This story of a local Charlotte-area couple is a true inspiration. John and Emily Barnes aren’t your typical farmers. As a matter of fact, Emily jokes that she and John are the black sheep in their families because no one else has ever been highly involved in farming. Ironically, the ‘black sheep’ ended up becoming accomplished beef and pork producers. Way to go!

As first-generation farmers they have turned their love for cattle and pigs into Bravo Steaks, an operation just south of Charlotte. By partnering with Market Wagon, they can now serve their sirloin steak or pork chorizo or 21-day dry-aged ground beef to every home in a nine-county region including Charlotte.

John met Emily over cattle and the dream had always been to raise their own herd. But that was set aside as Emily got a Ph.D. at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and John worked several different jobs in the beef industry.

But tragedy struck the family in 2019. John was laid off. So, the couple decided it was time to not put off their dream any longer. They started raising purebred Berkshire pigs as well as black Angus and Angus-cross cattle. Cattle are kept on grass pastures and rotated seasonally. They’re also on a rolled barley-based diet which is mixed by hand daily. Pigs are also raised outside in pastures after the first few weeks of their lives. Things have really taken off.

This is where Market Wagon comes in. It’s an online farmers market with a mission to enable farmers and food producers like John and Emily to thrive in their local markets. In real terms, it means Bravo Steaks can use Market Wagon to introduce their products to customers in cities like Gastonia, Statesville, Salisbury, Concord, Monroe, Rock Hill, etc. without having to pay for costly shipping or delivery themselves. Overall, more than 50 local vendors use the platform to offer more than 350 local products, everything from tomatoes, milk, pasture-raised eggs, and steaks to prepared meals like baked mac & cheese and sweet potato pie. Congratulations you two! You have inspired all of us to follow our dreams.

Alexis Zarycki is your average girl with the hopes of leaving an everlasting impact on the world. Follow her on Instagram @official_lexpaige