By Connor Lynch
ESSEX — Young and ambitious farmer, Alex Durham, was killed last month while moving baled hay at a horse farm.
The 27-year-old from the Amherstburg-area, who ran a custom hay baling business, was baling hay for the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association at about 9:30 p.m. on July 9. He was found under the rear tire of the bale truck and was taken to hospital, where he died from injuries.
Area dairy farmer Roger Wright thinks of Durham as family. He was a quiet and reserved person. He mostly kept to himself, didn’t like crowds, said Wright.
The day of the accident, Durham was helping out at Wright’s dairy farm at 4 a.m., then headed to the horse farm to rake hay. Wright stopped in at the horse farm throughout the day and dropped off the baler truck in a field to pick up the 1,700 neatly lined up bales that Durham had made. Wright’s 18-year old daughter took some pictures. Wright left and returned with his daughter shortly after to see none of the bales had been put on the truck.
They found Durham pinned beneath the rear tire. Wright’s 18-year old daughter did CPR as they called an ambulance. “It was a freak accident,” Wright said.
Durham had a passion for farming. His grandfather was a dairy farmer. His father was not. At four-years old Durham would head down the road to his grandfather’s farm to help out.
He’d also walk over to the neighbour’s place, who cash cropped and had Clydesdales, and help out there. “He would do whatever he had to, as a kid, to be involved in farming.”
When Durham was 12, his father died of cancer. By 13, he had bought a 50-horsepower tractor and was advertising custom plowing. By 16 he’d bought a custom haybine, and by 19 he’d bought a house and 25 acres of land with his high school sweetheart Sarah, whom he later married.
One of the major cultivators of Durham’s passion for hay was area farmer Tony Simon, who ran his own custom haying business. Simon helped Durham get started, helping him out and selling him some equipment when Simon was getting out of the business. Working with Simon was when Durham “really got into baling hay,” Wright said.
Durham ran a custom baling business, helping out countless farmers in the area, and worked full-time in Windsor for a construction company. He also had a profoundly different approach to growing hay than most. “He lived and breathed hay,” Wright said. “Some people think it’s just something else to grow,” or that it can just be planted and ignored until harvest time.
But Durham dove deep into hay. In the morning before a cutting, he would compare weather forecasts across four different weather apps. He researched the soil and did soil tests before planting to see what kind of seeding he could do on that soil structure. “He thought growing soybeans was too simple.”
Durham was largely self-taught. Not only in farming, but was a skilled mechanic and an excellent welder, Wright said. Last winter he remodeled his house. “If he set his mind to it, he’d do it. And do it good.”
He wasn’t much for hobbies. He didn’t watch TV, and hardly drank: One beer a month was plenty, Wright said. He watched a lot of YouTube videos but exclusively to learn more about farming.
He had a small group of friends, but “if his group of friends didn’t believe in working, he didn’t socialize.” It was a small, but tight-knit group. As he wound through daily chores, Durham would in turn call two of his friends and his two brothers.
“He would never go a day and not talk to that group of people. Everyone had a scheduled time, and everyone knew. They would never call if it wasn’t their scheduled time to talk to him.”
Between Wright and Durham, they had 250 acres of hay to custom harvest this summer. Of that, 200 was Durham’s, which he said was basically the same as 600 acres of cash crops.
Thanks to Durham, Wright got back into custom haying. He “lit a spark” in Wright too.
Durham, given his father’s untimely death, had never planned on being an old man, Wright said. “It sounds kind of stupid. But that’s where he wanted to be. He was in a hayfield.”
As of July 31, a GoFundMe fundraiser for Durham’s family had raised $35,145 of its $50,000 goal.
He is survived by his wife Sarah Durham and their two-year old son Oliver, as well as his brothers Adam and Andrew, and his mother Colleen.
WESTERN ONTARIO: Ambitious young farmer dead after “freak accident”
By Connor Lynch