From CEO suite to farm land, one man changed his life to be with family.
Bruce Nelson, part owner and manager of Reverence Farms Café made the move from Boca Raton, Florida, to Saxapahaw, North Carolina, just a few years ago. His daughter, Suzanne Nelson had invested herself in farming, and Bruce decided it was time to make the move.
“She was always inquisitive. She went on a search and decided she wanted to eat more healthy,” Bruce said of his daughter.
Suzanne says the beginnings of Reverence weren’t based in her desire to farm but her passion for healthy eating.
“I wanted to eat milk that came from a cow that ate only grass, and that should not be a radical concept but it still is,” Suzanne said. “I wanted to eat eggs from chickens that were able to be outside, eat grass, eat bugs, but also be foodstuff that I found appropriate.”
With that dream in mind, she moved from Washington, D.C., and with a loan from her dad purchased 10 acres of land for a family homestead. As her dream grew, so did the farm, where they now own 400 acres of land.
Suzanne says Bruce’s role was more than just the wallet, and her family refers to his position lovingly as the “chair of the ways and means committee.”
“I know no one better than my dad at leading people and understanding how people interact with one another,” Suzanne said.
Bruce retired from his CEO position at Office Depot where he was in charge of over 55,000 employees globally. He says many of the same issues between running a corporate business and local farm are the same.
“Where do you find great people? How do you create a culture that makes them say, ‘I like working here?’ How do you get them to believe in what you’re doing?” he explained. “Those challenges are identically the same they’re just different scope.”
The biggest difference is who he’s working with.
“My business partners are my family, I don’t have shareholders. And we can do things that are good for the long term, not the short term. We can do things for the good of many, rather than the good of few,” Bruce said. “In that sense it’s radically different.”
As far as the name “Reverence” for the café, both Bruce and Suzanne say it’s rooted in their family values of faith and respect.
“When I named it Reverence Farms, what I was referring to was reverence with life,” Suzanne said. “I was OK with the concept of eating animals, but I wanted it to be done in a way that had reverence. Every animal’s lives matter.”
The family has so much respect for the animals, in fact, that they pray over the animals before harvesting them. “We thank them for their lives, we treat every animal regardless of species as if it has value,” Suzanne said.
Bruce tries to embody those same values of reverence seen on the farm, in the café.
“We’re stewards of land, we’re stewards of animals, and we cook food the way it’s supposed to be cooked. It’s simple,” he said.
A majority of the meat produced and raised on the farm is brought to the café and served with local vegetables and products from around the area.
“We value the community. We give back to the community,” Bruce said. “We want to be good members of the community. As [the farm has] grown we can do more of that.”
Reflecting back on the past 10 years of farming, Suzanne says she hopes more farmers look to agriculture to help improve the planet.
“The reason we’re here now is because I fell in love with the idea that agriculture could be a regenerative rather than a restractive act. That’s amazing. We learn in history about the alchemists, and how they are crazy and of course you can’t make gold out of nothing, but every day we make gold out of nothing. It’s the coolest thing ever.”