When Newdale, Idaho, native Ashlie Sutton launched The Haircut Box in 2020, she wasn’t expecting her online business to become an avenue for agriculture advocacy. Yet, that’s exactly what it is. Today, Sutton has a following of more than 67,000 people on Instagram.
She’s garnered those folks thanks to her unique yet real-life social media posts. Sutton sells a box with everything needed to give a professional at-home haircut. Her posts center around money-saving tips, parenting advice, business management and ways to support a family-centered lifestyle. Being a family girl is what eventually led Sutton to post about her own family farm.
Sutton grew up on a potato and wheat farm in Newdale and loved it. Harvest made the biggest impression on her during her growing years.
“I remember sitting at the back door, when I was little, just kind of in awe of the whole operation – it was the trucks coming in and unloading, the pilers, the lights. I remember thinking it was so cool,” she says.
Sutton is no longer a regular employee on the family’s operation. She’s plenty busy raising four children, yet she laughs, “They can’t keep me away!”
Some roots just run too deep to be pulled.
A few years ago during potato harvest, Idaho spud country’s weather forecast took a dive below freezing. After about a week of good digging, a hard frost was headed for eastern Idaho, where Sutton’s family farms. All of a sudden, the regular stress of harvest erupted into an all-hands-on-deck emergency. It was a race against the thermometer to get the crop out of the ground and safely stored in the cellar. Sutton decided to share the dire situation with her followers.
“My family was faced with losing hundreds of acres of potatoes,” recalls Sutton. “I just put my whole business on hold, and I went up to the farm and was doing all I could.”
All of a sudden, Sutton’s feed was filled with photos of her driving a potato truck and posts explaining the urgency her family faced.
“It was the most bizarre response with people. For me it was normal, but there were thousands of people that were just insanely intrigued with farming,” she explains.
Obviously, her followers wanted to know how they could help. But Sutton says she didn’t have a good answer, other than asking her community to pray for the farmers.
Since then, Sutton regularly throws farming posts in the mix with her haircut tutorials, family life and budgeting posts.
“It has become people’s favorite thing,” she notes.
While asking people to pray for farmers is something in which Sutton truly believes, her followers were craving a more hands-on crusade. In 2023, Sutton decided to launch a Thank-A-Farmer social media campaign.
After designing Thank-A-Farmer T-shirts and hats, Sutton sold them across the country, promising to use the proceeds to show farmers appreciation with a treat, a cold drink or a warm meal during their long hours spent harvesting our food.
“I was unprepared for the response we had. We sold 34,000 dollars' worth of shirts,” says a still somewhat shocked Sutton.
She then asked followers to nominate their favorite farmers, so she could disperse the funds.
Passionate and heartfelt comments flooded her feed. She says many followers openly admitted they had never considered that the people farming just down the road were actually putting food on the table. Thanks to nationwide generosity, Sutton sent money to every single nominated farm – totaling hundreds of farm crews across the country.
Saying thank you
Thanks to Sutton’s fiercely loyal local following, a large portion of the funds stayed in her home state of Idaho. Josie Moss, a farmgirl from Mud Lake, Idaho, was deeply touched by the campaign and jumped onboard immediately. Moss didn’t nominate her own farm family but chose instead some of her worthy neighbors.
“I just tried to nominate some farmers who were so deserving of a little pick-me-up,” she explains.
She downplays her role, but Moss became a Florence Nightingale of sorts, showing immense appreciation and on-point harvest-side manner for 12 farm crews. She teamed up with two local businesses – Silo Sips and The Terreton Cookie – to provide cold drinks and a treat to as many farm crews as possible. Moss loaded up her four young kids, drinks and treats and spent an entire day making deliveries until she literally ran out of everything.
“I was feeling bad at the end of the day because there were so many farmers on my mind that I wasn’t able to get to,” Moss says.
The surprise on people’s faces never got old, she says.
Her favorite experience had to be the farm she wasn’t planning to stop at. She pulled in, unexpected, and asked if she could hand out her goods. The farmer asked what he owed her.
“I said, ‘Nothing!’ and explained to him we just wanted to thank farmers for all of their hard work. He got emotional. He looked at me and said, ‘I cannot believe someone was thinking about us and wanted to help us.’
“It really touched me that he got emotional,” she says.
Taina Gardner, also a farmgirl, had a similar experience in Parker, Idaho. Gardner nominated three different farmers in her area.
“When Ashlie started talking about her idea of Thank-A-Farmer, I thought, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to help out and do something,’” Gardner says.
To spread the money further, Gardner decided, if the potato crews were elbow deep in dirt, she would be elbow deep in dough. She baked pumpkin cookies, chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies and snickerdoodles. She put one of each in a snack-size baggie and had enough for 80 people.
The next week, Gardner whipped up apple cider doughnut holes and white chocolate popcorn.
When she delivered her goods to Kevin Parker’s crew, he couldn’t help but ask, “Why are you doing this?”
“I said, ‘Well, you guys are working hard. We just want you know you’re appreciated,’” smiled Gardner.
Parker quickly retorted with, “But why are you doing this?”
True to form, the skeptical farmer wasn’t satisfied until Gardner explained the deeper details behind her efforts.
Gardner says everyone she visited was so appreciative; what’s more, she can’t wait to do it again next year.
A learning experience
It’s overwhelming, says Sutton, to think that many people considered this campaign to be important enough to join in.
“There are a lot of people who truly do want to do good. When given an opportunity, they will show up.”
Probably one of the greatest triumphs of her efforts is that the appreciation was for, quite possibly, the humblest group of people on earth.
“The thing with farmers and ranchers is they are the least assuming. They would be the people that expect a thank you the very least,” admits Sutton. “The farmers just had tears streaming down their cheeks and were so appreciative of being nominated. It’s such a simple thing, but it means so much to them.”
Did you miss out on Sutton’s 2023 Thank-A-Farmer campaign? Follow @thehaircutbox to catch it next time.