Hospitality expert, Jennifer Thomas traded in her high heels for work boots and hasn’t looked back. Here’s what she’s doing post-pandemic lay-off.
EUSTIS, Fla. - Growing up, Jennifer Thomas was always surrounded by animals and nature. Her parents owned a bed and breakfast in Georgia and raised and trained horses. Raising horses became a big part of Jennifer’s life at a young age and she embraced it throughout school and even into college. However, like so many people, you reach that proverbial fork in the road where you have to decide if you are going to build a future in your hometown or if you are going to pick a different path, a new career, something outside of your comfort zone.
For Jennifer, that fork in the road led her down the path of Hospitality and event management. Immediately after college she got her foot in the door at a hotel and started building her career and working her way up towards management.
“I started fresh out of college as a front desk agent and then moved into the catering department as an administrative assistant for several years,” Jennifer explained. “ I took many manager training classes and then was promoted to meetings and convention manager. I found my passion in that area of hospitality and have been doing it for 15 plus years.”
Jennifer found her niche professionally but never forgot about her passion for animals and wanted to bring her roots down to Florida. Although at the time she was working in Orlando, almost three years ago she bought a property in Eustis, nearly an hour from Orlando, where she could start a small farm, with horses and other animals, for her family to enjoy.
She named the quaint farm C and C Farm after her two sons, Calvin and Charlie.
“Everything I do in life is for them in some way or another! Being a mother has been the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she said. “I am a very ‘big picture’ kind of thinker, so I wanted a farm name that I could pass on to them for their kids one day too.”
Unfortunately this year Jennifer received devastating news that due to the pandemic, her full-time position at the hotel she worked at was eliminated and she was being laid-off. Albeit, very shocking news, she knew she needed to pick herself up and not let this set back define who she was. She contributes that quality of perseverance to her upbringing.
“My parents were always entrepreneurs, so I grew up seeing and being part of a high quality work ethic. To succeed, you have to start at the bottom and work hard for everything, ” Jennifer said.
With her career on hiatus, Jennifer decided she was going to hang up her stilettos, put on the work boots, and open up her farm to the public as a possible revenue source. She describes her farm as a unique and very nostalgic view of the rustic environment.
“We value the simple pleasures of gathering eggs, sharing cherished moments with humble farm animals, laughing at their antics, and caring for them when they are sick,” Jennifer explained. “The American dream has metamorphosed into a desire for the joys of nature. We share our love for farm life with others.”
What started as small photo sessions for families, turned into a full-on “hobby farm” where she offers kids birthday party packages, horseback riding lessons for beginners, a small farm wedding venue, and scenic outdoor photo session locations with or without the use of my farm animals.
“Since covid, I've had to completely re-invent a source of income to provide for my family and still maintain a healthy mental state of mind through all of this,” she said. “I have always been a strong-willed, strong-minded, hard-working girl that doesn't give up easily and this has definitely made me dig deep.”
C and C farm activities can be found on their website. Jennifer has been busy this holiday season thinking of creative activities to incorporate on the farm including pictures with Santa, letters to Santa, hayrides, and fun holiday farm games. She even has a loveable miniature cow named Blue that the kids (and adults) can meet.
“I love educating people about my animals,” she said. “Waking up every single day with all my animals and tucking them all in at night is my favorite thing about the farm! I dedicate special time with all of them each day - for handling and exposure - training and just plain ol' love and attention.”
Jennifer invites everyone to follow her on Instagram for updates on C and C Farm happenings and hopes that more families will come to visit, if even just to take pictures on one of her creative farm backdrops.
“I am obsessed with taking pictures of nature itself and my animals. So being able to share with others what I see every day really just makes me smile.”
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