It might be unusual to consider farming a form of art, but that is precisely what Annemarie Sullivan has done through her extensive efforts and persistence to make food with love to produce the highest quality possible. Sullivan is only twenty-one-years-old, but is wise beyond her years, running a full farming operation by herself just a few miles outside of Texarkana, Texas.
On over fifty acres of land, cattle, pigs, chickens, arabian horses, rabbits, geese, sheep, and other livestock graze and roam freely as nature intended. A few Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs keep the animals protected, nearly completing an almost fully self-sustainable farm. This is a passion Sullivan has pursued since her teen. After making a difficult, life-changing decision to not pursue college, she chose her dream.
Her interest in agriculture is deeply connected to her love for food and her family’s history to their land. She battled back and forth between the decision to pursue a career as a chef or a dietician, somehow evolving into a passion for farming.
Sullivan’s great, great grandparents originally owned the land that is now occupying her various livestock. Their house was constructed in 1916, with some modern updates using stone from Austin, Texas, where they once lived. Sullivan and her family resided in Austin for most of her adolescence, raised in a homeschooled environment that was self-led and with very few controls.
Growing up, she remembered contemplating how wasteful it seemed to have access to such an abundance and land and not use it, like so many in more urban areas don’t have access to.
“Back in high school, I would read blogs and stories of people growing food in their backyards lamenting the fact that they only had a quarter of an acre. My family had hundreds, and hardly any of them even lived on it.”
Her official beginning as a farmer happened when she and her family were returning to Texarkana after several years of living in Austin. Sullivan found herself on Craigslist and purchased 4 Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats and their original Great Pyrenees pup, Roger, all of which had to ride in their cars to Texarkana.
“We weren’t carrying a trailer, so it was a full car, and a little stinky but it was fun.”
Farming can be stressful, aside from the abundance of regulations and laws that must be followed, their are personal failures that they must overcome. Sullivan spoke of how supportive her parents were through her entire journey to farming, never making her cease pursuing her dream, instead, they supported the endeavor.
The land, tools, and equipment that helped Sullivan begin her farming journey were all given to her by her parents. She spoke of how much gratitude she has for how much her family has assisted her throughout the years.
“I’m not very good at expressing my gratitude, but I think they know how important their help has been in getting me to where I am today.”
Sullivan follows a specific farming technique known as regenerative agriculture. This is a system of farming methods that increases biodiversity, enriches soil content, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem service. The techniques aim to trap carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, allegedly reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. The methods increase crop yields, resilience to climate instability, and more nutrient dense foods. She has focused on shifting the concentration on health and quality rather than aesthetic or quantity.
She has taken her initiatives even further in recent years. In 2016, Sullivan began Sullifarm and Kitchen, offering her fresh, healthy food in a gourmet style dining experience directly on her farm.
“I love to farm; but I love to farm because I love to eat. Taking a piece of meat I’ve spent months and years growing, and then bringing it into the kitchen with all these other local edibles is like working magic.”
Her next venture is to complete the Sullifarm Shop, where her grandfather ran a dairy business in the 1960s in a “blockhouse” style building.
Her aspirations come from the perseverance, dedication, and freedom that her parents gave her. Being homeschooled allowed for Sullivan to pursue what she was interested in , allowing her to explore jewelry making, music, health and nutrition, international cuisine, travel, food, cooking and from that grew a love of farming.
“I’ll forever be grateful that I was homeschooled. It enabled a lot of freedoms for us that other kids didn’t get. While I might not know a lot about chemistry or geometry, instead I learned about the world through traveling and research”
Sullivan insists that she believes that she wouldn’t be farming had she been placed in the public school system. Her foundation of freedom and nature have greatly influenced her passions and new-found career.
“I think I can credit my mom for instilling confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit in me. She was never a very strict teacher, and encouraged me to explore and research what I had interests in.”
Sullivan’s success with her farming garners the attention of other professionals in the same industry. She received invitations to conferences and workshops like Mother Earth News fair that was held in Austin, Texas, Earth X conference in Dallas, Texas, and Slow Food Leadership Summer in Denver, Colorado.
Her customers are loyal, often repeat, regular clients. The top 3 favorites for her customers include breakfast sausage, sea salt and brown sugar bacon, and the beef snack sticks. With a focus on preparation and quality, they are able to minimize the amount of seasoning added and let the natural flavor show.
She is thorough, using techniques like rotational grazing in order to keep the farm from smelling. Sullivan enjoys hearing the responses from her clients when they visit the farm, how much they enjoy the beauty of the land and animals, making them appreciate the entire process, from farm to table, even ore.
Sullivan may be young, but she is building her dream from the ground up. She hopes to be a farm where people can learn about and purchase the best locally grown foods in Texarkana. Starting in September, she will be opening her Sullifarm Shop, taking her dream on step closer to your table.