Charlie Blaylock taps into the Blue Zones Power 9 principles of PURPOSE through farming and growing the community.

For Charlie Blaylock, farming is his “ikigai,” a Japanese concept meaning “why I wake up in the morning.” Since childhood, he has felt a calling to work outdoors, and while it took a couple of decades and a few career twists and turns, he finally tapped into his life’s purpose six years ago when he started Shine’s Farmstand.

In Blue Zones areas around the world, having a strong sense of “Purpose” is shown to support a healthier, happier life. As one of the Power 9 principles, knowing what you are meant to do and actually doing it can add up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

While Blaylock felt pulled to work outdoors at a young age, it took some time to make that dream a reality. After serving five years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he earned a college degree and worked as a pharmaceutical research chemist for 15 years. Despite a good salary, Blaylock didn’t find joy in daily life. So, he did something that some might find a little crazy. He walked away from it all—and started farming. Now, he’s happy to be living his personal “ikigai.”

“The farm supports my creative and artistic side, it provides our own food and livelihood, and it enables me to share with the community,” says Blaylock, 48. “The great thing is that everything I learned doing pharmaceutical research, I now use with plants and soil biology.” Complications from skin cancer surgery provided the wake-up call for Blaylock to pursue his passion for working with the soil and watching things grow. He hopes others can experience a similar awakening. “I see people who are always looking for the next thing to try to find personal fulfillment -- a trip, a car, a house, whatever,” Blaylock explains. “I could see that I would be doing that if I didn’t find a way to fulfill my purpose. Community interaction, personal growth, accomplishment and challenges -- we need these things for an interesting, textured life. I can get all that through farming. Plus, I get pretty flowers and tomatoes,” he added with a grin.

Blaylock finds personal satisfaction in helping other area farmers “grow” and work toward a more robust local food economy. He manages and is president of the Cowtown Farmers Market and serves on the board of the Tarrant County Food Policy Council, which supports access to healthy, affordable foods. He’s also lent his expertise to establish Opal’s Farm on the banks of the Trinity River, to provide vegetable garden space to people with limited access to unprocessed foods. Other food-related community involvement includes the Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration and Grow Southeast. Involvement with the local food community also helps Blaylock align with the Power 9 Right Tribe principle of connecting with others. In the world’s original Blue Zones, the longest-lived people chose, or were born into, social circles that supported healthy behaviors.

Blaylock also exemplifies the Blue Zones principle of Family First, sharing his life’s passion with his wife Laura, and working side by side to educate consumers about the value of fresh, local produce at the farmer’s market each Saturday. He jokes that farming gave him the opportunity to leave a “very lucrative indoor, air-conditioned job to work outside for no money at all.” But he encourages others who are thinking of pursuing their Purpose to pre-plan and think it through. “I’m a pragmatic guy,” Blaylock says. “Before I left my safe, intentional job, I figured out how to make my next, purposeful step sustainable and make sure it would support me and my family. Farming will enrich your life, but it’s not going to make you rich, for sure,” he joked.

While Blaylock made a dramatic career change, he says it’s not necessary to quit a job to tap into your individual purpose. What’s important is to identify what brings you joy and gives you a reason to wake up in the morning, and then find ways to actively incorporate that activity and feeling into your daily life.