Arkansas-native Mary Blackmon had a lucrative, big-city career. She worked for major publishing houses and internet companies before founding one of the first national spa discount sites, Spa-Addicts.com, in 2002, and becoming an authority on the spa experience and lifestyle.
Then, she became a farmer.
Blackmon’s transition from massages to, well, manure gave her new insights into the challenges farmers face every day—including our perceptions of them. So she decided to use her business expertise to launch Farm Star Living, a company she hopes will help people understand and build healthy relationships with the farmers that grow their food.
“Farming will be given a makeover, to use a term from my last career, and be presented in a way that is more relatable to our times, which is how I experience it,” she says. “I experience it as fun, interesting, essential, and something to be revered.”
We caught up with Blackmon about trading her spa slippers for cowboy boots and what she hopes Farm Star Living will help accomplish. —Lisa Elaine Held
Was the decision to take over the farm a hard one for you to make, given the life you had in Los Angeles? Yes, but my farm has been in my family for years…and I felt such a connection to my heritage. These are my roots. It also gave me a chance to step up in a new way. I went back down South and was driving around the farm and was being told about the problems, like “You see that well? It’s supposed to be spitting water, but it’s spitting rocks.” And I’m like, “Who do we call? Who’s going to fix this?” And they’re like,”We call you! You are.” I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m in so much trouble!’
At this point, are you actually doing any literal farm work? I do work with the farmers, but I’ve never actually driven a combine! I’ve been learning what’s involved to run and operate a farm, and I’ve been implementing some environmental programs to preserve the wildlife and take care of the natural habitat and make sure we’re doing the best we can to take care of the environment with our practices.
And what inspired you to launch Farm Star Living? During the process of my taking over the farm and learning the business, I became so inspired and moved by the farmers and their commitment to what they do. I’d actually left and moved to the city. These people haven’t—they’ve been here their entire lives farming, growing food, and working before sun-up until well after sun-down. That’s what they do day in, day out. And it’s difficult work, but they’re passionate, committed, well-educated, and courageous. I realized there’s such a disconnect between our perception and the reality of who they are and what they do. I felt I could make it more relatable and acceptable and less intimidating and more fun.
You’re teaching people about farm living through visits, workshops, and online resources. What do you want people to come away with? It’s probably two-fold. It’s understanding what farming is and who farmers are, so they can better appreciate the role farmers play in our lives and how farming is evolving. Then, in doing so, should more people choose to become farmers, it would be better for us all. Food is something we can’t do without, and so hopefully this will underscore how farming is a very relevant career choice as well. But it’s really for every person to understand who and what farmers are all about, feel less intimidated, and realize how fun as well as essential it is. I have a phrase I use. I say that someone had to bring sexy back to farming, so it might as well be me.
For more information, visit www.farmstarliving.com
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