Meet a Farmer: Meredith Bell of Autonomy Farms
Automony Farms is co-owned by two young, beginning farms who want to make a difference and help the food system. They grow seasonal produce and humanely raised meat and eggs on their farm in Kern County, California.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
MEREDITH: At this moment, I’m in Santa Monica working the Farmers Market.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part of farming?
MEREDITH: Being outside and working the land. There’s something so profoundly rewarding about seeing your hard work come to fruition.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
MEREDITH: I feel like so much of our efforts are spent on education and helping people understand why it’s so important to eat healthy foods and to know where their food is coming from. By working markets and having a presence in the local community, we’re able to offer people the chance to see and touch where their food comes from, which ultimately helps in the education process.
CA GROWN: What drew you into farming?
MEREDITH: I had a career in business development and sales within the food service industry. Eventually I became burned out, and felt jaded that so many people didn’t understand or appreciate where their food came from. I was at a point in my life when I felt like I needed to do something that mattered, where I could positively influence people and go home at night feeling like I accomplished something. I looked at going back to graduate school to get into public policy or education, but in the end felt that I could make a bigger impact and have that personal connection I was searching for by having a farm. Very idealistic of me, but I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to follow my dream.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
MEREDITH: I love to cook, it’s my stress relief. I also played soccer through college, so I’ll still go out and kick the ball around.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start farming?
MEREDITH: Everyone warned me about how hard it was, which seems to be a given. I was never worried about the amount of work – both physical and mental – but nobody mentioned about how important it is to have a support group of other farmers. There were so many times when I first started farming that I wish I had another small farmer like myself that I could have just called to ask questions or brainstorm or talk about challenges. I eventually gathered together a small group of other farmers, and we now share resources and ideas. But until this point, I literally learned almost everything from YouTube University 😉
CA GROWN: What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
MEREDITH: We focus on biodynamic methods. Along with crop rotation, we raise chickens as a tool to help with soil quality. Once a crop is done and harvested, we run chickens through the vegetable rows to help add nitrogen back into the soil. In return, we get eggs and meat to sell. The cattle and the sheep are grazed on a 40,000 acre private preserve where the ultimate goal is to restore native California grasses and endangered wildlife.