Growing up in the beautiful, lush mountains of West Virginia, Tammy L. Jordan has always had a deep love for nature. At the age of five, she dreamed of owning a farm, and that desire only grew with time. After over a decade of working for USDA in agricultural research, Tammy left her federal job and went full-time with her company, Fruits of Labor, Inc. (FOL), which marries agriculture with the culinary industry. The 22-year-old company expanded into retreats with the addition of the 218-acre Fruits of Labor Retreat Center and Agricultural Production systems in 2012, which offers renewal retreats for pastors, expansive production gardens, a training orchard, berry production, mushroom production, floriculture, floral design, and maple syrup production systems.
The Training Centers (now in its 11th year) provides a unique culinary and agricultural Farm-to-Table program, which is a nationally recognized American Culinary Federation (ACF) Quality Program for adults in recovery from substance use disorder or at-risk youth/young adults and youth aging out of the Foster Care System. Fruits of Labor offers the only ACF Quality Program in West Virginia and one of less than one hundred in the nation. Students receive ACF Continuing Education Hours for each successfully completed semester. Upon completion of the ACF program students may choose to either certify at ACF Certified Culinarians or ACF Certified Pastry Culinarians. Fruits of Labor operates five training cafes, bakeries, and coffee shops across the region that house nine commercial kitchens and four conference centers at various locations. Agricultural collaborations with multiple colleges and universities allow Fruits of Labor to host training seminars for the public and interns for integrated systems research and management experience. Nine free agricultural training programs will be offered to the greater community over the next two years.
[WVDN] Why did you choose to make Greenbrier County your home?
As a child, I can remember going to The State Fair of West Virginia on Route 60 from Beckley, and I saw Swift Level farms on the way and dreamed of owning a farm someday in Greenbrier County. Tootie Jones is now a long-time friend and supporter of our program for those in recovery, so that makes that childhood memory even more precious in my heart. In the early 2000s, I lived for a decade on a farm in Greenbrier County and started Fruits of Labor’s Catering facility at Dawson. From there, the expansion to Rainelle just made sense to begin to engage in the community to provide opportunities for our students to have employment in our first café and bakery. Next, we were excited to expand into Alderson, which supported us in the farmers market, before we took the leap of faith to add another café, bakery, and coffee shop location. Over a decade ago, I moved just a couple miles to another farm just barely outside of Greenbrier County on the edge of Fayette County; however, Greenbrier County will always hold a place in my heart, and I’m grateful to have locations to serve the community within the county.
[WVDN] Why did you choose your career in the food and catering business?
With a background in Agricultural Research at USDA for over a decade and a long family lineage of amazing cooks and bakers, it just made sense to expand to offer not only farm products but truly farm-to-table culinary and baking before it was even a popular thing to do. I love the opportunity to see production systems from the soil going to the plate within one organization.
[WVDN] You founded Fruits of Labor to help people recover and return to society. What was the impetus for this decision and how does it positively impact the people and society?
Fruits of Labor was founded as an agricultural production company and then expanded to offer catering, floral design, wedding cakes, and wedding coordinating. It was during a visit to Alderson Prison that my heart was moved to see how we could support women (and now men) in recovery on their journey to see healing in their lives. It is such an amazing blessing to get to encounter a student’s devotion to recovery, the hard work they invest to create healthy changes in their lives, and how they become leaders in our organization to support others on their journey.
[WVDN] Can you share a particularly memorable person or situation during your career and how it impacted you? How did it restore your faith in community and service?
Our two-year-old training center located in Rainelle, West Virginia was washed out up to the broken café windows on June 23, 2016, during the 1000-year flood. All was lost. As I write this, we have just journeyed through the 7th anniversary of recovering a town already deeply impacted by substance use disorder. I cannot describe adequately the challenges of lives lost, almost the entire business section under 2-9 feet of water, and over a hundred homes being destroyed. So, as my team and I were trapped that night upstairs, the challenge seemed great, and taking hold of hope once again seemed greater. The community support and the support from volunteers across the nation and even the world poured into Rainelle, and I still get tears in my eyes thinking of how much hope that brought to such a dark time. The ache of Greenbrier County was felt in so many communities, and yet coming together allowed rebuilding to occur.
[WVDN] If you could go back in time and spend an hour with any West Virginian from history, who would it be and what burning question would you ask them?
As an author of two books, I’ve always been drawn to other authors. I visited Pearl S. Buck’s Home in Hillsboro, West Virginia as an elementary school student on a field trip. It was such an amazing experience. If I could go back in time to spend an hour with any West Virginian from history, I would spend time with Pearls S. Buck. I would ask: How did her faith help her overcome the challenges of a difficult marriage, finding care for her child with special needs, the loss of her home from a violent attack in China, and the destruction of her manuscript by looters? How did she feel on the journey to press on in the hope of making a living writing in the face of so many rejections and finally see the dawning of a new day to become a best-selling author and Nobel Prize winner in literature?
About The Greenbrier County Hero
Greenbrier County Hero is a weekly column highlighting interesting people living in Greenbrier County. The column was originally named “Meet a Greenbrier Countian,” which ran in The West Virginia Daily News for multiple decades. If you know of a person or organization that embodies the spirit of humanitarian service, volunteerism and/or has exceptional talent, please, let us know! Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.