Publisher Interview: Jim & Mary Competti of Old World Garden

It’s the thick of summer, and while it might be hard to keep your vegetable garden alive in this heat, Mediavine’s garden of publishers is just growing and growing. 

We absolutely love watching our publishers nurture and cultivate the seeds of their blog and help them to flower into a sustainable business.

We’ve seen this blossoming happen with publishers like Kelan Kline of The Savvy Couple, Kim Sorey and Kalee Dillard of Sorey Fitness and Karli Bitner of Cooking With Karli, to name just a few of our 5,200 (and growing) publishers. 

Today we’re talking to gardening bloggers Mary and Jim Competti of the blog Old World Garden Farms. They are accomplished writers and speakers and the owners of a farm to boot. We’ll let them tell you more about their farm-to-blog story in today’s publisher interview. 

Welcome to the Mediavine blog, Mary and Jim! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your everyday life.

We are Mary and Jim Competti, husband and wife authors, bloggers, speakers, and co-owners of Old World Garden Farms, a 3-acre self-sufficient farm situated in Central Ohio.

Together, we have four children, ages 20 through 25, a farm dog named Jazzy, 12 chickens, and two bee hives.

We share a combined passion for all things home & garden, and love to write and speak about it every chance we get. Here is our story:

In late 2010, we decided we wanted to slow down and simplify the typical life of 2 professionals balancing a family and full-time careers. With four children at that point ranging from 12 to 18, we wanted to give them a taste of what our own childhood was like in a more rural setting. And for us, we wanted to simply live a more fulfilling life. We loved to garden and cook and travel — and we wanted to simplify our life so that we could follow those passions. We started from scratch to convert an overgrown 3-acre field into a self-sustaining farm, with the hopes of someday building a small home to retire to and live out our passions of gardening, cooking and DIY.

Using recycled materials and a limited budget, we transformed the 3-acre lot into a mini-farm – filled with gardens, flowerbeds, chickens, honey bees, and a small orchard and vineyard.

And we blogged about it the whole way.

We wrote about everything from building a barn or our chicken coop, to planting and growing our garden, to making delicious meals or spicy pickles from the produce. We shared our DIY plans, recipes and gardening advice along the way — and for some reason, people loved it.

We had always loved to write, and blogging about our passions became our way to fulfill that need.

By 2014, we had a few hundred thousand followers from over 220+ countries around the world. And it just grew from there.

In 2016, we fulfilled another lifetime dream to write a book together, and published Growing Simple, a book about simplifying our life by creating the farm.

We also were able to build our 1054 square foot “Simple House” at the farm that year. It allowed us to then live at the farm we love.

That led to a second book in 2018, Raised Row Gardening, and the opportunities to travel and speak at shows and events about our little farm and life. And of course, 2 more blogs — Make Your Meals, a recipe site, and This Is My Garden — a gardening advice site.

And it all started from a little blog — it still seems a bit unbelievable to us even today. 🙂

How did you get started blogging?

Our blogging story is one purely born out of writing for the sheer love of our passions. Old World Garden Farms was our very first blog, and we started it as a way to document the building of our little 3-acre mini-farm — and to simply share it with friends and family around the country who probably thought we had lost our minds. 🙂

How long have you been a Mediavine publisher? How did you first hear about us? What drew you to Mediavine as a partner for display advertising?

We transferred our first blog, Make Your Meals last August after one of our readers thought it might be a better fit for us. After looking into it, we really liked how Mediavine responded to all of our questions, and how they viewed it as a true partnership. Honestly, we were just overwhelmed with the support from the beginning.

2 months later, we moved our other two sites to Mediavine as well.

Describe your experience with Mediavine. What do you love about working with us?

The support from the get-go has been nothing short of amazing for us – from helping us to fix our site to be better able to display ads, to the unbelievable way they approach customer service.

Not only are they reactive to our questions, they have been proactive on helping us to change and update our themes and more. We just never had any help like that before from our previous ad networks, and it has been so refreshing.

How has your Mediavine ad revenue changed your life for the better?

It is pretty easy to answer this question. It has allowed to finally leave our traditional “career jobs”, retire and follow our passions full time. It has been nothing short of amazing.

It was the final piece to the puzzle. A consistent stream of revenue that could be counted on along with our books, speaking and other engagements to let us “work” full time at what we love to do.

Maybe most incredible of all, it has allowed us to plan the trip of a lifetime this fall. To tour all 50 states, one week at a time for 365 straight days in a teardrop camper. We will blog the entire time and get to live out a dream to see the country. We are even starting a 4th website to document the trip, livesimplenow.com. It will allow folks to follow our journey and see the places, spaces and people we meet. 

