Columbia-Area Couple Turn Job Layoff into Thriving Business

John and Emily Barnes

John and Emily Barnes

John and Emily Barnes aren’t your average farmers. In fact, Emily jokes that both she and John are the black sheep of their families because no other relative ever had much to do with farming. The irony is that the ‘black sheep’ have turned into accomplished beef and pork producers.

As first-generation farmers they have turned their love for cattle and pigs into Bravo Steaks, an operation just north of Columbia. By partnering with Market Wagon, they can now serve their sirloin steak or pork chorizo or 21-day dry-aged ground beef to most homes in a 15-county region including Columbia and Augusta, Georgia.

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 doctorate in pharmacy and John worked several different jobs in the beef industry.

But in 2019, when John was laid off, 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 Aiken, Newberry, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg and Augusta etc. without having to pay for costly shipping or delivery themselves. There are dozens of local vendors who use the platform to offer more than 370 local products, everything from tomatoes, milk, pasture-raised eggs and steaks to prepared meals like mozzarella & cheddar quiche and key lime pie.

Market Wagon transforms the farm-to-table concept into a farm-to-front-door reality. Its mission is to enable food producers to thrive in their local markets by operating as an online farmers market. Market Wagon partners with more than 2,500 local farmers and artisans to take their produce and products the very last mile to the doorstep of 45,000+ local customers. Farmer and tech entrepreneur Nick Carter teamed up with logistics expert Dan Brunner to start Market Wagon in 2016. It’s now available in more than 35 markets across Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. For more information, visit, or you can follow the company’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.

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