Using Trust, Transparency and Taste to Engage with Consumers - Food Dialogues

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Using Trust, Transparency and Taste to Engage with Consumers


Faces of Farming and Ranching Jay Hill poses with the owners of FARMesilla at the future site of their farm-to-market store expected to open early fall. 

From SxSW Eco in Austin to the Flavor, Quality & American Menus conference in Napa Valley, I speak to a variety of people at events across the country, and some are non-ag friendly environments. When engaging with individuals who oppose conventional agriculture, I always introduce myself as an environmentalist. This surprises most people at first, but they soon come to realize that my livelihood relies on protecting the land and keeping the environment healthy through sustainable practices. I spend every day outside in the soil, breathing the air and using the water to figure out exactly what mixture of these elements is conducive for growing plants.

Consumers want to identify where their food comes from and how it’s being grown and raised. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to open a farm-to-market store, called FARMesilla. With the diverse crops we grow, including onions, lettuce, corn, pinto beans, pecans, chiles, carrots and beef cattle, among others, we’re able to share our message of why we’re farmers, why we grow the food we do, and show how technology ensures that we’re growing great tasting, healthy produce. It’s an educational tool to feed the community with local food. We anticipate completing FARMesilla by early fall.

Even though we grow local food for our community, 90 percent of the conventional and organic crops that I produce are still going to find their way across the entire country. It doesn’t matter if you’re in New York City or my hometown of Las Cruces, it was all grown with the same care and attention to detail, and we’re proud to stamp all Hill Farms products with the same quality.

Back when I was about 15, big ag was the impetus that propelled me into farming. My dad said if I really wanted to be a farmer, I needed to pick a crop to grow, and I chose onions. It ended up being a really good onion year and that passion starting out got me to the point where I am today. It’s important to always grow, and that doesn’t necessarily mean farm size, but diversifying what your farm produces or adopting more sustainable production practices that impact the water, soil and habitat in a positive way.

Not only do we embrace sustainability, but continuous improvement is at the forefront of our farming methods to ensure we’re utilizing smart technology which allows us to grow more food in the same space. One of the ways that we’re conserving water is by using subsurface drip irrigation that directs the water and nutrients directly to the plant. We also employ GPS to run our equipment more efficiently reducing diesel use.

Our motto on Hill Farms includes the three Ts – trust, transparency and taste. It’s important for us that consumers know we grow our crops responsibly. We have an open gate policy and want our customers to ask how we grow our crops. And of course, we want to grow a great tasting product. Hearing someone say that the produce we raised made a great salad makes this the most rewarding job.

Jay Hill’s father, Jim Hill, established Hill Farms in 1969 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the farm grew slowly while his family lived off a non-agriculture income. As Jay grew up helping with the farm, learning and growing with it, it cultivated his love for the lifestyle. He now farms nearly 1,000 acres. Jay focuses on vegetable production, always aspiring to grow a good tasting, safe product in the most cost effective way.