Beef cattle watch from their pasture as you drive down the gravel road to J and J Family Farm near Clover.
Surrounded by hardwoods, the Jennifer Stalford and her family use what God put there to feed people.
“Our main focus are the mushrooms and our honey,” she said. “But we also produce vegetables and fruits and herbs and edible flowers.”
Food raised at the farm is sold to area chefs for their restaurant fare.
“I really enjoy working directly with the chefs. I can find out what they want to be made and that way it directs me on what I’m going to be growing,” she said.
Stalford also is proud that she has a Good Agricultural Practices certification from the United States Department of Agriculture.
“If someone gets sick at a restaurant, they’ll (investigators) come to the farm and go, ‘Show me what you do.’ And I can show them all the practices,” she said. It’s very traceable. That’s the key.”
Stalford said she worked hard to earn the GAP certification and recommends if other food producers want to do it, start the application process when their operation is small.
“The best time to do it is when you’re small,” she said. “If you have employees, you have to train your mindset on how they do everything. So it’s much easier to do it from the beginning.”
It’s just one of the many things Stalford has learned through trial and error in the three years she’s been operating the farm. Although her background was in non-profit management, she said she wants to inspire others to find a career in the dirt.
“Anybody can do it. My background is not in farming,” she said. “But my passion has always been growing things. Ever since I was a little girl, that’s what I remember, going to my grandparents’ house.”
Stalford’s husband, Jim, the other “J” in the farm name, grew up farming in Ohio. He and their kids help Jennifer educate visitors.
“We want to show people how and we love teaching people what we do. So education is a big focus of our farm. ”
The farm hosts volunteer educational work days, summer camps for kids, programs for garden clubs and workshops.
“Or maybe people who just want to see what it is and maybe introduce it into their own farms. I really want people to know how to do this,” Stalford said.
“I’ve worked through a lot of those learning curves of education to myself, which is continual,” she said. “There’s always something new to do and I’m going to tell people, ‘Here is what I’ve learned. I’m going to save you time, in which means money.'”
The Stalfords also try to make the farm as sustainable as possible. Wood harvested from the acreage is used to grow the mushrooms. Bees help pollinate the edible flowers, and items considered by others as trash have new life as compost or bed liners.
“I would love for more people to visit of all ages and backgrounds,” she said. “There’s always something for people to learn.”