Farm Picking Mama

an interview with emma + abbey

Hannah and I knew we would click with Emma as soon as we found out she was the brains behind Camp Climb, a retreat for women creative entrepreneurs in the heart of the Midwest. What we didn't know is that she is one multi-talented mama. She fills her time as an Iowa picker for her company Main and Second, is the organizer and executor of The Iowa Gathering (mark your calendar for June 24th, Midwesterners) and even had a pilot show of her life aired on HGTV. We are so excited that she and Anna, one of our contributing writers, will be bringing Cheers Mama! Happy Hours to the Quad Cities soon. Yay for CM! Ambassadors and new mama friendships! Now Emma, how about getting HGTV to cover your Happy Hour meetup...


tell us a little bit about who you are and all the things you have your hands in.

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I am a serial entrepreneur living on a 5 acre farm in rural eastern Iowa. I have an extra supportive husband who is currently the bread winner of the family selling John Deere equipment. I plan to take over the bread winner title though soon pursuing passions ;) I took an online course for event planning and design right out of high school. I worked at a hotel taking care of their catering/events department for a year before moving to Cedar Falls, IA to chase my (now) husband with a baby on my hip at the age of just 19. My entrepreneur journey began shortly after the move when I abruptly decided to open up a store selling vintage goods. I needed a flexible job that could balance being a young mom and Spencer's crazy school/football schedule. This storefront was the reason for all of the amazing connections I have made in my industry and built my confidence up to where I needed it to get to where I am today! After our move from Cedar Falls back to the Quad Cities, I closed up shop and launched a lifestyle blog, Shortly after, we were approached by a production company to air a pilot on an HGTV network centered around us picking barns, repurposing the finds, and selling at markets and to clients. The filming went down Summer 2017, pilot aired in January 2018, re-aired in February 2018, and we got the call in March 2018 that we did NOT land a series. Most would probably be bummed, but we felt a huge sense of relief! This experience definitely served it's purpose and has beautifully aligned our present-day life.

I established the Iowa Gathering (a curated vintage market with an intimate feel) to be an experience that people look forward to time and time again. The Iowa Gathering reintroduced me back to my first love, PLANNING! Coordinating events is definitely my sweet spot.

I pursued the creation of Camp Climb simply out of a personal craving. I was so hungry for a good place and opportunity to disconnect and positive community. I knew if I craved this then others did too and with more and more thoughts and brain dumps that is how Camp Climb came about!

Who is in your tribe?

photo by Mari Photography

photo by Mari Photography

Spencer, my husband of 5 years, my 7 year old daughter, Peyton, my 4 year old daughter, Kahler, and my 2 year old son, Hugo! Oh, and Robbie our 1 year old pup, 6 chickens, 1 bunny, 5 cows, and a farm kitty <3

How did you get started in picking? What are some things you like about it? Have learned from it?

My mom has always taken me to auctions and I loved sitting there all day with her. With our move to Cedar Falls, I acted on this passion for auctions and found a way to make some money doing something I love. The thrill of the find is the best part for sure! I have learned that the more time you invest in your business and your product, the more money you will make. There for awhile when I was stretching myself too thin trying to run TWO stores, doing shows, and being a wife/mom on top of it all, I was falling short all across the board. Looking back I can tell you all now, it's better to do ONE or TWO things tremendously than 5 things half ass. ;)

How did you start the Iowa Gathering? Where did the idea come from? How has it grown?

The Iowa Gathering was a total fluke! In the Summer of 2017 the production company needed us to sell our barn finds at a market in the area on a specific weekend in July. With no markets going on that weekend, I called up 15 of my favorite pickers, and in three weeks time the Iowa Gathering was whipped together! The attendees poured in by the carloads, sales were tremendous, and the ambiance was unlike any show experience before. Because of the great reviews, we now have the Iowa Gatherings seasonally with our next one at Brophy Creek Farm on June 24th. We aim to showcase a different venue in the state of Iowa for each show bringing in the best pickers and makers of the region. This is a ticketed event which gives it the intimate feel.

Tell us about your house! Rumor has it you kind of have a crazy renovation story.

photo by Mari Photography

photo by Mari Photography

Spencer actually found our acreage on It had been sitting on the market on and off for over a year. We were anxious to move back home closer to family before our oldest started kindergarten and have always dreamed of raising our family on a farm. We setup a time to get a tour of the house. The smell of cat pee filled the nostrils as soon as we walked in! I did a 2 minute tour and got out of there as fast as I could! Guys, I'm a barn picker. I can take a lot, but there was no way I was going to pursue. The barn did have it going on and the setting was stunning sitting up on a hill, but the house layout was less than appealing. The only thing going for the house was that it had been lifted and got a new foundation poured about 25 years ago. 2 weeks or so passed and we were laying in bed one night dreaming of the future. Somehow the #35thavefarmhouse got brought up. Spencer mentioned something about tearing part of the 2nd floor of the house out... LIGHT BULB! "That's an option?!!" Bam. Instant vision. The very next day we called the realtor and put in a low ball offer willing to buy in as-is condition. I about sh$t my pants you guys, but they accepted our offer with just one very small counter offer! Spencer had not mentioned anything to his work about relocation, I was 6 months pregnant, and I also had a profitable and established storefront in Cedar Falls.... This was a BOLD and BRAVE move, but we both let intuition lead the way! We closed on the house, demoed everything down to the studs, took out a construction loan, and haven't looked back since! With babe #3 just 2 weeks old, we made the move back to "home turf", lived in a rental for 6 months, enrolled Peyton in kindergarten, got Spencer transferred to a new sales territory with his company, I closed up the Cedar Falls shop and launched a website, and we contracted the remodel.... Phew! I am tired just looking back!

What's your favorite place in your home to be with your kids?

The kitchen - where the kids and I both can be doing something we enjoy: baking!

photo by Mari Photography

photo by Mari Photography

What's your advice for people who are wanting to make their home uniquely theirs? Be conservative and do small things? Go big and tear out walls? How do we gather the courage to make something really OURS and how do we even figure out what that is?

Making a home uniquely yours takes time! We bought our first home in 2011 to live in, but also as an investment. The outdated 1970's ranch got just 3 months of our time where we poured hours of energy into and turned around and sold making $25K profit. How much you are willing to work for what you want determines what you get! The stepping stones to get there always seem daunting, but five years FLIES my friends!! Hard work pays off! Listen to your gut (it never steered me wrong!) and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you.

So CM! is all about celebrating the mama life. How do you celebrate your mom life?

I try my best to stay in tune with myself and listen to my body. When I feel I need a break from mom + work mode I will do more mindless tasks like gardening, dishes, patio meditation, farm chores, mini road trip, go antiquing, or scroll Craigslist. A run through the coffee shop always perks me up as does a date night with Spence! The older my youngest gets, the more I feel like I am just starting to reel back in my own identity! The past seven years I feel like I have either been breastfeeding or pregnant, all while stretching myself way too thin in my "entrepreneur ventures." I have learned the hard way, but I no longer feel guilty for seeking a well balanced life. Well balanced starts with taking care of myself first! This took years of realization for me. I wouldn't be able to pursue my passions and not feel completely out of sorts (like I used to!) if it weren't for the amazing support system that surrounds us!

photo by Mari Photography

photo by Mari Photography



@mainandsecond (personal/lifestyle)

@campclimb @iowagathering (both my passion projects)