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Meet Jake Carter of Southern Belle Farm

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jake Carter.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jake. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Our farm was established in 1938 by my grandfather as a dairy. The farm continued as a dairy run by my dad and my grandfather until 1986 when they ultimately sold the cow herd… From 1986 until 2006 the farm sat idle and grew vacant all the while developers were eager to purchase the farm in order to meet the housing demand in our new urban community.

Our county, Henry County went from a small rural town consisting of around 50,000 residents to the present day of over 200,000 residents. Due to our close proximity to I-75 and Atlanta, we are an ideal location for our residents to commute to work. We sat down as a family and had serious discussions as to whether or not we were going to sell our farm to developers and move on or were we going to try and continue to work the land as a farm. My dream, as was my dad and grandfathers, was to be a farmer. It was and is in my blood.

In the meantime we had a lot of folks, our new neighbors, coming to us asking us a lot of questions about farming and agriculture in general. We saw this as an opportunity, instead of keeping the gates closed to the farm keeping people out, we could open them up and let people in. 2006 marked the first year that we decided to do just that with inviting local elementary school groups to come out to learn first hand how a cow is milked and to visit our corn maze and pumpkin patch on the weekends.

I believe that first year we had almost 3,000 people show up. We were so excited that the community was buying into our new found venture of agri-tourism that we decided to expand the farm beyond the fall season to include spring. In 2008 we grew our first crop of u-pick strawberries, which led to u-pick blackberries, u-pick blueberries, and u-pick peaches. We opened our brand new farm market last year selling local products and homegrown goodies also equipped with a bakery. We are very blessed and fortunate to say that in 2017 we estimate that we had well over 100,000 visitors enjoy our farm.

Has it been a smooth road?
Like in any business there are certainly struggles along the way. As you can imagine we have a lot of ideas and projects etc that we like to implement on our farm. I for one can be impatient and want to include and implement new ideas right away.

I’ve learned over the years for instance that it doesn’t and can’t be built overnight, and to be patient. I’ve learned sometimes the hard way that no matter what “we” or “I” want to build and implement here on the farm, it all goes back to the customer, this farm was built for our guests who visit and they are will always be the ones who must approve of any changes.

Like any farming, weather plays the most critical role in our business. We have lost several crops due to a late freeze, or drought or too much rain. Farmers are some of the most optimistic and resilient people on the planet and “there is always next year”, has been uttered more than once

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Southern Belle Farm story. Tell us more about the business.
Whether its the fall season when families come out to enjoy our pig races, corn maze, pumpkin patch, and hayrides or the spring and summer season when families come to pick their own strawberries or peaches and visit with farm animals I believe our authenticity sets us apart.

Families can come here and pick strawberries and sit in a rocking chair on the front porch of our market enjoying a cup of homemade strawberry ice cream and our famous strawberry shortcake, knowing that our family is responsible for growing or producing that product.

I am most proud of the fact that while families come here to enjoy the authenticity of our farm, they leave here with not only a better understanding of agriculture but with a stronger family bond built by spending quality time together while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I have a positive outlook for our industry. People now more than ever want to know where their food comes from and want to experience it first hand.

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