Four Foot Farm by Arlene Childers
Community organizations are helping make farming a viable career option in Rutherford County. Many people are learning how to become entrepreneurs through Sustainable Agriculture, Farmers Adopting Computer Technology (FACT), and REAL Entrepreneurship Classes. Foothills Connect Business & Technology Center’s Farmers Fresh Market (www.farmersfreshmarket.org), where local farmers use the internet to sell their fresh produce to Charlotte restaurants, counts more than 100 farmers among its members. Isothermal Community College offers entrepreneurship classes and seminars that help local entrepreneurs build strong businesses.
Four Foot Farm is the home of Paula Wilson and Jill Maner, who raise dairy goats and produce to sell through the Farmers Fresh Market. Their farm motto is, “Sustainable Agriculture: Skills of the Past – Inspiring the Future.” Jill and Paula both lost their jobs due to facility closings, so they decided to take their love of animals and sense of responsibility to care for the earth and turn it into a business. Jill and Paula took advantage of entrepreneurship education opportunities including the Sustainable Agriculture Class at Foothills Connect Business & Technology Center, and the FACT and REAL Entrepreneurship Class at Isothermal Community College. The REAL Entrepreneurship Class helped identify individual strengths and weaknesses, and it taught day-to-day business concepts. “It is important to research thoroughly and make sure the business is realistic and feasible.” Through the classes, Jill and Paula developed partnerships with other farmers to create the Southern Foothills Growers (SFG) Farmer’s Co-Op Group which has about 21 members. The mission of the Southern Foothills Growers is to identify and expand the role of farmers/growers in our communities. Jill and Paula plan to expand their produce market by introducing permanent irrigation and row covers. Their advice for others is to take advantage of all educational opportunities and tap all resources. “You do not have to have huge acreage, lots of money, or lots of equipment to be a successful grower, you only need desire and imagination.” Jill and Paula are true inspirations to farmers everywhere.