Healthy To A Hundred: Mary Blackmon of Farm to Wellness Retreats On 5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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A healthy diet filled with farm-fresh foods.

Meditation and mindfulness.

Me-Time and self-care on a regular basis.

Exercise with an emphasis on cardio and weight training.

Love of any kind — work, animals, friends, family, partner.

The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mary Blackmon.

Mary Blackmon is a serial entrepreneur who has combined her passions for spas and self-care, farming and food, and luxury wellness travel into multiple lifestyle businesses that empowers others to greater health and holistic wellness. Through the new Farm to Wellness Retreats™, now people can find self-care and wellness travel — with a farm-fresh twist. Her other current business in its tenth year, Farm Star Living, celebrates Farm Stars™, foods and healthy eating, and farms. Previously, her passion for self-care motivated her to launch Spa-Addicts in 2003, which was the first business ever to make luxury spas more affordable and accessible to the ‘everywoman.’ Blackmon’s career includes being a forerunner in digital marketing who helped introduce the ad banner, spa columnist, speaker and national media expert, a rice farmer, and farmer advocate and expert in national media, and most recently a certified Integrative Health & Wellness Coach — all of which she uses for her latest venture and next professional chapter.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I am from Arkansas and grew up in Louisiana, but after college moved to Los Angeles with the hope to be an actress. I landed some roles, but I ended up not liking it as a career choice and found that I really loved sales — specifically selling ads for magazines. That eventually led me to Atlanta and selling ads for some national publications, then a couple of years later I received a promotion to work at the HQs in NYC. There I really pushed myself hard to excel, and soon got involved in digital marketing — at its inception, at Wired. This led to a super-fast-paced career — and ultimately an ‘aha’ moment to create a website that offered spa services at deep discounts — so the average hard-working person could better afford this kind of wellness. This was Spa-Addicts — years before GroupOn and discount sites like that. I moved my HQs back to Los Angeles, in order to be nearer to a plethora of spa resorts and built this for almost ten years. However, our family rice farm took a turn because my uncle retired, sold his half of the farm, and there was no one left to run the remaining farm that had been left to my brother and me. So, I ended up opting to return to the remote area of ARK / LA to run the farm, which I’d never done before, and the area was so remote you couldn’t get internet at the farmhouse! As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t run Spa-Addicts and farm, so I had to let my internet baby go, which was painful. However, after a couple of years of being immersed in farming, I started seeing the beauty of farming and appreciating farmers and had a new idea. I wanted to put a pop-culture spin on farmers as if they were ‘stars’ — i.e. Farm Stars™, and positioned ‘farm to table’ as a way of life in a brand new lifestyle website that showcased farmers, farms and farm-fresh foods. This was before this kind of approach towards farming had started, was the first agritourism directory where you could search things like petting zoos and apple picking, and really broke ground with these new concepts. I also then rented the farm to someone who could manage it, and moved to Atlanta and began building Farm Star Living. This led me to farms across the country, filming behind-the-scenes, profiling farm to table restaurants, creating recipe videos and more, but I always held my passion of spas and wellness. So, in 2021, I went to school, became an Integrative Health & Wellness coach, and now a little after a year from graduating — in OCT 2022, I’ve launched another new business that truly embodies all of my passions… Farm to Wellness Retreats.™ This is the first wellness travel website with a farm-fresh twist! We’ve curated an international list of spas, resorts and farms that not only offer mind•body•spirit wellness, but also either have a farm / garden / vineyard on the property, offer farm to table cuisines, or include farm-sourced or indigenous ingredients in their spa products. I’m excited, energized and ready to help people find their most inspiring and personal ways to overall great health and wellness.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I have learned that things somehow work out … that you just have to stick to your vision, believe in it even when people think you’re crazy, and just go for it.

