Janelle Francis didn’t come from a farming background, but she’s making up for it now. A native of Cape Coral and a Florida Gulf Coast University graduate, she moved to Punta Gorda after she got married in 2013. That’s where she started with her first chickens.
“People call chickens the ‘gateway livestock,’” Francis says. “And they’re right. Soon I was like, ‘I need more land. I need goats.’”
She got her wish soon enough. Francis and her husband moved to 2 and 1/2 acres, had twin boys and acquired a pair of goats in addition to the chickens. For the next few years, Francis ran her little farm as a hobby—until one day her husband very politely mentioned that the livestock were running up a hefty tab. Francis had stayed home to raise their boys, but this was the moment she decided that her farm needed to start generating income. She began raising microgreens as chicken feed, and soon reckoned that she could turn a profit by selling them at farmers markets and to local restaurants. “My first goal was to make a hundred bucks a month to cover the feed and the hay,” she says.
Francis got to work growing kale and broccoli microgreens, and in the spring of 2020, she set off for her very first farmers market. But it was a complete disaster. “It poured rain the whole time,” she says, “and nobody showed up.”
There she was with a cooler full of microgreens and not a single client. Until Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda called that afternoon. “Let me see what’s in your cooler,” the restaurant’s owner said. Francis showed her what she’d grown. “OK, I’ll take everything,” the owner told her.
That was the moment that launched Francis Farm from a hobby into a professional enterprise. Since then, Francis has expanded her microgreens business to a variety of restaurants and multiple markets each week. Today she brings in enough cash flow to cover her chicken feed—and then some.
Take that first step
Francis said that the hardest step in her journey to becoming an agricultural entrepreneur was the very first one. She laughs now, remembering. “I don’t understand what the big deal was back then.”
The step she’s talking about? Creating a Facebook page for Francis Farm.
As someone who’s dealt with social anxiety all her life, she was afraid of putting herself out there. The thought of speaking to new people was terrifying. But once she made the leap and launched her business into the world, she received an incredible amount of support. “Everybody was like, ‘Do it, do it,’ and that propelled me forward.”
Today, at her weekly farmers markets, Francis lights up when she has the chance to speak to new customers. “Now it’s second nature to me,” she says. “I love going to farmers markets and talking to people. It just took that one big step to get me started.”