This week we’re featuring the town of Harrington, Washington (pop. 424) and sharing some of the stories of rural revival happening here! Today’s guest post is from Wendy Axtell of AX Bar Ranch, where she is a fourth generation rancher’s wife and mama to four cowboys. As a family they raise and sell high quality beef and pork direct-to-consumer. Welcome, Wendy!
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WHEN CITY MET COUNTRY
Living in the middle of nowhere was never a thought that crossed this city girl’s mind! I know you’ve heard this scenario a time or two — “city girl meets country boy.” I can truly say there is something that magically happens when country meets city. I call it, “Wheat and Roses.”
In my early 20’s, falling in love with my farmer/rancher (which I never call him) was all things exciting, new, and came with lots of learning curves. This new found country lifestyle was packed full of changes for me.
I truly loved it. I felt a sense of freedom that was new... and fresh... and grounding. The wide open spaces had a way about them, the smell of alfalfa after a summer’s rain sank into my soul, and driving endlessly along the dirt road to our country home added a dimension of joy I’d never known.
When country met city, we found ourselves laughing often. We had been married a few years and I remember calling my sister in-law, “Well, I threw my hair salon heels in the trash and bought myself fresh pair of muck boots!” We still laugh about it. Although, I will tell you, I still wear the most improper shoes out here. It is not unusual to find me running through cow pies to help get a calf back on the right side of the fence in flip-flops or Birkenstocks or tip toeing through stubble to deliver harvest lunch. My husband just smiles and teases asking me how my shoes are treating me. We laugh! Finding my full passion and place on the farm has taken time and to be completely honest, I’m still working on it! If you find yourself on a similar journey, give yourself grace! Stay true to you, love your family, and just laugh and enjoy the ride.
A NEW VENTURE
Casey (my husband) came home late one night and it had been a tough calving season. All I remember was it was, JUST. PLAIN. HARD. So, we put our heads together and started to think. What could we do different? How could we make up for lost income? I reminded Casey of a dream we had talked about frequently over the years. Within the struggle of that tough calving season, a new venture began. We decided it was time to try something new. It was time to diversify the family farm and ranch by taking out the “middle man” and selling our own farm-raised beef and pork.
Ranching and raising our commercial heard was a main source of income. We knew we had to take a chance, look into all the logistics, and sell our beef direct. Taking out the “middle man” would give us the profit we needed to continue living the lifestyle we loved. So we became a husband and wife team on a business level. Casey has always had a gift with animals so he took on the work raising, feeding, planting, and working tirelessly to provide an excellent product for the marketplace. I am the people person, so I got to work planning to attend local farmer’s markets and marketing our product to the public. I jumped in with both feet, closing the door of my hair salon and working side by side with Casey.
We took the risk of starting our own business feeling a little scared but willing to take on the challenge. We are far from perfect but we give it our best. I remind myself that when things don’t work out exactly as planned, keep going it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good! Remember that! When I was asked to write about being an entrepreneur, one main thing I kept thinking was, live out those twinges in your heart. They’ve been placed there for a reason. When you pursue what’s on your heart, the pursuit of doing what you love brings an excitement. I believe people will feel your passion. One of my favorite things about pursuing this business as an entrepreneur is having the opportunity to be a vendor in local small towns. I love to sell in person! The simplicity of saying, “Hi,” shaking a hand, or introducing one of our four boys to a customer makes this real for me!
We started out with a dream that put a fire in us and got our hearts pumping. We set small goals that would send us on the path to the next destination. When we had some success, no matter how small, we celebrated. Setting these small goals on this entrepreneur journey has been a huge help along the way!
JUST START SOMEWHERE
I believe in the ‘just start somewhere’ philosophy. In the world of fast and instant gratification you can easily get side tracked or discouraged! Small towns don’t run that way and that’s why I love being a part of them! All the history, the chipped paint off brick buildings, it all takes you back to the basics and the simpler ways. But don’t get me wrong, you can still be BIG in a small town! Try to enjoy the ride. Being content with your pace and thinking of how your days look and how they can inspire your children are the simple joys that are the largest of joys. Even simply linking arms with other small business owners by cheering them on is so rewarding!
Most people have a desire in their hearts to pursue a passion or dream but get deterred by “what if I fail?” But YOU, my entrepreneur friend, were created to share these gifts of creating something amazing no matter where you are planted or rooted in this season. You have a gift to share so go out, do it, regardless of the population size! Regardless of the naysayers. It is possible for YOU! Go serve one customer at a time.
We are located in Ford, Washington, about 45 minutes north of Harrington. It’s as rural as they come, even without a convenience store! I hope you enjoyed a little slice of my thoughts. Currently we are in the process of relocating our home base on the farm. We continue to sell our ranch raised beef and pork locally through our online shop and in person at a local farmer’s market. We are still setting goals and hope you can follow us along on our journey! So come along and let’s keep inspiring each other!
Find out more about the rural revival happening in Harrington, Washington here: