Remembering Nathan Winters

Nathan Winters was a regular contributor to GRIT magazine, after leaving the computer programming world behind to go chase his dream of farming for a living.

| July/August 2014

  • During Nathan's bike ride across America, he happened upon hog farming. Nathan was a hog farmer until his passing.
    Photo courtesy Applecheek Farm
  • Nathan Winters loved farming and his family.
    Photo by Amanda Jones

I was raised in a time and place where playing with toy six-shooters, riding stick ponies, and roping bushes and bedposts were pretty much the norm. My favorite bedtime story was Joan Walsh Anglund’s The Brave Cowboy — although I also loved for my father to read me another chapter from Will James’ Lone Cowboy: My Life Story. These early childhood heroes were eventually replaced with a motley collection of authors, artists, public figures, farmers, ranchers, and even scientists and philosophers. From each, I learned compelling lessons that continue to guide me.

Most of my heroes were long gone by the time I found them. A few were not.

Organic real-food farmer, loving husband and father, and eclectic philosopher, Nathan Winters, of Petersburgh, New York, was notable among my youthful heroes. Nathan passed away April 29, 2014, at the age of 34 — victim of a machinery accident on the farm.

I was first drawn to Nathan’s presence some years ago, after he embarked on a bicycle trip across the United States. I followed his progress on Facebook, Twitter and his blog. In many respects, Nathan had left the world of computer programming, website development and online marketing to find his dream — thankfully for me and thousands like me, Nathan spread the news of his discoveries in nearly real time. After hours of reflection informed by visits with rural and small-town folks of virtually every shape and size, Nathan formulated his dream and set out to achieve it. Armed with endless energy, untold creativity, some internship experience and the support of thousands of people like me — who had a personal, philosophical stake in seeing him succeed — in 2011, he jumped into food farming whole hog.

Nathan used his substantial online skills and marketing abilities to build a customer base and to generate working capital for his first year in business. In an article he wrote for us, Nathan indicated he had lost money in his first season, but he knew how he was going to improve the balance sheet in the next year — and improve it he did. Working endless hours while incorporating creative and nonconventional solutions to common problems was his hallmark. Nathan was famous for opening up new ground by running hogs in the area first, for example. He was also famous for his love of Gloucestershire Old Spot hogs.

Fast forward to 2014, as Nathan, his wife, Eliza, and their daughter, Mathilda, were gearing up for Hill Hollow Farm’s best year ever. Hogs were farrowing, new land was opened up for the growing of even more vegetables, the old barn they called home was getting a makeover, the starts were growing, and thousands of folks were cheering the couple on. And then it happened.

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