By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. – Jeff and Felicia DaBell were on the verge of moving back to Jeff’s home state of Utah when their plans took an abrupt turn last year; a change of direction that Jeff says “had to be through divine intervention.”
Instead, the couple is creating an agri-tourism business named DaBell Family Farms on what Jeff calls “an old horse pasture” three miles north of Crossville. The 11-plus acre farm is off U.S. Highway 127 at 698 Maynard Road.
The business remains a work in progress, and advice they received during a course offered at Roane State’s Cumberland Business Incubator (CBI) has helped greatly.
Jeff and Felicia are doing the hard physical labor themselves as they put their business plan in place. They’re building greenhouses for salad crops like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. They’re installing infrastructure. They’re raising rabbits, chickens and hogs.
Visitors to DaBell Family Farms will not only be welcomed, they’ll be encouraged, Jeff said.
“I feel like it’s going to be a place where people can learn to grow their own food, raise animals and be self-sufficient,” said Felicia. Creating a brand new business during a pandemic is a daunting task, “but this is where we are supposed to be,” she said.
Both Felicia and Jeff formerly operated businesses. But to ensure they got off on the right start, they took the course titled “In Business, Now What?” at the Cumberland Business Incubator.
The CBI provides advice and assistance to those launching new businesses. The incubator also leases space to entrepreneurs. The 10,000 square-foot building is located next to the college’s Cumberland County campus at 2567 Cook Road in Crossville.
Felicia said she knew campus director Holly Hanson, who oversees the CBI, through an organization titled Business Networking International. It was at one of those BNI sessions that Holly told her about a CBI course titled “In Business, Now What?”
They signed up. Hanson was the facilitator and business coach. Other instructors for the course, which spanned nine weeks, were inventor Joe Swift and attorney Jake Horton.
“I feel like Holly is extremely good at what she does,” Felicia said. “She’s also a great networker who knows a lot of people in the community.”
The course offered “a lot of good information from beginning to end,” she said. “It gave us confirmation that we’re heading in the right direction,” Jeff said. The instructors gave advice on everything from patent law to marketing to understanding supply chains, he said.
“It also helped us connect with people in the community,” Felicia added. Branding techniques were discussed, and the DaBells even received suggestions on what colors to use on their logo. Tips on using social media such as Facebook and Instagram were offered.
The DaBells began by selling their produce at local farmer’s markets and at a roadside stand. By next season, they expect DaBell Family Farms to be in full operation. Learn more about DaBell Family Farms online at dabellfarms.com.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.