Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”
Farmers around the country may look at this quote differently, but it’s pretty clear that Tom Hordnes is taking the “happiness” part to heart.
“It’s a whole different world,” says Hordnes. “Everything is yours. You planted it, you grew it. It’s nice to go out there and see everything that you have done actually growing and then eat it off the vine.”
Hordnes is a quality assurance representative with the Charleston District’s Fort Jackson Resident Office who spends his days ensuring construction projects are up to code. He started his 21-acre farm with his girlfriend, Denise, in the spring of 2010 with a simple goal to have self-sustainment.
“There’s a big movement for natural foods,” says Hordnes. “For us, it’s five minutes from the garden to the table. People come to our house for dinner and know that their salad was picked half an hour ago.”
Hordnes’ farm is 100 percent natural, but not organic. What’s the difference? They don’t use hormones, pesticides or steroids, and all of the feed is natural. But getting the label of “organic” is an extensive process and costs thousands of dollars a year.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” says Hordnes. “I know that all my stuff is all-natural and anyone can come take a look at it.”
They named the farm “Paradise Acres,” because as Hordnes puts it, you look over the property and “it’s just paradise.”
Paradise Acres is the birthplace of produce, chicken eggs, bees and more, on a year-round basis, thanks to the greenhouses that have been installed on the property. Hordnes is the “labor force” at the farm, but knows he couldn’t do it alone.
“I’m the labor force, and Denise is the business force,” says Hordnes. “But she does a lot of labor too. She does the morning chores and I do the evening chores.”
But what does that entail? Hordnes gets to Fort Jackson by 5:30 a.m. every day so that he can leave early in the day to then spend 3-4 hours working at the farm. He usually only picks produce once a week, but he’s always working to make new gardens, fix fences, clean chicken coops, or whatever else needs to be done.
Over the years, the operation has expanded from just growing their own fruits and vegetables to selling approximately 80 percent of their produce at the local market.
“We have a lot of standing orders from people,” says Hordnes. “Denise even makes gluten-free pastries that get cleaned out in the first hour at the market.”
Hordnes is a graduate of Clemson University’s Beginning Farmer Program and now takes interns from across the United States to help out on the farm.
“Students come out and work the farm and learn about the different animals and what it takes to keep them healthy,” says Hordnes. “They learn about the different types of soil for the produce and even learn the business end of it. They learn that if you’re producing a certain amount and it costs a certain amount, you have to sell it for certain amount to make a profit.”
As Hordnes’ business continues to grow, so does the smile on his face. He’s been around farms and animals since he was young and is looking forward to the opportunity to keep doing it through his eventual retirement.
“We’re both getting older, but we don’t want to stop.”