Modern Farmer: Could you tell us a little about your farm?
Fraser Bayley: We farm 65 acres on the southeast coast of New South Wales, about 4 and a half hours south of Sydney. Most of our income is from mixed vegetable production, which is only about an acre or so of intensive cultivated bed space. The rest of the farm is for free range layers and beef. We are considering phasing out beef or at least scaling and developing a free range pork enterprise. We’ve lived here for 12 years after deciding that if we remained in the city we’d have to both work six days a week and we could see no fun in that. Ironically, we now both are working seven days a week, but it’s not really work. We see each other every day and the kids have us here all the time, so it’s really very good. After many highs and lows and mistakes and more mistakes, we think we might actually have a hope of making this work.
MF: When did you decide to join Instagram as a farm and why?
I’ve seen how diversity and care of the soil leads to great produce.
FB: A couple of years ago I was taking a photo with my phone to keep a record of something or other and a visitor asked me if I was “posting” a photo. I asked what that meant and I investigated from there. Initially I used it for keeping records and as a means of communication for people who I don’t see very often.
MF: Do you view Instagram more as a marketing tool or as a way to connect with other farmers?
FB: Definitely as a way to connect with other farmers. Marketing has rarely crossed my mind as probably only one or two percent of my followers are customers. I will show what we’re picking on market day to get those customers into the mood. I love the social aspect of Instagram and have made quite a few friends with fellow farmers and have even met a few, which is mind blowing for me. I’ve learnt so much and continue to do so by seeing what our colleagues on other farms all around the world are up to, what they’re trialling, how they’re marketing, it’s great!
MF: You said you have made a lot of friends with fellow farmers on Instagram and met a few. How is their operation different than what you thought of it through Instagram?
FB: I’ve made quite a few personal farming connections through Instagram and have been very fortunate to have visited some of those farms. The insights I’ve received into these farms via Instagram allow me to be kind of familiar with their operation and how they do things before I’ve arrived so we can get straight down to the details which has definitely helped how we grow. I’d love to continue making those connections and visiting our digital friends across the world.
MF: When was that moment that it clicked that Instagram could be used to connect with other farmers and learning?
FB: Mostly it has reinforced learning about biological agriculture and the extremely complex interrelationships between plants and soil life and that maintaining bio-diversity may be the key to long term viability of agricultural production. Through farms like provenancegrowers, transitionfarm_robin and takukondo I’ve seen how diversity and care of the soil leads to great produce. From other farms I’ve only seen on Instagram I’ve learnt about scale and different sizes of operations all making a living from farming, big and small and that’s the picture of farming, we need to paint, that it’s not just get big or get out, but lots of instruments playing in a very complicated orchestra.
MF: Is there any in particular you are excited to share with the modern farmer followers this week?
FB: I don’t get excited by much, but I can say that I hope to portray that what we do can be done. That farming is an option and it’s an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend your time. We have fun doing what we do, it’s real and tangible work and it’s challenging but what isn’t?
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
(All photos courtesy of Old Mill Road)