Bridging the Gap Between Farmers and Consumers
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Meredith Bernard quit her corporate sales job in 2013 to homeschool her two children and to work alongside her husband on their cattle farm in North Carolina. Along the way, she’s telling her story through blogging, social media, and a YouTube channel to help more people learn about where their food comes from and the day-to-day life of working on a farm.
The Propane Education & Research Council is partnering with social influencers like Meredith Bernard to share real-life stories of how American families use clean energy like propane to support their sustainable lifestyles.
How has your business evolved from when you started eight years ago, and what do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
When I started blogging eight years ago, I really didn’t have any aspirations other than feeding a desire to write and share what the farm was teaching me. Having left a corporate job of 10 years, coming home to work alongside my husband and begin homeschooling our two children was a major life shift and with it came a lot of challenges, as well as triumphs.
After a couple of years, I realized I wanted to create an umbrella for the community I was finding online, and created This Farm Wife LLC to tie it all together. The blog morphed into a larger presence on social media outlets and eventually a YouTube channel and online retail store under the same name. I had no idea it would become what it has, and hope in another ten years I’ll be able to look back and see an even stronger brand and community of like-minded people who value the farming and ranching lifestyle as much as I do.
What advice would you give someone who is about to start their own business?
My biggest piece of advice in starting your own business is to trust your instincts and stay true to yourself. It’s always possible to be successful at whatever you do if your heart is in it 100%, no matter how “saturated” a market may seem. People buy from people and any way you can personalize your brand to share your unique story will help others relate to you and want to buy from you. I also think it’s good to have a mentor that you can trust who has “been there and done that” to help guide business decisions.
From day one of creating my LLC I’ve worked with a CPA to make sure I was doing everything legally correctly. The business side of my business, as opposed to the creative side, is not my favorite, but it’s necessary to be involved in to keep my business healthy and thriving. Know your numbers, set your goals, work hard and anything is possible.
What do you enjoy most about sharing your day-to-day life with the world?
What I enjoy most about sharing my day-to-day life with the world is seeing how others relate and learn along with me. The biggest reward is hearing from people who have no background in farming or ranching tell me how much they have learned about our way of life and about where their food and fiber come from. There’s such a huge disconnect between farmers/producers and consumers these days, it’s nice to be one small piece helping put that very large puzzle together.
What is your writing and/or creative process?
For better or worse, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. I’m not very good at planning — I’ve owned several planners, but never seem to actually get them filled in. I tend to do my best thinking over the stove cooking supper or on a tractor feeding cows or raking hay. I also have an old corn crib that’s been converted as my office where I can go when I need to be quiet and think, write or edit. Some people can work with music, I need to be quiet and still.
What is one of your favorite books and why?
For the last several years the majority of books that I’ve read have been ones I’ve read to my children. One of my favorite series that came out of that time has been the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m not ashamed to admit each one made me laugh and cry and I wouldn’t trade reading those books with my daughter for anything in the world.
What do you love most about being a farmer?
What I love most about farming and ranching is being a part of something bigger than myself — bigger than what we do on a daily basis. Knowing that what we are doing lends itself to helping keep our world nourished is deeply fulfilling. And keeping that in mind helps keep the hard, trying, and disappointing days in check. My husband often says we aren’t making a living, but we’re making a life. I agree and I’m grateful for it.
What is one of your favorite aspects about your farm and land?
I feel so blessed to farm and ranch where we do. We have rolling grassy pastures, flat fertile river bottom fields, lots of trees, and one main rock-bottomed creek that reminds me of mountain creeks I loved playing in as a child. We really have it all here, in more ways than one, and I’m so glad to call our farm home.
What is the most common misconception you hear about beef farming?
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about beef farming is that we don’t care about the animals we raise. This couldn’t be further from the truth. On our farm, our animals’ health and welfare always comes first. There are no days we get to call in sick, very few days (at times spread over years) we get to leave as a family for vacation because animals require attention daily. If an animal gets sick, we treat it. If a calf can’t nurse it’s mother for any reason, we bottle feed it twice a day, three times in the beginning. If a tree falls on a fence, we stop everything to fix it to keep our cattle contained and safe.
It’s hard to know and understand what goes into raising livestock if you’ve never done it, and that’s another reason I’m happy to share our story, if it helps even one person have a better appreciation for how animals are cared for. I have never and will never ask anyone to thank us for what we do — we do what we do as a choice. But I would love for more people to trust us.
What innovations have made your own farm more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious?
Several years ago we had all of our creeks and streams fenced out to prevent cattle waste from contaminating the river adjoining our property. We installed waterers and fenced in smaller paddocks, allowing for a fresh, clean drinking supply for our herd and the opportunity to rotate cows and calves between pastures more frequently.
What are some things that farmers do today to conserve and protect the environment?
Farmers are amazing stewards of the environment God gave us. We implement practices like planting cover crops and no-till farming, which helps control erosion, retain moisture, as well as allowing for better management of weeds, pests, and drought. We leave crop stubble and buffers around crop fields as natural habitat and feed for game animals and birds. Wildlife also has free choice access to the automatic waterers that our cattle use.
What do you like to do the most when you’re off the family farm?
Time off the farm is few and far between, but if we can get away together, we enjoy time on the Pamlico River in eastern North Carolina where we have a camper, or we enjoy going west to the mountains of North Carolina. While it’s hard to get away, we know it’s important and do our best to make it happen when we can.