With her top-notch photography of scrumptious-looking meals, gaggle of social media followers and partnerships with recognizable brands like Whole30, you’d expect food blogger Maria Barton to be based out of a big city, like Chicago or New York. While she did live in both for a brief period, though, it wasn’t until she moved to Bellefonte in 2014 that she kicked off her food blog, Maria Makes.
It started as a hobby and means of sharing recipes with family and friends, including a mixture of DIY and crafts and food blogs. Over time, the blog, www.mariamakes.com, evolved to reflect Barton’s passion for straight-forward, helpful recipes that combine whole ingredients with crave-worthy flavors.
“I don’t tend to post as much in the way of stories (like other food blogs),” Barton said. “I like to explain the recipe and what people might like about it and offer different ways to make it. I’m sure to give any tips or tricks that I think would be helpful. ... I think sometimes some blogs can just assume people know everything, but a lot of people aren’t super comfortable in the kitchen. I make everything really accessible and make it an easy recipe to follow so people don’t become intimidated.”
While the blog isn’t Barton’s full-time job and she follows a more organic editorial process — writing when she can and about ingredients she has on-hand, whether from her own garden or the local farmers markets — she’s still found success partnering with other publications to promote her recipes on a national scale. One partnership in particular was a turning point in her blog, widening her audience and increasing her growth.
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“At one point, Whole30 put out a post asking for recipes for a chance to be featured,” she said. “I’d emailed them saying I’d love to be featured and submitted some recipes. They have a huge following and that was a good way for me to get some new people really following my blog. I have a lot of Whole30 and paleo recipes. ... I feel like that was a launching point for me, where I started to get more followers because I was posting that kind of content and it was really popular at the time.”
Since the initial Whole30 partnership, Barton has continued to work with the brand, contributing series on everything from unique ways to spice up your Taco Tuesdays with whole ingredients to a “summer on a stick” series, for all things kabob.
Even with Barton’s successes, however, the endeavor doesn’t come without its challenges. She cites time as an occasional obstacle, as well as keeping up with an industry that’s constantly adding new mediums. But instead of spreading herself too thin and trying to conquer every new social media platform and app that’s available to bloggers, Barton commits her energy to only the ways she can be most present, which is, for now, through the blog itself.
She’s not about to get complacent, though. Barton’s goals for the future include building partnerships with local companies and enhancing her own skills as a blogger.
“You can connect with people from everywhere just by simply leaving a comment or sending someone a direct message and that’s what I’ve been doing, trying to reach this broad audience,” she said. “But I’d love to be able to connect with people locally. There are so many great food companies in State College now. We have Fasta, we have Maine Bay & Berry, Nature’s Pantry. I’d love to consider how I can partner with them, help them with recipe development even for their own channels, and build up that part of (the Maria Makes brand).”
Regardless of what she’s up to, there’s still one rewarding part of food blogging that Barton loves the most.
“There’s nothing I love more than ... when someone tells me they made my recipe and they loved it,” she said. “That’s why I do it. I have this thing that I love to do and when I can connect to someone through that and share my love for cooking and the recipe with them ... I just love hearing that. That’s why I do it; I want people to be able to find and love my recipes, too.”