Karyn Owens has loved the outdoors ever since she was a little girl. In a childhood photo, she is pictured playing with a bright red toy barn, a tiny plastic farmer on a tractor at her feet. Maybe she didn’t know it then, but it turned out to be an omen of things to come. Always drawn to animals and nature, she is now a farmer, running nine acres on the outskirts of Fallston.
Last year, her long-standing dream of owning her own farm came true, and she moved more than 400 miles away from her Maryland home and onto her own land. In the male-dominated agricultural profession, she is an anomaly, even more so as a female pork farmer. On New View Farm, she raises and breeds Kunekunes, a New Zealand pig, for pork along with heritage turkeys and sells eggs from her free range chickens.
Owens has a solid background to draw from, having worked at nine different farms over the years in a variety of capacities. She earned a plant sciences degree from University of Maryland in 2015 and thought she was going to be a plant farmer.
She spent several years working on vegetable farms, a vineyard and with cut flowers.
“I thought I was going to do plants,” she said. “And then I got chickens in 2017. I got pigs in 2019, and now I’m a livestock farmer.”
She currently sells her products based on word of mouth and through her social media pages. The Heart of Ham at New View Farm can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
Customers can buy a whole pig and choose how they want it to be processed, but she primarily sells cuts, including pork chops, bacon, roast and sausage.
“That will really get going this summer,” Owens said.
She’s working on a website and expects that to be up and running some time this spring.
Owens bought the farm in October and immediately got to work reclaiming the land and barn from the weeds, putting up fences and creating her dream farm, bit by bit.
“Honestly, it was a leap of faith,” she said.
Back in Maryland, she leased land but her animals were scattered at different locations. Having them all outside her back door is a dream come true.
“I was ready to make the jump and start a true farm,” she said.
Her dream has been years in the making and before last summer, she had never heard of Shelby, only discovering its existence through a Zillow property listing.
In the past, the farm was used to raise chickens for eggs, but it had been years since it was in operation and the buildings were overgrown with thick vines and weeds. Grass had grown up thigh-high in the pasture, and the barn was in dire need of cleaning and repairs. But Owens saw past the dereliction and embraced its potential. She saw the pecan trees and the magnolia shading the front yard and the way the South Mountains cradled the upper end of the county and knew she wanted this to be her farm.
Currently, Owens has 21 pigs, 30 chickens, turkeys, two goats, two thoroughbred horses and several dogs. She operates New View Farm on her own through gentle strength, hard work and a dash of humor.
She likes to say that some days, she’s not sure if she’s a pig farmer, a mud farmer, a manure farmer, or a fence farmer.
Owens is a woman of many hats, spending her mornings working as a coffee shop manager, afternoons as an agricultural marketing consultant, and every hour in between on her farm. Weekends, you’ll likely find her outside, perhaps repairing the tin on the barn roof or spreading wood chips, or she might be feeding the animals and repairing fences. There’s always something that needs to be done.
Owens said one of the greatest challenges as a female farmer is earning the respect of other farmers and people involved in agriculture. She didn’t grow up in a farming family or participate in 4-H or FFA, although she wishes she had.
“So I had to work on other operations and learn from farmers I admired over the last 10 years to really understand how I wanted to farm and what suited me best,” she said.
She finds support and inspiration from other women.
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“The biggest rewards are meeting other female farmers and entrepreneurs,” she said. “Overall, it has been a very supportive community, and it’s nice to reach out when I have questions or need some support during a tough time. Farming is not for the faint of heart. Through wind, snow, rain, drought, I am out there making sure all of the animals are well taken care of. Having someone who understands the responsibilities and hardships can be very comforting.”
At New View Farm, there is a sense of harmony and balance.
Owens begins her day at 5 am with the morning feeding and other chores before heading to her coffee shop job. When she gets home, she starts on agricultural marketing consulting before tackling the evening farm chores. She said on weekends, she spends all day working on farm projects.
She said she goes through around 1,400 pounds of food a month.
“When I stand out here in the barn I can’t complain about any of this, this is my dream,” she said.
She also hopes to inspire other women.
“I can only hope that my story and journey will help inspire other women to take the leap and pursue their dreams in agriculture.”