Modern Farmer: Could you tell us a little about your farm?
Eliza Winters: We are a small diversified farm in upstate New York. We have a vegetable CSA and raise pastured-meat products like grass-fed beef and pastured pork. We are doing turkeys this year for the first time. Also, we just got sheep and goats. Everything is fed, that isn’t pastured, on local non-GMO feed. We are about an hour east of Albany on the Williamstown, Massachusetts, border. The farm is a 140 acres, but we are only using about tenth of that.
MF: Who runs the farm with you?
EW: Well, I started the farm with my husband Nathan on property that is owned by my parents. They raise the grass-fed beef. They had a small garden and did small-scale homesteading. My husband and I came here last year and started the vegetable CSA and raising pork and chickens on a larger scale. He was in an accident in April and passed away from his injuries. Now it is me running the farm and my parents have been helping me out along with interns, WOOFers and lots of volunteers. I am also seven months pregnant and there isn’t a whole lot I can do as far as physical labor.
MF: When did you decide to join Instagram as a farm?
EW: Well, Nathan was on Instagram. He was pretty big into marketing online. He had a blog, used Twitter, and had a Facebook account. Instagram was a natural thing for him to join. Hill Hollow Farm followed suit in the same direction. It is a way to get information out there about the farm, as well as networking with other farmers while at the same time discovering other markets for our products.
MF: Do you view it more as a marketing tool or as a way to connect with other farmers?
EW: We use it as a marketing tool as far as showing people our products, but we link that to Twitter and Facebook. It is also a great way to post pictures of what we are doing and there really is a huge community of farmers on Instagram. And since the death of Nathan it has been really great for me to feel supported by the farm people from across the country that I have never met but that have found us through Instagram. I have felt supported by a community that I haven’t even met in person. As a marketing tool it is great to show what we are growing. It is also linked to our newsletter, which I am editing right now.
MF: Could you talk a little more about the support you have received.
‘Sometimes it just a matter of people telling me they are thinking of me or they appreciate the posts because they understand how hard it is to be doing what I am doing right now.’
EW: It can range from just being able to ask people questions about problems I am having. My tomatoes have a blight this year. How have other people been able to control those in the past? Just being able to put questions out there and have people answer. Also, my family did a big fundraiser for me to help raise money for an apartment on the farm for me. Not necessarily through Instagram, but definitely through Twitter and Facebook, people who are friends of the farm and other people who follow us have posted links of the fundraiser. Sometimes just condolences: I am pregnant and grieving and trying to run the farm. It is a lot. Sometimes, it just a matter of people telling me they are thinking of me or they appreciate the posts because they understand how hard it is to be doing what I am doing right now.
MF: Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to sharing this week?
EW: I don’t know if there is anything in particular this week. Sometimes things happen and I don’t even know they are going to happen. That is kind of how farming is: Everyday can be a surprise. I am hoping to make it to the county fair and I got a new sheep and a goat which I haven’t posted anything of yet. I try to wait a few days to see how the animals adapt before I post anything on social media about them. I think we are going to start harvesting corn this week and we are planning on going to a soil workshop on Thursday. That should be informational. I am trying to do a lot of research on cover crops and soil management. There is usually a lot going on.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
(All photos courtesy of Hill Hollow Farm)