3 Questions for Kelly Nester of Farm to Feet

When Nester Hosiery decided to source its Farm to Feet sock line exclusively in the United States, the company also saw an opportunity to make that the defining element of the brand.

The Mount Airy, N.C.-based, family-owned firm has been committed to keeping production local since its founding in 1993 by CEO Marty Nester. But like most sock makers, it uses wools and yarns from the States and overseas.

But for the new Farm to Feet line, the company is sourcing everything — materials, manufacturing and even the packaging and point-of-sale items — domestically. And while leaping into production is a new step, Nester President Kelly Nester, nephew of Marty Nester, said the firm sees big opportunity.

“[Starting to manufacture here] was a significant decision for us, and we’re committed to servicing our existing partnerships,” he said. “But we are very confident.”

The $18-to-$30 socks are launching with men’s and women’s styles in the casual, outdoor and fish/hunt categories. All socks in the line feature seamless toes, increased compression from the Achilles to arch, and deep heel pockets. Farm to Feet will begin delivering July 1 to outdoor and independent accounts.

Here, Kelly Nester sounds off on timing, sourcing and the debt Nester owes to the farm-to-table movement.

1. What made Nester decide to launch its own American-made line?
We decided 20 years ago this October to be committed to U.S. manufacturing with knitting and sock manufacturing, and almost two years ago we started thinking about a sock made from a U.S. supply for us. It needed to make sense within our business cycle, and fall ’13 became the season. The timing seemed right to make an investment in our own brand, and the opportunity and challenge of doing it with all U.S.-made materials just seemed really special, because we had made that commitment and we wanted to find other companies that had made it, too.

2. Was it difficult to find all the materials locally for Farm to Feet?
There is a great U.S. supply of wool and great suppliers, so we’re really excited to be buying U.S. wool for Farm to Feet, as well as for our existing business. [It was more challenging] buying the complementary [nylons and elastics that are woven with the wool], but we got all of those, so we don’t have any limitations on our constructions. Being able to source commercial quantities by color was [also] one of the big challenges — to figure out a supply chain where we didn’t have to take an absurd position on yarns to be able to have few limitations on color. But it’s been a pleasure to work a lot more closely with some of the U.S. partnerships we have.

3. Where did the name Farm to Feet come from?
It was a suggestion from a good friend who works in the technology industry. We thought it defined and [communicated] what our brand is all about. And it plays on farm-to-table, that idea of the controlled, transparent supply chain. For us, the metaphoric farm isn’t just the sheep ranch — it’s the whole chain of manufacturers and producers who put their work into a wonderful pair of socks.

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