Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Blackmon.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Mary. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a 4th generation farm owner, although I never lived on a farm until my mid-40’s. I grew up in Arkansas and then Monroe, Louisiana, and my Mom’s Mother and grandparents owned a large timber farm right there on the border of those two states. My grandfather Big Daddy was key in the invention of the radio and TV, working for RCA in NYC in the ‘20s and ‘30s, with my chic, artistic grandmother, and then they both moved to the South where he created more inventions for rockets and missiles.
Then in the ’50’s, he converted my grandmother’s timber farm into a rice farm, which was amazing and innovative for the region. As a child, I loved going there with my mom, dad, and brother, and I had a super artistic streak and would put on plays for them at night – enrolling my cousins and brother, while also having fun on 4-wheelers, taking art classes there with my grandmother, rowing through the ponds, having picnics, and gazing upon the stars at night. This was my favorite part of life until I went to college, Tulane/Newcomb College, at 18.
Once I graduated, I had big ambitions to be an actress or have an impact in a creative way. First, I went to LA to be an actress, and although I landed some roles in TV, film, and commercials, it was not fulfilling to me. I wanted a creative business career instead and went into advertising/magazines, which I loved. I left LA for Atlanta, working in ad sales there, but was soon promoted to New York where I lived for almost 10 years. During that time, I worked for Worth and the Museum of Natural History and then luckily landed a key position at Wired right when they invented the ad banner.
I was hired to teach internet marketing to companies and agencies in fourteen states. I later worked for Walt Disney Internet Group, Vivendi-Universal Internet, then launched my own company after 9/11 to provide affordable spa services to the everywoman, making them affordable and accessible – Spa-Addicts. It was the first discount website in the spa industry as I had thought treatments were too expensive for a hard-working gal and every woman like myself. Many say I created the Groupon model testing it out on the spa world!
The business took off, and I moved to Beverly Hills, built and ran my business for 10 years. Then, something unforeseen happened. In 2008, my uncle called and said that the Southern farm would now be sold as he just sold his land and would be doing the same for my brother and me since now there’d be no one left to run it. What a crossroads! If I kept it, then I would have to run it myself. But it was painful to let such heritage go!
So, I made the hard yet rewarding decision to leave Beverly Hills and head back to my grandparents’ old farmhouse, which I later discovered was filled with historical artifacts and memorabilia from his engineering years & grandmother’s art career hidden away in the attic, and I started digging into farming! I ended up finding a new appreciation for my farm, reconnected with my heritage and discovered more about my family before me and experienced first-hand the passion for agriculture. The farmers’ dedication and courage to do this kind of work (for us all) every day was moving and inspiring, and I embraced my new life chapter.
A few years later, I was compelled to launch a new type of site to celebrate farmers and treat them as ’stars’, as we have done for chefs, and put the pop culture spin on agriculture and fresh food. Farm Star Living was born.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I first started with this concept of celebrating farmers and agriculture and putting a pop culture spin on it, people didn’t get it. It took a while for it all to gel, and when I saw the first Superbowl commercial in 2013 about farmers/“And God created a Farmer,” I was over the moon! I knew that our farmers were prime and due for celebration and glory, and it helped me have an even greater conviction to take this message as far as I could.
I still am doing so five years later! I have given a traditional sense of farming a ‘makeover’, to tie-in my old spa phrase. And it has been sorely needed – not for them, the farmers, but for the public. I believe we all need to be better acquainted with farmers and ‘get’ what it is that they do, how they do it, and this has been a way to get the public’s attention.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Farm Star Living – what should we know?
Farm Star Living, the site and our app, has so many unique things that relate to farms that most people would have never known about! The brand entails just 3 simple components – Farmers & Farms, Food & Health, and Education & Entertainment.
First, it offers a national directory of (open to the public) farms that are searchable by fun, exciting activities that most people don’t even know exist! Art Retreats, Goat Cheese Making Classes, Workshops of all types, Honey Making, Weddings, B&Bs, Haunted Houses, Corn Mazes, Easter Egg Hunts, Holiday Shops, etc., so we put a whole new perspective on today’s farms!
Plus we showcase 250+ fresh foods from A-Z, and how each food benefits your health, its medical benefits, nutrition, etc. Then, we also offer a national directory of farm-to-table restaurants in every major US city! Plus, we entertain! Recipe Videos show how to use fresh foods in easy, healthy recipes perfect for all of the home cooks out there.
And, Farm Stars™ – our endearing term we coined for farmers – and what they wish you knew, how they feel about farming, and what makes them excited and also challenged.
Through the brand and my own personal experience with farming, I have been able to create such special relationships with farmers from across the country, which allows me to share my expertise on how to live a healthy, farm-focused and fresh lifestyle with my readers.
I am so passionate about all that the farms have to offer us all, and I have fortunately had amazing ag/food partners along the way. What sets me apart from others is the fact that I am able to connect with those in the industry first-hand, as I myself own a farm, and yet fully understand life in the corporate world. I combined both worlds and merged two of my biggest life passions. It’s a great reason to get up in the morning!
What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
Artistic and high-energy. Always into music, classical piano, theater, arts, and just trying to find my own voice and place in the world.