For immediate release: Oct. 27, 2014
Katie Goetz, Public Information Officer
(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – An up-and-coming farmer in southern New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley is poised to become a face for all of American agriculture – and part of what he needs to get there is your daily vote online.
Jay Hill, a 30-year-old from Mesilla Park, is one of eight finalists from across the country vying to be named one of the “Faces of Farming & Ranching” by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). USFRA will select the Faces of Farming & Ranching based in part on which candidates earn the most public votes between Friday, Oct. 24 and Sunday, Nov. 2 at the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Facebook page (click on the “Vote Now” tab; you can vote once per day). There you’ll find a video in which Hill shows his farm and talks about his approach to agriculture.
According to USFRA’s website, “The Faces of Farming & Ranching program is designed to help put a real face on agriculture [by] selecting standout farmers and ranchers who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories of continuous improvement and who are actively involved in sharing those stories in public and on social media.”
“I want to share with people, with consumers, how their food is produced and where it’s produced,” Hill said. “It’s an opportunity for me to answer any question people might have in order to bridge the gap between my farm and their fork.”
Since he was 15, Jay has been working at Hill Farms in Las Cruces and at Shiloh Produce in Hatch, increasingly taking on more responsibility and more ownership in both operations. Thanks to his involvement in the two farming operations, Jay’s knowledge spans green and red chile, onions, lettuce, pecans, pinto beans, corn, and hay. He’s also working to build a small herd of cattle.
Hill attended and graduated from New Mexico State University while farming full-time. In addition to working on two farms and commuting between them, he maintains an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more – sharing photos and perspective of life on the farm. He’s already inspired his wife Katie Hill, a self-professed “city girl”, to start a garden, where she’s proven her green thumb by growing everything from tomatoes to eggplant, and from jalapeños to mint.
Jay credits his success to his father, Jim Hill, for instilling in him the “drive for food production.”
“It’s really exciting to see a New Mexican among the national finalists,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said. “Agriculture is so different in the West compared to agriculture in other parts of the country. Jay has a real opportunity to connect people to the very source of their food – especially food produced in a region of the country that people living elsewhere might not be all that familiar with.”
USFRA is made up of more than 80 farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners representing virtually all aspects of agriculture. It works to engage in dialogue with consumers who have questions about how today’s food is grown and raised. USFRA accomplishes that lofty goal by hosting Food Dialogues, where food producers answer questions from consumers in such cities as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, and Austin. If Hill is selected, he’ll be given a stipend to help him travel to and from Food Dialogues.
Winners will be announced on November 12 in Kansas City.