Old World Garden Farms

Jim and Mary Competti, Co-Founders

Quaker City, Ohio
Jim and Mary at their farm. Old World Garden Farm.
Planting the seeds of a business

The average person probably wouldn’t consider buying a farm on a whim or starting a blog without any experience — but Jim and Mary Competti aren’t exactly your average people.

“I'm going to be completely honest, it was kind of an accident,” says Jim. “When we grew up, our families lived outdoors all summer long - we had gardens with fresh vegetables, and learned to plant, pick and more. So as our kids grew up, we started to feel like we weren't giving them the experiences we had growing up. We wanted them to see where their food came from and what it takes to grow it.”

Jim and Mary bought a small three-acre plot of land and started growing a garden. Then they got a few chickens and a couple of honeybee hives. Before they knew it, they had a small farm. Naturally, friends and family were surprised at the sudden decision and had some questions.

“They didn’t quite understand what we were up to, or why we would want to do it. So we decided to write about our little farm and put up some pictures so they could visualize what we were doing,” says Mary. “We decided on Old World Garden Farms as a throwback to the way people used to garden - and then began documenting the journey.”

Jim and Mary consistently published three articles per week for five years and the site’s readership quickly grew beyond just friends and family. “We just did it out of pure passion and love. From 2012 to 2016, we grew the site while making no money, we loved to write, and loved that others were interested in what we were doing,” says Jim.

As they grew, they learned more and more about what resonated with readers. “Google Analytics has been so pivotal for us to help us learn what we need to write about, optimize performance, see what’s landing with our audience throughout different times of year or different hours of the day. It was and continues to be the go-to tool that helps us grow bigger than we ever thought possible,” says Jim.

Then in 2016, Jim and Mary were told they were being kicked off of the free server they ran the blog on. “They told us we were too large and now needed to buy space. We were both like, ‘Wait a minute. We're now paying for our passion?’” says Jim. That’s when they realized it was time to monetize the site — a decision that’d eventually help them cover far more than just the server costs.

Jim and Mary's new pond and pavillion at the farm.
Fostering continued growth

It was a friend at work who told Jim about AdSense. “We had no idea what it was at the time. But we were adamant about not wanting to charge followers and readers a subscription fee for our articles or the site - we wanted the information to be free to all who wanted it - and an ad-supported model made the most sense,” says Mary.

They got started with Google AdSense, figuring things out by trial and error. They didn’t have any idea what plugins were or how CSS worked, but they slowly but surely got display ads on the site — and eagerly awaited the results of this experiment in monetization.

“I think that first day we made $10.17,” says Jim. After that, we would always start every single morning with a cup of coffee before our “real” jobs and see what we made. “It’s something we still do, but I’ll never forget how exciting those first few days were to us - to realize we could earn something from what we created.”

Eventually, a reader suggested Jim and Mary try working with Google Certified Publishing Partner, Mediavine, to grow their business even further. “Today, from a financial standpoint, ad revenue is the most important thing to our business. Advertising really made a huge, life-changing difference in our lives.”

“I think that first day we made $10.17. I’ll never forget how exciting those first few days with AdSense were to us - to realize we could earn something from what we created.”
Jim and Mary's recycled barn.
Expanding their horizons

With ad revenue coming in consistently now, Jim and Mary could start to think bigger about their business — which included expanding their staff and diversifying their revenue streams.

“We hired our first person a few years back,” says Mary. “We value our employees so much and treat them like our family members. We keep their schedule flexible so that they have time to spend with their families. It’s about family first — work comes second.”

“Ad revenue has given us the opportunity to invest in additional revenue streams,” says Jim. “We purchased our current farm from that revenue, and created a space for gardening classes, events and even Airbnb rentals. And we’ve built out seven other websites to diversify.” Across all their seven sites, they’ve seen 49+million page views this year and have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

Ad revenue also enabled them to retire from their previous day jobs, focusing fully on the sites and their passion of the farm. This freedom from the classic nine-to-five allowed them to take more chances with their business — and tackle exciting new experiences.

“We get to live our dream every single day,” says Jim. “We’ve been able to use the profits from our businesses to build a 46 acre working farm where we get to trial our ideas and share them with our followers. We also host garden classes, dinners and more at the farm to help build community in our area and have some even bigger plans for the next few years.”

“We run it together every step of the way,” says Mary. “We couldn’t do it without each other. And when we started, we had no intention of turning this into a business. If your first thought is ‘I want to make money’ that’s never going to work — you have to have a passion for something.”

Overall, it’s their readers that keep them motivated. “We get the most joy hearing from individuals every single day who use our gardening and cooking advice to create something amazing in their own life,” says Jim. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

About the Publisher

In late 2010, Jim and Mary Competti, juggling the schedules of four active teenage children and two full-time professional careers, decided to follow their shared dream of creating a small, self-sufficient farm in the middle of Ohio.

To document the process, they created their very first blog, oldworldgardenfarms.com. The two also happened to share a passion for writing, and the blog and farm gave them the perfect opportunity to share their journey.

Jim and Mary currently reside on their 46 acre farm in Quaker City, Ohio. In addition to running their websites and media business, they have turned their Old World Garden farm into a destination - including summer garden tours, garden events, overnight cabin rentals and event space rentals. For more about the farm, you can go to owgarden.com.
Jim and Mary hard at work on the farm.