It was always Meredith and her mom Connie’s dream to purchase a farm, where they could move her childhood herd of sheep — which lived on the back half-acre of their home in Olney — and maybe have a horse or two.
That dream looked to become a reality in 2011, when newly married Meredith and her husband Dan Null found an empty 53-acre property near Mount Airy. The land had been in soybeans and corn, but there was potential to build two homes and transform the rolling acres into pasture.
“There was nothing here, it was just an empty field,” said Dan from inside what is now the family’s kitchen.
Connie and Dave Myers took out an equity loan on their home in Olney and purchased the land with their sights set on moving to Mount Airy and having their daughter nearby.
Conflicts over the land deed delayed the purchase, but by January of 2013 the family had reached a settlement and one grandchild had arrived — Jackson, who is now 5. Connie made plans to drill a well, bring an electrical line out 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 she passed six months later.
“She was fierce,” Meredith said. “She was amazing.”
In the months before she died, Connie made arrangements for the farm to be transferred 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.
“I think she would have liked to have a horse,” Meredith said of her mom. “But the main goal of the farm is still what we have here.”
Meredith and Dan grew up showing livestock 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 kid she asked her mom for a rabbit.
“She, being her, [said] I couldn’t have a rabbit unless I learned how to take care of it properly,” Meredith said.
So she joined the 4-H rabbit club in Montgomery County and one of the leaders soon thereafter convinced her to start sheep projects. She raised market lambs until shortly before leaving for college at the University of Connecticut to study animal science, she purchased three Bluefaced Leicester ewes, which were new to the U.S. and excited home spinners with their unique fleeces.
Later, Dan and Meredith met on Match.com and it turned out their lives were already closely intertwined, she said. Dan works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in animal improvement with a focus on dairy genetics, and at the time, Meredith was a milk tester and sent samples to his lab.
Now the Nulls are busy juggling careers off the farm and raising grass-fed sheep and cattle.
The core of the business at BlueLand Farm is lamb and beef, which is butchered locally at Wagner’s Meats in Mount Airy. This year, the farm processed seven lambs, but next year they hope to reach 20.
“We’re in the process of getting our numbers up,” Dan said.
They sell lamb whole or in halves, but they also recently started offering quarter lambs through their “lamb bags.” The bags include traditional cuts of meat — including legs, 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 be $110 to $120 per bag — is higher than what customers would pay in the grocery store, but not by much, they said. The Nulls aim to price their product between wholesale and retail.
BlueLand Farm also offers whole, half and bag options of beef. They raise Jersey-cross breeds, which have hang-weights of 500-pounds rather than 800-pounds like some Angus breeds. The smaller cattle tend to work for their customers, who often don’t have large freezers, Meredith said.
The beef sells for $3.55 per pound.
With the holidays fast approaching, the Nulls are currently sold out, but they have a waiting list for people who are interested in their product. A steer is scheduled to be processed on Monday and a lamb in January.
Beyond raising a quality product, the Nulls are also concerned about preserving their breeds and land for the next generations.
Meredith sits on the Board of Directors for the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association and is the Vice President of the U.S. and Canadian Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America. The latter is pushing for farmers to better understand the genetics of their flocks, which may help enhance the marketability of the breed in crossbreeds in the future, she said.
Caring for the land on their own farm is also important, because they hope to some day leave it to their three boys: Jackson, 5; Theodore, 4; and William Everett, 1. Already, the oldest two are enthusiastic about the animals.
“I love the cows,” said Theodore as he ran down the driveway. “You can pet the calfs. They can lick me on my hands.”
Jackson, on the other hand, already has big plans for how to make the farm bigger and better.
“When I grow up, I’m going to build more fences to make [the] pasture bigger!” Jackson said.