Insider's Guide to Spas
Mary Blackmon/Farm Star Living

Insiders

From Spa Star to Farm Star: Mary Blackmon

Mary Bemis


We’ve known Mary Blackmon since her days at Spa Addicts, the company she founded in 2003. The site, well ahead of its time, offered affordable, accessible spa-going through discounted spa services and other perks. Her passion behind Spa Addicts was to help make wellness and “me-time” not just a priority, but a way of  life.  Fast forward a decade—Mary has launched Farm Star Living. Her mission? “To celebrate and support farmers in as many ways as possible” and to bring a greater awareness to farms, food, and fun to those who may never have had the experience. Mary, now a proud fourth-generation farmer in the Arkansas Delta, spoke with us about her latest venture.

There’s a passion for health and wellness that binds together your two babies, Spa Addicts and Farm Star Living. Care to elaborate?

Spa Addicts was really about providing an experience to people who had never had the opportunity to experience spa, to make it more accessible for the every woman. I wanted to let people in on something that had been really elusive—and difficult, financially, to reach. So I started the first national discount site for the spa industry. I feel that I’d accomplished all I set out to do with Spa Addicts. With Farm Star Living I’m also connecting people to a world [of farmers and farming] that’s also been elusive and somewhat misunderstood.

What excites you most about Farm Star Living?

Bringing the average person who has never been to a farm into the farming world. It’s like lifting a veil. They see a world that is connected to nature, connected to their food—they see how this world works. We’re celebrating farm-fresh food, the farmers, and this whole world that is so unknown by so many of us. I thought I could bridge the gap between this world and the non-farming public, or “city folks” in a way that could make it exciting, uplifting, and relatable. So the idea of Farm Star Living was born.

How may we get in on the fun?

We have a free Farm Star Living app that’s a great resource. It gives you easy access to hundreds of farm-to-table restaurants in major cities throughout the U.S., as well as hundreds of farms from state to state that are open to the public for exciting activities (petting zoos, hay rides, corn mazes, organic workshops, and bed and breakfasts, to name a few) and fun. The app complements the Farm Star Living site, farmstarliving.com, which  showcases and supports local farmers and farm-fresh food.

Why is this so important now?

Because people need to really understand where their food comes from, and so many people are unfamiliar with the process of how food gets to the grocery store. They think it magically appears—but there really are people who’ve dedicated their lives and their careers to doing just that, and sometimes they’re overlooked in the process. Farm Star Living is a way that people can connect farming to their daily way of life. It teaches them which foods they should buy in which season, as well as who the people are behind the food; it gives recommendations on where to go to eat farm-fresh food; and it gives suggestions on places to visit with family and friends that are fun and different. All of this supports our country, our farmers, and shines a new spotlight on farming.

Farm Star Living is a way that people can connect farming to their daily way of life. It teaches them which foods they should buy in which season, as well as who the people are behind the food; it gives recommendations on where to go to eat farm-fresh food; and it gives suggestions on places to visit with family and friends that are fun and different. All of this supports our country, our farmers, and shines a new spotlight on farming.

You went from being one of those “city folks” to farm girl. How’d that happen?

In 2008, I inherited my family farm and was given the choice to sell it or keep it in the family. I didn’t want to sell it…in 2009, I found myself commuting from Los Angeles to the Arkansas Delta, and realized there was no way I could do both. I gave myself a year to figure out what I wanted to do. By the end of 2010, I had moved down South. It became clear to me that the farm is really where my future and past are—it has my heart. To handle it responsibly, I had to change my life.

I gave myself a year to figure out what I wanted to do. By the end of 2010, I had moved down South. It became clear to me that the farm is really where my future and past are—it has my heart. To handle it responsibly, I had to change my life.

Was it an easy adjustment?

I found myself in the middle of a farm field, asking myself if this was going to be my life. It’s vastly different than what I’m used to. It’s very rural here. The farm has the border of Arkansas and the border of Louisiana running right through the middle. Step forward, and you’re in Arkansas. Step lower, and you’re in Louisiana. I couldn’t even get Internet access…and I still can’t! But I love it—it’s great. I feel more connected to my family, and I love the farm. I love the mission. I changed my life, embraced it passionately, and refurbished my grandparents farmhouse.

I learned how agriculture works, and now I practice crop rotation and am adding better irrigation piece by piece. I got burned by some and got taken in by others…I was a new woman, a city slicker…some people saw me as a target, some people saw me as a woman holding up the family flag and keeping the farm alive. I’m the fourth generation. [The 3,500-acre farm was originally a tree farm until the late 1950s when Mary’s grandfather created a rice farm. At the time, it had never been done in that part of the country.]

 I got burned by some and got taken in by others…I was a new woman, a city slicker…some people saw me as a target, some people saw me as a woman holding up the family flag and keeping the farm alive.

Future hopes and dreams?

I have a lot of great ideas to implement that will further the world of farming for all of us. I also hope to have a much more in-depth website on more resources, and would love to have a larger network of farm-to-table restaurants. Farm Star Living is really to celebrate the farming communities all over the USA, and that takes some time. I want it to be the place you go to know what you can go do this weekend that will give you memories to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.