Maybe it's the fact that I've been living in big cities all my life — Seoul, Austin, Cupertino (home to some random company or whatever), San Diego, and now New York City — but lately I've been itching to just get away from it all. Or maybe it's the fact that I spend approximately all day staring at a screen, and that my dad worriedly gave me unusually specific instructions to get "at least 30 minutes of sunlight" every day. The city is exhausting, physically and mentally.
And then I found Suzanna Crampton's Zwartbles Ireland Vine channel, and it was exactly what I needed:
With over 10,000 followers and 80 million loops, it's easy to understand why people love the Zwartbles Ireland Vine channel: it features endless snippets of playful farm animals, calming scenes of morning mist, and galloping baby lambs who think they're dogs. Having Crampton's vines of life on the farm pop up while I scroll through my timeline is a welcome respite from my garbage Twitter feed. (Sorry, everyone I follow! But you know what you did.)
On top of being an inspiring farm CEO, the woman is a content strategy genius — a self-made Vine queen with a social media empire built upon the purest form of content there is on the internet. It makes perfect sense. All we really want to see on the internet are some cute animals, and Crampton's got an entire farm full of them. I had to know more about her, so I reached out. What followed was one of the most lovely, eye-opening conversations I've ever had, and now I want her to adopt me, Mad Max Many Mothers-style.
Dami Lee: This is such a unique opportunity because I don't think I've ever even spoken to a farmer in my life! I live in New York and don't get the chance to go to the countryside very often. That's what's so great about your Vine channel, because you’re opening up this entirely new world to a younger generation of people all over the world.
Suzanna Crampton: Good! I'm glad you're enjoying it and getting something out of it! You should really go to the countryside, you'll get so much out of it.
How did you get into social media?
I started off exclusively to sell the sheep and to get awareness in Ireland, because it was a very rare breed. My following on social media continued to develop on Facebook mainly, and on my website — I was doing a blog.
All my social media followers wanted a product that I produced from the sheep. So I wove the blankets and spun the yarn from the fleeces and starting selling that, and in doing that, I ended up getting on Twitter. Then the followers all started loving the tweets I did of my cat, so I started a Twitter account for the cat.
It’s always wonderful to ask a question on Twitter and say, "Help! What do you do under this scenario?" Or if I’m stuck with my flail mower and I can’t figure out why it’s not starting, I can tweet the few mechanics who follow me.
Here in Ireland, they’re improving but it would be very hard at times because you’d have people coming into the yard and say they want to see the boss. I’d say, "I am the boss," and they’d say, "Can we see the other boss?" and I’d say, "I am the only one."
If you look at the UN, female farmers are the number one farmer internationally — in India, in Africa, in huge populations. It is the women who are the farmers. The stereotype is very much a Western perception that the farmer is a man.
I'm quite used to being dismissed by a lot of the older generation of farmers, who say, "Oh, she’s just a woman, she doesn't know what she’s talking about." But at the same time, I have a huge amount of people who respect me as a woman and as a farmer. I found on Twitter that you get the younger generation who are aware of the equality — or the inequality of it. One can find a wonderful support system of farmers, be they from New Zealand, Africa, Australia, the continent of Europe, or even the USA and Canada. I have a wonderful following of people from all over the world.
How many animals are on your farm?
Seventy+ sheep, three horses and one pony, three alpaca, nine chickens, three cats, 12 doves, three dogs, a plethora of insects, rabbits, wild birds, and hedgehogs.
Do you constantly have your phone out, ready to film at any moment?
Because I’ve been around animals all my life, I can see the body language and say, "Ooh, that looks like something." A lot of the times I miss the event. But nine times out of 10, I can anticipate something occurring.
"I do what I love, and I love that people love what I do."Why do you think so many people have taken to your vines?
Animals. And I think I’m a very severe critic and editor to a degree. A lot of people want a snippet of nature and the outdoors. I think they enjoy the sights and sounds of it.
What would you say is your personal favorite out of all the vines you’ve made?
I love the one of the big fellow, where he’s got a big stick trying to go through the gate.
A lot of the audience on Vine is very young, and you mentioned that sometimes you'll get help on Twitter from veterinarians or other farmers. Who comprises your audience?
My audience is very varied, from very young to very old. For example, a woman in Florida was a huge fan of a baby lamb I had, and she was going through her second bout of breast cancer. On her bucket list, when she recovered, she was going to come over and meet Smudge. The following spring, she got healthy, she came out and met Smudge, and she was in seventh heaven!
Is there anything you want to tell our readers?
No, you tell me! [laughs] What is your class of reader, I don't know! Are you an IT group of people?
Oh! [I explain to her about The Verge]
People who need a breath of fresh air. One thing I'm very passionate about is good food. You wouldn't know this being a wonderful city girl, but when you have chickens that are free-range like mine are, if I roast some garlic in the oven, and I feed that to my chickens, they love it. But, the next couple of days, I have eggs that taste like roast garlic. So this is what I use as a prime example of what you put into your meat, or what grass your dairy cow grazes, is the flavor you get through the meat, or the milk, or the egg.
At the end of our call, Suzanna recommended a bunch of farms for me to visit in upstate New York and left me with a mission: "This is 2016. And you are going to go to a farm this year. And you are going to tweet me and let me know when you go to that farm!" I can't wait.