It was always Meredith and her mother Connie’s dream to buy a farm, where they could move her childhood flock of sheep – which lived in the back of their home in Olney – and possibly have a horse. or two.
That dream seemed to come true in 2011, when newly married Meredith and her husband Dan Null found an empty 53-acre property near Mount Airy. The land had been planted with soybeans and corn, but it was possible to build two houses and turn the rolling acres into pasture.
âThere was nothing here, it was just an empty field,â Dan said of inside what is now the family’s kitchen.
Connie and Dave Myers took out an equity loan on their home in Olney and bought the land with the goal of moving to Mount Airy and having their daughter nearby.
Disputes over land title delayed the purchase, but by January 2013 the family had come to an agreement and a grandchild arrived – Jackson, who is now 5 years old. Connie planned to drill a well, bring a power line to the house, and started conversations with the Soil Conservation District to plant pasture and build fences.
But, less than two years after their dream started to take shape, Connie was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer and died six months later.
âShe was fierce,â Meredith said. “She was amazing.”
In the months leading up to her death, Connie arranged for the farm to be handed over to her daughter and son-in-law. Now the couple are raising their three sons, a herd of Bluefaced Leicester sheep, several beef cattle, dairy goats and chickens there.
âI think she would have liked to have had a horse,â Meredith said of her mother. “But the main focus of the farm is still what we have here.”
Meredith and Dan grew up showing cattle in 4-H but in different counties.
Dan lived on a dairy farm in Taneytown as a ninth generation farmer and participated in Carroll County 4-H. His parents stopped milking in the early 2000s and moved to Gettysburg, where they now raise beef cattle.
Meredith’s family never owned a farm, but when she was a child they asked her mother for a bunny.
“She, being her, [said] I couldn’t have a rabbit unless I learned how to take care of it properly, âMeredith said.
So she joined the 4-H Rabbit Club in Montgomery County and one of the leaders soon after convinced her to start sheep projects. She raised market lambs until shortly before leaving for the University of Connecticut to study animal science, she bought three Bluefaced Leicester ewes, which were new to the United States and excited the spinners. at home with their unique fleeces.
Dan and Meredith later met on Match.com and it turned out their lives were already intertwined, she said. Dan works for the US Department of Agriculture in animal breeding with an emphasis on dairy genetics, and at the time, Meredith was a milk tester and sent samples to her lab.
Now the Nulls are busy juggling careers off the farm and raising grass-fed sheep and cattle.
The heart of BlueLand Farm’s business is lamb and beef, which are slaughtered locally at Wagner’s Meats in Mount Airy. This year the farm has processed seven lambs, but next year they hope to reach 20.
âWe are in the process of increasing our numbers,â Dan said.
They sell lamb whole or in halves, but they have also recently started to offer lamb quarters in their âlamb bagsâ. The bags feature traditional cuts of meat – including thighs, racks, and chops – which Dan and Meredith weigh and separate into 10-pound bags, which sell for $ 11.99 a pound.
The price – which can range from $ 110 to $ 120 per bag – is higher than what customers would pay at the grocery store, but not by much, they said. Nulls aim to price their product between wholesale and retail.
BlueLand Farm also offers whole, half and bag beef options. They breed Jersey cross breeds, which have hanging weights of 500 pounds instead of 800 pounds like some Angus breeds. Small cattle tend to work for their customers, who often don’t have large freezers, Meredith said.
Beef sells for $ 3.55 a pound.
With the holidays quickly approaching, the Nulls are currently sold out, but they have a waiting list for people interested in their product. A steer must be treated on Monday and a lamb in January.
Beyond the breeding of a quality product, the Null are also concerned about preserving their races and their lands for the future generations.
Meredith sits on the Board of Directors of the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association and is Vice President of the United States and Canada Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America. The latter is pushing for farmers to better understand the genetics of their herds, which could help improve the marketing of the breed in crossbreeds in the future, she said.
Taking care of the land on their own farm is also important, as they hope to one day leave it to their three boys: Jackson, 5; ThÃ©odore, 4 years old; and William Everett, 1. The older two are already enthusiastic about animals.
“I like cows,” said Theodore, running down the aisle. âYou can stroke the calves. They can lick my hands.
Jackson, on the other hand, already has big plans to expand and improve the farm.
“When I grow up I will build more fences to make [the] larger pasture! Jackson said.
Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.