I feel the need to preface this post with the fact that the western industry is full of some amazing folks and I have had the opportunity to meet more than just a few of them. I am excited to launch the “Industry Highlight” series to showcase some of those outstanding people. This is just the first of the series and I figured I would start with one of the best, the one and only, Natalie McFarland, owner of McFarland Productions.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Natalie and her business, she is pretty much a jack of all trades when it comes to digital media. The missions statement on her website says it all,
We have a passion for the western lifestyle; serving individuals and companies to connect the agriculture industry by promoting the heritage and tradition using powerful imagery, online digital marketing, and social media services.
McFarland Productions had its official start back in 2014 but Natalie has been doing photography since she was in college, which was around 2007. In recent years, she added videography to her portfolio and let me tell you, her videos are quite a treat. I asked her in our interview where she was based out of and her answer was something along the lines of “wherever my camera takes me”. She does have an office in Oregon that she uses as a home base, but she travels throughout the US (and soon beyond) capturing anything and everything western related.
What makes McFarland Productions different from the rest is the fact that Natalie puts her focus on the western industry. Her client work ranges from commercial work to cattle ranches and even some ranch weddings in between. If it’s Agriculture related then chances are Natalie is all over it. One of the things that stood out to me was that you could feel her passion over the phone, and that’s saying a lot!
When we started the interview, I always enjoy asking the question, “So, where did this start?” As other business owners understand, what your business starts as isn’t always what it turns into, but what Natalie started on the side in college, was just the beginning. She has now built a team of professionals that she can not only trust, but share her passion of the western industry.
McFarland Productions is a business, no, a group of people who have banded together with a passion for the western way of life, the heritage and traditions; we aim to preserve our culture, our lifestyle.
Some of the household names that she has worked with include: Montana Silversmiths, Pendleton Cattle Barons, Wrangler Network, PBR, Kimes Jeans, and Art of the Cowgirl that was held in Phoenix, Arizona last February. When I asked her about the clients she has worked with, she stated,
“It isn’t just the big ones (companies) I enjoy working with, I have a soft spot for the small maker as well.”
Obviously, the western industry isn’t a niche that you accidentally end up in. You have to have a passion for it, you have to have a connection to it and that is exactly what my next question was for Natalie. What attracts you to the western industry?
“Like a lot of little girls, I grew up with a huge love for horses it’s very much a part of who I am and who I’ve always been. I guess you can you say, I have a romance with it (western lifestyle). One of my favorite quotes is “You breed cow into a horse, similarly, horses have been bred into humans, they have just been a part of the human life forever””.
Why is documenting the western way of life and culture important to you?
“There is a lot of pressure on the agriculture industry and a huge lack of understanding. In order to preserve it, you have to educate people. Our position “being able to reach out and educate people in the Ag industry”
The western industry is tough to break into, how did you do it?
“I was determined to be engrained in the lifestyle, it was a side thing for a long time before the first big client came along. I forced my way into it and honestly, that’s what it takes.”
What was the turning point in your career when you realized photography and videography was what you were meant to be doing?
“The cornerstone client for McFarland Productions was Wilks’Ranch. They were our first big commercial client and after that, I knew it no longer just a side job. It went from a fun thing to the real deal.”
What has been your favorite place to travel to shoot?
“I really love any chance I get to end up on someone’s ranch or family branding. We get to spend time with the same people every year and really celebrate what ranching really is for the whole day. But I really love the variety andI would say that it is really circumstance oriented.
It isn’t just the western lifestyle you shoot, you also shoot weddings. Can you tell me a little more about how that came to be?
“I love capturing couples and trying to bring out their personality for their big day. When I shoot ranch weddings, I get to shoot and deal with people who are my people. I love incorporating their family ranch history into their weddings as well. We do things that aren’t typically weddings, but typically ranching.”
What does a typical day for you look like?
“What’s great about McFarland Productions is that every day isn’t the same. Although I do have some 9-5 days, there is a huge variation in what I do from shooting at the NFR to shooting weddings. It all has the common thread within the industry.
What does the “living” Cowboy Lifestyle mean to you?
“It looks a little different for different people. I think it depends on the part of the industry that you’re in. Living the cowboy lifestyle is really the set of core values, it’s the style of living, the way you treat each other, it’s the way you treat your neighbor, it’s the way you do business. It’s all centered around feeding America. Regardless of what you’re doing, it’s all in feeding America which is the basis of agriculture.”
What would you say to women who aspire to work in the western industry?
“If you work just as hard as the person next to you or harder and you just hustle, you’ll make it. One of my good friends and mentor told me there were three things that make a person successful: Attitude– Regardless of what anyone says, you’re going to do it and make any sacrifices to make it happen. Fear – Absolute fear of failure, but allowing that fear to drive you forward. Not accepting anything but success. Don’t allow yourself to scare yourself out of winning. Blind ambition – Just going after it, no matter what it takes. Just 150% at all times will make you successful. I try to live my life and run my business with those three principles.
In Closing, What’s next for McFarland Productions?
“Like any business owner, we are planning on growing and learning. One thing I don’t want to lose sight of is that every person I bring on the team is authentically, fully part of the industry. McFarland’s growth is based on the right people. Our ability to hire people that love the industry as much as I do. Yes, growing but growing mindfully so we don’t lose sight of the goal.
Needless to say, Natalie McFarland is a force to be reckoned with. I am so excited to see where McFarland Productions ends up and if it’s anything close to what we have seen from her already then the western industry is in for a treat. It’s an honor to be able to tell the story of the folks that stand behind the scenes of the western industry. Keep an eye out for the next Industry Highlight article coming next month!
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