Polk County, NC (WLOS) — The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” Pure determination, and a little help from friends, has made 2018 a year restaurant owners Carl Pleasants and Adrienne Wilson will never forget.
The pair lost their jobs two days after Christmas of 2017, when the Bright’s Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring shut down its food service as part of a bankruptcy declaration. Undeterred by that news, Pleasants and Wilson opened in 2018 with a plan to launch their own farm-to-table restaurant in Columbus — The Rural Seed.
The business plan for the eatery called for them to rely on Polk County farmers for meat and dairy products, but to grow the produce on Pleasants’ family farm in Lynn, along the Pacolet River.
Pleasants and Wilson’s husband John began planning the crops and establishing seedlings in January. In February and March, the cold weather crops were planted.
“We’d always grown something on it — tomatoes, fruit trees. It’s a great valley by the river and it grows just about anything, ” said Pleasants, the restaurant manager.
The Rural Seed has done brisk business since its opening in March. Pleasants and the Wilsons had worked together at various restaurants over the past five years.
“We’ve had a lot of good friends and family excited for us to do something on our own,” Pleasants said.
Mother Nature had other ideas, however, when Polk County was hammered with torrential floods just two months after the opening. The plan of self-sufficiency took a big hit.
“It wiped us completely out, ” said Adrienne Wilson, The Rural Seed’s chef. “I had never seen the Pacolet River rise that high.”
Pleasants recalled up to four feet of water covering the fertile land. “I lost everything that I had put in there for spring — everything for the summer.”
Wilson added, “It hurt a lot because it was the whole premise of our restaurant.”
Pleasants has learned resilience through his years working the family land. “My dad told me early, ‘You make a choice, you can sit there and be angry, you can be ticked off about it, or you can go do something.’ We decided to go do something.”
They didn’t have to look far when they had to regroup. Many of The Rural Seed’s customers are also farmers who embrace the farm-to-table model. “A lot of our business will come from farmers who come through our door, and they will sell to us,” said Wilson.
Friends will visit farmers markets and regularly pick up produce for the restaurant, and The Rural Seed will be hosting the farmers market in Columbus this winter.
“We’ve had people follow us from other restaurants who are rooting for us. We’ve had awesome business — things are looking up,” said Pleasants, who added that an expansion of the restaurant is planned.
Their determination was tested again this past September when most of the fall crops were lost to Hurricane Michael. Pleasants said community support from other farmers and the Polk County non-profit GRO (Growing Rural Opportunities), among other groups, has helped The Rural Seed weather the tough times in its first year.
“Sometimes, when a bad thing happens, something good is going to happen right behind it.”
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