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Q & A: Jay Hill, Not Your Average Farmer
Jay Hill says it himself - he’s not your average farmer. He wasn’t born into agriculture and didn’t start with inherited land. However, Hill has never been short of dreams.
As a teenager, Hill began farming with support from his dad in Las Cruces, New Mexico. By the time he was 17, he bought the neighboring farm and hasn’t slowed down since.
In recent years, Hill’s partnerships have expanded to Dell City, Texas to embrace the opportunity to raise premium Chaffhaye alfalfa.
Between the two states, Hill’s crops now include vegetables, row crops, pecans, wine grapes, and alfalfa.
Whether he’s working on the farm or traveling the world to speak, Hill faithfully posts a glimpse of his day on social media to offer transparency into his large operation.
SF: Why do you farm?
JH: It fits a lifestyle that I want to live with a level of complexity that keeps me learning something new every day.
SF: What did you learn this season that you’ll change?
JH: It’s hard to narrow it down. I’m learning not to micromanage as much and to have more faith in the people that are part of my operation.
SF: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
JH: Change is constant.
SF: Finish the sentence. Farming is...
JH: Diverse, complex, rewarding, challenging, and the greatest occupation on the face of the earth.
SF: What has been your worst time farming?
JH: 2011 was probably the darkest time. I was dealing with market failure and trying to farm poor, trying to cut corners to save costs. I learned that we have to continually work on creating business models based off of expansion and learning what an exit strategy truly means.
SF: What has been your best time in farming?
JH: Every day now. Today it’s two kids, a wife, and the most amazing employees on the face of the planet. They’re teaching me patience and direction. I’m learning how to set goals and achieve goals.
SF: Hemp is capturing a lot of attention these days. Are you interested in hemp?
JH: Not really. I would say that I would devote less than 2% of my total energy to that crop. We’re growing some, but I mean if it doesn’t get sold, or we get blown out by weather, then I’m not worried about it. It’s not legal in Texas, but we did experiment with it in New Mexico last year.
SF: Finish the sentence. The best book I ever read was...
JH: The Mover of Men and Mountains by R.G. Le Tourneau. It taught me the way to be more prosperous is to give more.
SF: You’re very active on social media. How did that start?
JH: It was kind of a fluke. I was just sharing some pictures, and there’s not a whole lot that I feel like I need to keep private. I enjoy the fact that I can maybe show a highlight of what I do and hopefully it brings somebody an idea that helps them. It has changed the way I operate as a farmer. Social media now has me traveling off the farm 15 to 20 times a year, speaking to different groups all over the country about understanding the struggles of agriculture and how to capitalize on the victories.
SF: What role does technology play on your farm?
JH: It plays a crucial role, but not to a point where we’re crippling ourselves with technology. We’re going to adopt technology as needed, but we’re not going to always buy the latest and greatest. We’re going to make sure we take a hard look at the technology before we try to implement it on the farm.
Jay Hill farms with his family and employees in southern New Mexico and west Texas. The original operations, Hill Farms and Wholesome Valley Farms raise row crops and vegetables for seed and local markets, respectively. In Texas, wine grapes and high quality alfalfa are the focus. As the farms have grown, so has Hill’s family. He and his wife Katie are raising two children, Harvest and Hayes on the farm.