To think that we can get to do what we love everyday and earn a consistent living at it is so incredible.

How do you think the blogging industry has changed since you started your website?

We are by no means computer or programming experts — but I can tell you we have learned a lot over the last seven years. I think keeping up with SEO and all of the constant changes that are made for searches and search engines is one of the hardest things to do.

The other big change is to video. When we first started, there were way more articles than video — and that has changed. It is something we will have to do more of in the coming years.

By far, the biggest change has been keeping up with the transformation of social media, and how it can help drive traffic to your sites. But at the end of the day — it is about content. And for us, we are adamant about writing all of our own — and I think that has helped.

What are the best and worst parts of blogging for you?

The best part of all is that it has allowed us to retire early and follow our passions. We will be leaving this fall on a 365 day trip to all 50 states in a teardrop camper -blogging about it all the way. That would never have been possible without our blogs.

There really are very very few down sides for us. We love to write and create — so blogging is the perfect outlet for that. It is wonderful to write and connect with people — that is by far our favorite aspect of all.

We keep it very real with our posts. We are just as likely to talk about how we messed up and had to try again as we are about something working perfectly. I think people love that we have no problem making a bit of fun at our own expense. After all, that is what it’s all about. Having fun and trying again and again while you are doing it.

For us, sometimes it is a challenge to keep those creative juices flowing. But we have found out that traveling to other farms and gardens, or experiencing other cuisines all gets the juices flowing again.

What has been your biggest success as an influencer?

Social media has become huge for us. Pinterest pins send a lot of traffic to our sites, and Facebook works well for us too. Home, garden and homesteading web sites that showcase many of our articles help a lot too.

We still get the most traffic from Google and Google searches, but social media is a close second.

Who are your FAVORITE bloggers? Who inspires you? Why do you like them?

We started out following the Funky Junk Interiors blog, and really love how she connects with her audience. Six Sisters has been another of our favorites as well — they have great recipes and it has that family-based feel that we love.

What are the most popular 3 posts on your blog?

Our smoked chicken wing recipe is a huge one on the site. It is always fun to see it take off each weekend during football season as people look up recipes.

From the gardening side, our article on creating homemade stake-a-cage tomato supports is a big one too.

Our post on how to take a pallet apart remains one of our most viewed every single day as well.

What are your personal favorite posts on your blog?

Building our reclaimed barn would have to be one of our favorites. We tore down two 100-year-old barns to build our barn back in 2011-12. One of them was Jim’s dad’s old barn. So there is a lot of sentiment in the post.

Farm To Table Dinner — We hosted a big farm to table dinner at the farm back in 2016 for our followers. We held a drawing and had 1200+ applicants from 20+ states. We selected 40 winners -and they came for one amazing evening.

The 365 Experiment — Our post on downsizing. For one year, we donated, sold or threw out one possession a day to eliminate the clutter in our home. It was so amazing to do, and the post has been a big hit too.

What tools and resources do you use to manage your blog? What could you not live without?

We are pretty simple by nature. Beyond our two laptops and a tablet, we use our phones for almost all of our photos. For videos, we use our Go-Pro and our phones. We use Adobe Creative Suite for creating any graphics needed.

Our phones would be the one thing we could not live without. They are always with us to capture the photos we need.

What is your biggest traffic source? What strategies have you used to make that your top traffic source?

Google. We schedule out all of our social media posts two weeks at a time to be released on a consistent basis. Pinterest pins are huge for us, so we create one for every post we write. We also release our articles on Facebook as well, the same way. Responding to as many comments as possible on all platforms is key. Engagement is big.

Do you have any advice for bloggers on how to grow their traffic?

Consistency. We post 3 times a week on all of our blogs on the same day. We are also big believers in only putting out our own content.

Anything else you’d like to add to help bloggers grow?

First and foremost, find something you are passionate about to blog about. If you love what you are doing and writing about — it comes naturally. It sounds so simple, but it has been the key to our success.

What’s the one thing on any restaurant menu you MUST order?

Shishito Peppers as an appetizer. We love them! A little olive oil, a bit of salt, the skins heated to be a bit blistered. Amazing.

What actor would play you in a movie based on your life and career?

Jim Competti – Vince Vaughn
Mary Competti – Sandra Bullock

Name something on your bucket list.

Travel To See All 50 States / Take A Cooking Class In Italy

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Jim – Drift Away (Dobie Grey)
Mary – Only sings to the chickens and bees!

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited and why?

Austin, Texas. Culture is amazing, love all of the outdoor eateries, gardens, etc.

What’s your favorite quote?

“If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.”