I remember sitting in the rice field, hiring a photographer to come there to do a photo shoot of farmers I had started referring to as Farm Stars™– and this was before things like this were mainstream. Here I was a gazillion miles away from the life I knew, no real chance I thought of ever having another hip business, but fast forward a decade, and it happened.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have to thank a woman named Jane Iredale. She is an icon in the spa world who created the first-ever mineral cosmetics skincare company.

Having quit my day job and barely having any money at all for my start-up Spa-Addicts, I really did need a website ad sponsor but it was hard to get that first break. I looked up to Jane with such admiration, respect, and when I asked her to be a website sponsor, she did — and became my first real-paying site sponsor.

Having her ‘legitimize’ my business gave me confidence and the encouragement to keep pushing and then others viewed us as a real potential. I had not only needed that revenue but having her iconic well-respected name behind my brand meant the world to me. I just truly cherished her support, and thought of her as the pinnacle of success of a business woman. She had grace, elegance, incredible business savvy, passion and vision, yet still had warmth. Her business continued to advertise with us until I closed it to take over for the family farm.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Passion — if it doesn’t motivate and move me, then I can’t motivate and move others. Grit — if I’m not willing to do the hard work, then I can’t expect anyone who works with me to do it either. Positivity — keep a good attitude and try to stay grounded and find the positive.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I’ve been promoting self-care and healthy living through my businesses I’ve created. Through them, I help others prioritize their own well-being and help them heal their lives through eating healthy farm-fresh foods, connecting to nature and themselves, and encourage ways to have a healthy mind•body•spirit.

Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.

Yes, my journey to have health, vitality and longevity has led me to new careers and creating companies that will allow me to pursue these goals while helping others do the same.

When I was over-stressed and unhealthy, I needed more self-care and wellness and better healthy habits. So I started Spa-Addicts, the business I felt I needed most — to help myself and others — to prioritize self-care through spas and wellness. Then, when I felt that food and farming wasn’t understood or appreciated enough and yet it was critical to all of our health and longevity, I started a new business and started championing this message to anyone who would listen. I felt we needed to change our perceptions about farmers and farming while emphasizing the importance of farm-fresh food for holistic health. Now, I’m doing this, too, because after Covid-19 I feel that so many of us have been completely unbalanced, too stressed and unhealthy, so I’ve started Farm to Wellness Retreats as a new business to help others travel to beautiful, healing spots to improve their wellness, self-care and healing. And I need that, too!

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)

A healthy diet filled with farm-fresh foods.

Meditation and mindfulness.

Me-Time and self-care on a regular basis.

Exercise with an emphasis on cardio and weight training.

Love of any kind — work, animals, friends, family, partner.

Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?

You need to embrace the philosophy that happiness, joy and meaning comes from within. It is the way you view life and your circumstances that create happiness, joy and meaning. SO, work on your own self-care and practice having positive thoughts.

Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?

It’s a collaboration between the two. We might have predisposition to certain diseases and health conditions, but I do think you can change or dramatically influence your outcome by living more healthily and making yourself happy and balanced.

Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?

I’ve allowed myself to feel the feels and learn from them … and then I grow. I move forward wiser and while perhaps a bit more dinged up, I keep my head high and know that I’m still on the path to becoming my best version of myself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Yes. I had left L.A., been working on the farm, rarely saw anyone, and stopped by to see my step-grandmother Gertrude, who was sharp and in her mid-90’s. As I hugged her, the hum of her hearing aid was distinct, and as she walked — even slightly hopped — with her walker to see me to the door, I asked her point blank.

“Gertrude, when does life get easier?” And, with that, she stopped, turned to me, and with her dripping Southern grand dame type of accent, replied … “Mary ….. I’ve got news.”

And with her look right into my eyes, I realized at that very moment, life in fact does not ever get easier. This is it. This is life. So let’s all just try to make the most and best out of everyday.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Visit FarmtoWellnessRetreats and FarmStarLiving, plus follow our channels on social platforms! FarmStarLiving on FB and IG and FarmtoWellnessRetreats on FB and IG… ☺

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head , heart, and gut— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor