friends with Delvin Miller. He was an excellent horseman, and he was able to pass a little bit of that onto my grandfather. But, unfortunately, that’s about as far as the horsemenship comes in our family.”
Photo Credit to Dave Kraeer

Dave remembers when the Meadows would feature the races on TV, and he would be glued to the excitement from the track. “I absolutely loved watching the races when I was a kid. I even got to a point where I had a little notebook I kept and I would handicap and pick horses. I would watch all four days every week and I started to remember the horses; which one was good; which one won before. I got pretty decent at it,” he laughed.

“It’s surreal to me now that it’s come full-circle now that I do business at the Meadows, that the names that I remembered seeing on TV when I was a kid, those people are my customers now!”
It has always been in the back of his mind, and his heart, to find his way to the farm as a career, but he didn’t intentionally have a goal on selling hay to the horsemen. “That was just how it worked out, though! When I graduated from college, I knew I didn’t want to go down the career path that I went to college for. I wanted to farm and just kind of blindly find my way into making a living, and farming led me to making the horse hay.”
Even working around the clock most days, Dave’s passion for farming and love of the industry shines through. Successful and hard-working farmers are the backbone of Pennsylvania agriculture, and Dave Kraeer is a prime example.
Cover Photo Credit to Dave Kraeer
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