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Date added: 10 January 2013

Inspirational Women in Swindon - Part IV 

Liz Brackenbury meets Purton Organics farmer Rowie Meers in the fourth of our series
 
Sat in the welcoming rustic kitchen at the idyllic setting that is Purton House I waited to interview Rowie Meers, the farmer of this organic farm. It is immediately obvious that she's wearing a lot more hats than just being a farmer, which quite frankly seems a big enough hat to be wearing on its own!
 
The phone rings constantly, there are people popping in and out for a chat, to ask a question, for advice, to drop off a delivery or pick up an order, then there's vegetables to collect, eggs from her free range chickens to be sorted, vegetable boxes to be prepared, and all that's on top of being a mum to her three beautiful daughters.   
 
This is multi tasking at its best and she does it all with a friendly smile. Plus she has time to make a lovely cup of steaming hot coffee before we have a chat!   

So Iím intrigued to know what drives her to get up in all weathers all year long to find out why she is so obviously passionate about what she does.

"My husband Alex," she says simply, "our plans for our girls, the farm. Our life, our dreams, our future. Everything we talked about and dreamt of keeps me going. That's what drives me every day. This is my legacy to Alex."
 
Rowie Meers
 
Rowie and Alex met as teenagers. They were friends at first and quite quickly it developed into childhood sweethearts.

"We just got on so well," says Rowie, "he was my best friend, my confidant, my soul mate, it just felt like we were meant to be together, I couldnít imagine my life without Alex in it."

Rowie met Alex when she was taking time out from her farming background to explore other interests, and Alex had several careers, ironically none of them involving farming! 

She explains: "I suppose I was always going to come back to farming. Once itís in your blood it's impossible not to drawn back there. When Alex and I got together and marriage was obvious. Farming together felt meant to be."

"He embraced it as he did life, with enthusiasm, vigour and a natural love for it, it was our world, and along with the birth of our daughters life was pretty darn perfect."

All that was about the change. Unusually for a strong robust and physically fit Alex, he began to feel ill.
 
Leukemia

"It was so unlike Alex to be ill or especially to complain about it," Rowie remembers quietly, "it just wasnít like him at all so I knew there must be something wrong."

"But nothing prepared us at all for the news that Alex had leukaemia. It was incomprehensible. It just wasnít on our radar. It didnít seem possible that my loving, vibrant husband and devoted dad to our girls could be so ill so unexpected."

Doctors then delivered a devastating blow. Alex they said only had days to live. 

"He'd gone from feeling unwell to being told he was going to die within hours. I wasnít having that." says Rowie

"I fought hard to get Alex the best possible treatment and thankfully I was listened to."

After gruelling treatments, that Alex took with amazing determination and strength, he went into remission.

"We were so grateful and just embraced life with a new energy and purpose," Rowie remembers, "we made plans for our children, the farm, our house conversion, everything seemed back on track. And we made big plans! It was our focus. It felt great!"

"Alex lived life to the fullest. We all did! We loved our life!"

He was a dedicated family man, an amazing husband, a natural farmer and a great son and friend to many. He fought Leukaemia making every minute of his life count until 7 months after his initial diagnosis. The leukaemia took over. He died too soon aged just 40.

"I miss Alex every single day on so many levels. That's why I'm so driven to fulfil our dreams."

Fast forward to today and Rowie is one strong lady. She's focused on achieving their goals, as one half of a whole but with an  incredible determination and great support network around her. 
 
Dreams and passions
 
She gets up in all weathers to sow seeds and harvest some of the tastiest salads, vegetables and fruit that Iíve ever tasted! It's not been without its challenges, the rewards have been tough, but a focused Rowie has completed the barn conversion she and Alex had planned and continues to develop the farm as was their dreams.

"Iím passionate about what I do. Growing a seed into a vegetable or fruit or plant, organically, as nature intended is such a buzz for me and was for us both. I threw myself into being a mum and dad for my girls and into the farming.
 
"It felt and feels like Alex is still with me. It drives me every single day to follow our dreams and passion. Iím very lucky to have an amazing family and friends Ė and my girls, theyíre amazing, Iím so proud of them, They had made their dad very proud too."

The unpredictable British weather, the tough economic climate and the reality of farming without Alex has made it hard over the last few years. However their shared vision has seen Rowie continuing to follow their plans. She has recently expanded the farm shop to encompass more individual companies, bringing wholesome and locally sourced produce at the best possible price available to everyone.   

ĎIt's been highs and lows emotionally and business wise," states Rowie, "obviously we're affected by the weather and the recession, this combined with fierce competition from the supermarkets makes it a challenging time. But I have to stay true to my roots, and I am passionate about what we do here."
 
Purton House Organics
 
She describes Purton House Organic as a community farm right on the doorstep of Swindon. "I want to offer the best home grown and local produce this area has to offer at the most competitive prices. That's what Alex and I planned and thatís what I work every day to offer."

I don't doubt her commitment to this for one minute. Having spent a morning with Rowie there is no doubt that she is truely a genuine lady who is totally dedicated to what she does.

When so many would be - rightly - engulfed in grief, she is inspirational in challenging all her heartbreaking bereavement into something truly focused for a positive future. With such a positive and heart-warmingly generous personality, I have no doubt that she will make all their dreams come true.

You can find out more about Rowie & the farm via the link below.
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