Mt. Airy, NC, is the home of a unique company called Nester Hosiery. Last Christmas, my daughter in law, Kim, gave me two pair of socks called Farm To Feet, and on the eye catching sock holder was a person’s picture, name and a little bio about what they did at the plant and their back ground. This perked my interest, and reading on, I discovered the socks were manufactured in Mt. Airy and used all USA materials. From the merino wool farmers to the other materials, it all came from the United State of America.
I immediately fell in love with the socks, their unbelievable comfort,and they even came with a lifetime guarantee. After checking out the Farm To Feet web site I discovered it had a discount store very close to the plant. I just had to go to Mt. Airy and check out this company. I thought textiles died in our state years ago, yet here was a thriving company. How come, I wondered? There must be a fascinating story behind their success, so this summer my wife and I drove to Mt. Airy with the expectation of getting a plant tour and checking out the discount store. The store was fun with bins of “seconds” at about half price. We could not see defects on any of the socks, but the company is so quality conscious, that any minute flaw got sent to the seconds bin. When I was ready to check out, Libby, the very personable and do-it-all lady who runs the store, asked if I was a military veteran and I said “yes” and showed her my identification. She thanked me for my service and said “all veterans get a 50% discount”. I thought she said 15% discount and I asked her to repeat what she said, “All veterans get a 50% discount”. With this unbelievable discount I went back and picked out more socks! When we got all the socks for us and gifts for others, I asked her if the plant did tours, and she said. “Yes” and called the plant. Returning she said, “The person giving the tours was gone to some sort of “sock convention”, (my interpretation) and was not available. That led to our second trip to Mt. Airy, Tuesday, December 17, with a tour appointment and an understanding I would write a blog on the Farm To Feet story
The tour given by Frankie Vernon (Human Resource Manager) surpassed all my expectations of a company that has resurrected a part of the textile business and is doing it with highly skilled local labor, and only USA materials. Another interesting fact is they consider themselves a “green” company, by utilizing as little resources and energy as possible to manufacture socks.
A few facts about Nester Hosiery: The Company was founded by Marty Nester in 1993 and its current president and CEO is his nephew, Kelly Nester. Both Marty and Kelly gainedextensive experience in the hosiery business, coming from another similar company. The Nesters located their first plant in Dobson, NC, not too far from Mt. Airy. It wasn’t long before they outgrew that facility and moved to Mt. Airy. The Farm To Feet logo is their brand and has been highly successful. The socks cost a little more than their competitor’s socks, but both quality and American made have won a considerable following.
The plant now produces 2000 dozen pairs per day, which includes some other name brand socks. This is all done by a work force of only 181 employees including the owner. The knitting process runs 24 hours a day Monday through Friday. It is fascinating to see how machines, programmed by computer experts, and tended by highly skilled employees, make such beautifully designed socks.
The Farm To Feet brand supports over 2000 workers in the US, all the way from the sheep farmer, spandex manufacturer, thread makers, knitters and eventually the packaging and shipping department.
Its location, 1546 Carter St., Mount Airy, NC, and only about a two and a half hours’ drive from the Raleigh/Cary area, make a day trip well worth the time. And of course, you can also take in the many sights and sounds of “Mayberry”, made famous by The Andy Griffiths TV show and Mayberry R.F.D.
By Larry Kingsley,
OLLI Member, OLLI Writers Group, Member of OLLI Voices Editorial Team