To say Wesley Wells is a farmer is like saying there are feathers on a chicken. Wells didn’t happen upon the farm life, he was born into it. His family is the third generation to raise produce on the family’s 800 acres in St. Johns County. In a time where many Florida farmers are retiring and selling their land, the Wells Farm is exploring new opportunities and adding poultry, beef and pork.
“Corn and potatoes are our main thing,” Wells tells me as we bump along a well-traveled farm road toward the livestock. On the right, dormant brown fields stretch almost to the horizon awaiting their early spring planting. On the other side of the dirt lane, unseasonably verdant pasture is fenced off in parcels. Bright green pumpkin vines, sprouted from discarded jack-o-lanterns, flower out of season in one square—another indication of the warm winter. They’ll die back with the first frost, or when the cows come to graze this pasture again, whichever comes first.
We follow the barbed wire fence to its final corner and, turning, come face-to-face with a lone brown cow standing in the middle of the road. The Wells’ six children, along for a ride in the farm truck, laugh and urgently call out the obvious, “Daddy! There’s a cow in the road!”
“It’s a lot different raising livestock than crops. Definitely a lot different,” Wells tells me in his steady, measured way before shooing the cow back in with the rest of the herd.
It turns out the cow in the middle of the road is a repeat offender, illustrating the extra care animals require. “Crops are seasonal. 120 days and you’re done. Animals are year round,” he continues.
Compared to the large-scale produce farm, raising 30 head of cattle feels like a hobby for Wesley and wife, Amanda, but they provide beef, eggs and pork to many locals.
In Florida, farmers can’t sell meat directly to consumers. Instead, they sell meat “on the hoof,” meaning a cow is delivered to the butcher and families can pick up their whole or half cow once it’s processed. The Wells have a waiting list for the beef from their Dexter cows. Half the size of Angus or Brahman bulls, these are more realistic for families to purchase for the freezer. Shopping for local meat is a healthy, sustainable choice.
“We try to grow the food for everything we sell. These get a corn, peanut, soybean mix, all grown here,” Wells says, gesturing to two bulls and nearby hogs and turkeys.
Wesley and Amanda’s children are involved in farm life; even the toddling twins help shoo chickens out to the barnyard while the big kids collect eggs. “My favorite thing is feeding the cows,” Juliette, says. “I like MooMoo. She’s the black and white cow.”
“MooMoo is a boy,” Amanda says kindly. “So your favorite bull is MooMoo.” There is always a lesson at hand on the farm.
For this family, a lot of learning happens outside the classroom. Dedicated home educators, school days typically start around 9 a.m. in the farm office, where Amanda pulls double duty as office manager and teacher. On nice days, you may find the family schooling at a picnic bench, and everyone loves when Daddy leads science experiments.
“People ask how we do it all. Farming is hard work. Parenting and schooling are hard work. We do it with Jesus’ help,” Amanda says with a smile. “The only way we can raise our kids well and farm is with His help.”
Not that the Wells family shies away from work. Wesley remembers childhood memories of creating fields from woodlands for his grandpa and making summer money pulling stumps and picking up sticks.
As the family expands into a third generation of farmers, they’re proving that faith, love and hard work is enough to support a spreading family tree.
To learn more visit wesleywellsfarms.com