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Meet Meredith Bell of Autonomy Farms

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meredith Bell.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Meredith. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After working in the food and beverage industry for nearly 10 years, I realized that I wasn’t getting the fulfillment out of my job that I was looking for and decided to leave my career and start a farm. I am a beginning farmer trying to make a difference and help our food system. Autonomy Farms was created with the simple need of wanting something more.

In my own search for seasonal produce and humanely raised meat and eggs, I realized a gap in the local marketplace and lack of education on the importance of knowing where your food comes from. It’s more obvious than ever that there is a disconnect from the farmer to the consumer; our goal is to help reconnect the two by having direct relationships within the local community.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have been major struggles. As with any new job, there are learning curves, but mine have been greater simply because I had never farmed a day in my life prior to starting. I knew it would be tough and I was ready for the challenge, but there’s a lot of things I’ve learned never to do again.

In addition to learning how to farm, I was faced with some pretty significant health challenges in 2016 when I had pulmonary embolisms, deep vein thrombosis and a minor stroke. It knocked me to the ground – up to that point, I had never faced any health issues and outside of the physical side effects, it was extremely emotional and mentally challenging.

Overcoming the health challenges and working through them, I was able to find funding and purchased 20 acres of land late in 2016. As we worked on getting it up and going and were just about ready to start harvesting our first crop, we were hit but a flood in Feb. 2017. Because of all the rain, the ditches were full and eventually overflowed and ran into the property. It completely wiped the farm out. We lost all of our vegetables and chickens and sat on the property for another 5 months before we were able to start generating any revenue off of it. It was tough, to say the least.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Autonomy Farms story. Tell us more about the business.
We respect nature and everything that comes with it. We focus on growing niche heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables because we believe a plant in its original state will produce the best tasting and most nutrient dense produce. We practice crop rotation, composting and allow the hens through the rows following harvesting to maintain healthy soil which leads to higher yielding plants and less pests and diseases. We believe in naturally raised meat and eggs free of hormones, antibiotics, GMO corn and soy.

Our meat chickens are raised on a combination of pasture and rows of vegetables. Our chickens are a Cornish cross breed and are harvested between eight and nine weeks of age. We are one of the few farmers who still process our own birds on the farm ourselves. You will find our chickens to have less fatty dark meat and more meat per pound, as they are not injected with a saline solution before packaging.

Our hens are fed a diet partially consisting of flaxseed and fish oil which enrich their eggs with Omega 3 fatty acids. The feed is completely corn and soy free. The hens live in a mobile chicken coop, which is pulled through the vegetable rows and permanent pasture. This leads to the rich orange colored yolk and an overall better tasting egg. Our flock is currently about 750 birds.

We have recently gained some attention for our chickens with a couple high profile chefs now offering them in their restaurants. I keep everything super simple and basic and this produces the highest quality items. It seems like a backwards concept, but it works and people are loving it.

I think the thing I’m most proud of is not quitting. Since the day I started the farm, there have been so many reasons I could have walked away and it’s been an uphill battle. But, I’m so incredibly passionate about it, that failure is not an option, so I just keep on battling.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t know if I really believe in luck… I think you create situations to either set yourself up for failure or success.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Colleen Unruh

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