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Producing Excellence

Jimmy Carter

McDonough, GA

Southern Belle Farm

Products: Cattle, hay, agri-tainment, and pick-your-own farmers' market

Size of Operation: 330 acres

In Business Since: 1938

Farm Credit Partner: AgSouth Farm Credit

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1975

Diversification and innovation are watchwords embraced by two generations of Carters working together on the family’s 200 acres in Georgia.

Jimmy Carter, a sixth generation farmer, joined his father and uncle on the family farm in the 1970s. Over two decades later, Jimmy had transitioned from the dairy business to the feed business, and over the next several years, expanded further into beef cattle and hay. Jimmy wasn’t done diversifying though – he established an artificial insemination business in the 1970s, which has since evolved to primarily providing insemination supplies to local farmers.

Jimmy is not alone in his drive for diversification. His wife, Kathy, built a successful catering business, Farm House Catering, which she sold five years ago to a long-time employee. Their son, Jake, started bringing new ideas to the farm soon after college: he planted a “pick-your-own” strawberry operation on two acres, which was so successful he later expanded the strawberry acreage and added blueberries, blackberries, pumpkins and vegetables on a total of 20 acres. Five years ago they added peach trees to the operation. In 2016, the Carters added a new 10,000+ square foot farm market and commercial bakery to their operation.

Perhaps one of Jake’s biggest diversification efforts was opening the farm for agri-tainment in 2005, a business that has grown to host several thousand visitors in a single weekend. In addition to activities including a petting zoo, pedal bike track and corn cannon, the Carters create an intricate corn maze each year. In 2008, their maze gained national attention on ESPN when the local college sports announcer featured in the maze announced his retirement. Their 2011 maze focused on breast cancer awareness. More recently, the Carters expanded their agri-tainment operation through the Christmas holidays, now selling fir trees, decorations and wreaths and offering hay ride tours of the farm. This expansion effectively makes Southern Belle Farm a year-round agri-tainment facility, providing a consistent income stream for this innovative family.

Southern Belle Farm is also an event center, hosting large and small groups for everything from children’s parties to corporate events and weddings, up to 1,000 guests at a single event. The farm also has a passion for providing educational opportunities for school children where they see a cow being milked, pick cotton, strawberries, and pumpkins, and participate in many other farm activities.

As for the future, Jimmy says, “Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how we got to where we are today. Looking forward, who knows what we’ll be doing next. It’s exciting to see the potential we have.”

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