Mary Blackmon is making farming sexy. As founder of Farm Star Living, this entrepreneurial maven is aiming to shift the view of agritourism to “farm fun”. Farm Star Living is a website and app that connects people to farms and farmers across the country by showing that anyone can be involved in supporting farms and farmers. The website includes a Farm to Table Finder for local-sourced restaurants, a Farm Fun Finder that lists farms with activities, and an A-Z Farm Food Guide that lists the health benefits of farm-fresh food.
Farm Star Living recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. We chatted with Mary Blackmon to learn more about her shift from a 20-year career in publishing and marketing to farming, and how that experience evolved into Farm Star Living.
It all started with her grandparent’s farm.
In 2008, I got a phone call from my uncle, who was now maintaining the farm that belonged to my grandparents. My uncle was turning 80 and sold his part of the land so he could retire, and the remaining land, which had been my mother's, was left to my brother and me to sell or keep the land. My brother was indifferent, and he offered to support me in whatever choice I made.
By the end of the year, the keys were turned over to me. I just remember such fond memories going to that farm when I was a girl. It was my special place and I couldn't give it up. I knew it was going to be hard to fix up the farm from a distance. I quit my job and moved to the farm to take on the project to renovate the farm and make it workable again.
From New York City, to Los Angeles… to a farm on the border Arkansas Louisiana.
My other’s 3,500 acre farm, now mine, is partly in Jones, Louisiana and partly in Wilmot, Arkansas. There’s a saying that you are 45 minutes from a piece fruit. The land was beautiful, but it looked rough. As I did a walkthrough with the farmers, they pointed out different problems- the well spit up rocks, you could see the sky from the chimney of the farm’s house- and when I asked them who was going to fix it, they said, “you!”
A farm flip worthy of HGTV.
The farm renovation was expected to take years, but we finished it in 12-15 months. There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment after doing labor work. I didn’t know anything about farming, but found farmhands in town that wanted work, and we fixed the farm together. I immersed myself in the farming world- I read books, met with farmers, the USDA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service- all to make sure my farm was up to the highest standards.
Farm Star Living was born.
One day on the farm, I realized how inspired I was by everything- the environment, the way of life, and the farmer’s passion. I wanted to elevate the farming world and the farmer to the community and glamorize it. People are more conscious about food today and farming is seen as a lifestyle. When I used to talk about farming, sometimes it wouldn’t get the respect it deserved because people had preconceived notions. Those couldn’t have been further from the truth, and I was realizing that people were missing out on the experience I had on my grandparents farm. I wanted to connect farmers and the community.
The new niche.
I want Farm Star Living to be more of a lifestyle. So if you’re going out to dinner, use the farm-to-table finder to choose a restaurant that supports farmers. These are the restaurants that keep the farms in business. And when you want to do something fun on the weekend, choose “Farm Fun”. Agritourism sounds boring, it’s much more appealing to say “Wanna milk a cow?” Visiting farms is a bonding experience for people. And our "Farm Stars" are the farmers themselves. We give them a voice and share their story with the community.
Back to Atlanta.
Once Farm Star Living was developed, I moved back to Atlanta. This city is my backbone and I always intended to come back. The farm-to-table scene is on fire, and it's thanks to the farmers here. These farms in Georgia- like Dillwood Farms, White Oak Pastures, Love is Love Farm- hold a special place in my heart. The community here is very supportive and positive about the farm scene.
*Each month, Farm Star Living sends out curated, seasonal farm opportunities. In December, look out for the top 100 festive farms for the season including 50 tree farms, Santa visits, and more.*