Photo: The lodge at JT Family Farms
By LANDON WOODROOF
For the past five years, Tracy and Sara Garrison have been working on getting JT Family Farms up and running. While that might seem like a slow start, you have to consider that JT Family Farms is no ordinary business.
In fact, the business is several things at once, including a beef cattle operation, registered hunting preserve and special events space. More than that, it is a place of sanctuary, spirituality and, as the Garrisons like to call it, “soul care.”
On Friday, the family formally announced JT Family Farms’s opening to the world at a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Williamson Inc.
JT Family Farms is primarily split into two sections. There’s the special events space and quail hunting area located on 150 acres just a few miles southeast of Historic Nolensville, and then there’s the 400 acre cattle farm situated between Woodbury and Smithville.
The ceremony was held at the Nolensville property.
Driving on the gravel road back to the house that is the main structure on this property, one passes fields of colorful wildflowers and other indigenous vegetation. They were not always there.
This land was used as a cattle farm for many decades, overrun with fescue and orchard grass. When the Garrisons first decided to open their own farm, Tracy wanted to change that.
“The idea was to have a sanctuary for our state bird the bobwhite quail,” Tracy said.
That meant replacing the fescue and orchard grass with indigenous wildflowers and other pollinators. It was a tall, time-consuming task. However, with the help of organizations like Quail Forever and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Garrisons made it happen.
The restoration of the native habitat was not an end in and of itself. The Garrisons wanted to share their land and help inculcate an appreciation for nature in others. They particularly want to reach young people who may not have ever had an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
That is where the concept of “soul care” came in.
“The vision from that would be to create a place we call soul care,” Tracy said. “We could bring young men or young women who are perhaps fatherless or don’t have a mentor in their life” to let them experience nature.
The idea was a powerful one for Tracy, who grew up in Northwest Tennessee in love with the outdoors.
“I’m one of those guys when I get off the corporate jets and have some downtime I’d rather be in the outdoors with my dogs or my horses than out on the golf course, it’s just how I’m wired,” Tracy, who is an executive at HEXPOL Rubber Compounding, said.
To accommodate visitors, the Garrisons created a lodge out of an old hay barn on the property, which used to belong to Sara’s grandfather, John Thomas Scales. The couple used 150-year-old wood from a mill in Columbia to make new ceilings and have decorated the space with various antiques, including an antique Steinway piano.
“We wanted to create an environment that was warm and welcoming,” Tracy said.
Altogether, the Garrisons want JT Family Farms to be a place that nourishes the body and soul of its customers and visitors.
“I think today people care about what they put in their body, people care about humane treatment of animals, and regardless of how you vote right, left or center I have not met a man or woman who doesn’t care about giving a young person an opportunity,” he said.
The sense that everyone deserves a chance to get the most out of nature and life is something that Tracy said was ingrained in him from a young age by his father.
“He believed that God’s creation and the animals and every man woman or child should have the same opportunity and that it shouldn’t be limited by somebody’s checkbook,” he said. “I tell people we grew up rich, but we had no money.”
As far as the farm is concerned, JT Family Farms is a for-profit operation. Tracy wants it to be financially sustainable, but his business model is also a personal one. The Garrisons have put a lot of themselves into JT Family Farms, and he is certain that if that passion resonates with others, the business will be successful.
“If people today catch the heartbeat of what we’re trying to do, the commerce will take care of itself,” he said.
The lodge and quail hunting part of JT Family Farms is located at 2818 Sanford Road in Nolensville. To schedule a special event, a quail hunt or to inquire about purchasing Angus beef, visit the JT Family Farms website.