Mending fences, driving a tractor and feeding cows are daily duties for 26-year-old Jonathan Rivers on the farm he co-owns with his father in Chesterfield County. While he didn’t learn these skills at Northeastern Technical College, he did learn the business and management skills necessary for growing a successful farming operation.
J.R. Farms is a father-son operated cattle farm in Mt. Croghan with several owned and rented hay fields in Pageland. Rivers’ father, Jimmie, helps with the farm but also works full time at Conbraco. His mother, Michelle, is a former hairdresser.
“We’ve always had a few cows and a grown a little bit of hay,” Rivers said. “I have to say a special thank you to Mr. Tracy Sikes, who had a big farm up the road from us, for helping me get started in the business. In 2006, he sold me his cows and rented me his pastures. Shortly after that, Mr. Bill Hendrick sold me his cows and rented me his pastures. I guess they saw that I had potential to become a successful farmer if given the opportunity.”
J.R. Farms has grown from a handful of cows to around 100 brood cows on about 300 acres of owned and rented pastures. The herd includes black angus purebreds and angus crosses.
Rivers is a 2003 graduate of Central High School. He enrolled in the fall 2003 semester at NETC. He was unsure of his career plans when he started college, but he began working toward a business degree. He took some engineering graphics classes to fulfill elective requirements and found he really enjoyed learning about drafting and blueprints. He also took some welding classes that broadened his skill set.
Rivers spent four years at NETC obtaining an Associate in Business, an Associate in Occupational Technology in General Technology in Engineering Graphics, a Certificate in Drafting and a Certificate in Computer-Assisted Drafting.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I figured I’d go ahead and get those certificates and degrees so if I needed them, I would have them,” Rivers said. “Plus, going to NETC, which is exactly 17 miles from my home, was convenient. I could live at home and go to school, which was a lot more affordable for me than going off to college elsewhere.”
NETC didn’t teach Rivers how to put in a fence post or sprig 25 acres with Coastal Bermudagrass, but it did sharpen his business mind and provide him with hands-on building and welding skills.
“I wasn’t born into a big farming operation. It’s involved a lot of hard work, but it’s been worth it,” Rivers said. ““The good Lord has blessed me and allowed me to be where I am today.”
Every day on the farm is a learning experience, and every year the farm grows and improves, Rivers said.
“I didn’t go to school to be a farmer, but NETC was on my pathway to growing my family’s farming operation and making a good life for myself.”
To learn more about how NETC can be your pathway to a future, visit www.netc.edu or call 1-800-921-7399.