“Straw refers to the plant material that is left over after grains like wheat and barley are harvested,” explains Mike Richardson, a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Arkansas. “It is usually considered a waste product and is harvested in bales and used for other purposes.” Animal bedding and biofuels are two uses of straw.
As for hay? “When we talk about ‘making hay,’ we are really talking about making something that an animal can eat. Hay is usually gathered up into bales, and stored for the animals to eat during the winter when the grass is not growing.” Hay comes from nutritious sources like ryegrass or alfalfa.
Few farmers would sacrifice animal feed to pad a wagon ride. So while “hay ride” is more accurately a “straw ride,” Richardson is a realist: “This fall, when someone asks you to go for a hay ride, you can let them know that it is technically a ‘straw’ ride. While correct, I doubt that name will stick!”
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