Rooted in Tradition

With a family tree that has been planted in the area for nearly a century, Indiantown resident Donna “Jonnie” Wall-Flewelling keeps old Florida thriving with an instinct for sustainability

188
Photo by Jason Nuttle

Donna “Jonnie” Wall-Flewelling holds a master’s degree in behavioral disorders from Florida Atlantic University, but formal education isn’t what excites her. The busy entrepreneur likes to get her hands dirty—quite literally—with her many projects. On her property in Indiantown, the 67-year-old raises grass-fed, antibiotic-free, free-range cattle and pigs and 10 goats; grows seasonal lettuce, squash, and tomatoes; harvests honey; tends herb gardens; makes her own jams and jellies using local fruits (guava, strawberry- vanilla, pineapple); creates finishing salts (rosemary, Himalayan, and basil-infused); and curates tea blends.

She also runs Indiantown’s historic Seminole Inn, the nearly 100-year-old country inn owned by the Wall family since 1976. “I love all of my projects, but what gives me the most joy is running the Seminole Inn,” says Wall-Flewelling. “I like illustrating the rich history of Indiantown while meeting our wonderful guests.”

Wall-Flewelling’s family first came to Indiantown from Georgia in 1919 to find work, and they have been here ever since. At 91, her mother, Iris, is the town’s longest-living resident, who still lives in the family home and raises cattle. “We are the last frontier, the history of Indiantown where folks either farmed or raised cattle,” Wall-Flewelling says proudly. Her dad, Homer, cut fence posts, while Iris baked biscuits in a wood-burning stove. The family had no water or electricity back then, but Wall-Flewelling and her siblings enjoyed a great childhood playing in the woods and discovering the wonders of nature—“swamps, huge alligators, and lots of mosquitoes,” she says.

To maintain Old Florida traditions and educate people about them, Wall- Flewelling provides cultural tours and experiences for hotel guests. In addition to inviting them to study the inn’s 90-foot mural of the Seminole Indian tribe, she offers local experiences like turkey or hog hunts, trips to Lake Okeechobee, private ranch tours (her family owns the High Horse Ranch), and farm visits so visitors can get a real taste of Old Florida.

For Wall-Flewelling, sustainability is important— and not just in the sense of preserving Florida’s rich history. “I believe that for a rancher or farmer, sustainability is instinctual,” she says. “We know where the land ends, and we see how much water we have so the grass is strong for the cattle. We look at animals every day—we are dependent on that level. Since I was raised in a family that ranched, we are conservative and careful with our resources. We don’t spend what we don’t have.”

Much of what she raises and grows is served to guests at the restaurant inside the inn for a true farm-to-table experience. She has also been working to preserve the Florida Cracker cattle breed as well as to start an organic elderberry grove. She never stops implementing sustainable solutions to protect her livestock and maintain her land.

She loves spending time with her family, including husband Greg, daughter Christy, grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. And she somehow finds the time to run the other businesses she owns: The Farm at Fox Brown wedding venue and Crackers, an old diner near the Seminole Inn. At press time, she was getting ready to open a brand new cozy tea and coffee shop, The Last Train Out, inside the inn. “I love meeting new people, enriching their experiences, building our businesses, and improving our lives,” she says. “I thrive on making people happy. “I am truly blessed.”

Facebook Comments