The golden rod is harvested with the same equipment as hay — a cutter, a rake, and then a baler. For those who are unfamiliar with this equipment, here is a bit of Farming 101.
First, the plants must be cut.
The cut golden rod still has some flowers and leaves which are not needed for pellets.
The plants are allowed to stay in the field for a couple of weeks so most of everything other than the stalk comes off in the process of retting, similar to rotting. This leaves the soft and nutritious material to go back into the earth.
This leaves the stalks lying loose all over the field. Not at all efficient for the baler to pick up.
It now calls for raking.
The baler straddles the windrows and picks up the stalks. This baler is called a round baler for obvious reasons. You might have seen square (actually rectangular) bales which are quite different.
If the weather has been dry enough, the rake and the baler can run at the same time. It’s a coordinated “dance”
The finished product, waiting to be picked up and taken to the pellet mill.
Each one of these bales has the equivalent amount of energy as 40 gallons of oil when made into pellets for heating. That’s money that stays here, not only in the States, but in the county! It is carbon neutral; it does not pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuels. It is renewable and we can look forward to a new crop every year.
Now it’s off to the pellet mill!