If you drive onto the property of Hinds’ Feet Farm in Huntersville, N.C., you will immediately be struck by the peace and calmness around you—an intentional environment that beautifully suits the mission of a very special place.
Run by Martin Foil III ’85, the farm was created in response to a traumatic family experience that changed more lives than Marty and his family ever imagined. Foil’s brother, Philip, suffered a brain injury at age 16, and the family found there were insufficient treatment options for him in the Charlotte area and even around the state. The dream of creating a place where adults living with brain injury could learn and thrive together became a reality 15 years ago.
Today, Hinds’ Feet Farm welcomes 25 members to their day program and four full-time residents. A second full-time home is under construction, so that program is poised for growth. The farm’s second location in Asheville has 19 active members in the day program.
“My greatest joy in this work is that I’ve found what joy is,” said Foil. “Happiness is an emotion, and that comes and goes. But joy is a state of mind.”
Walking around the farm, Foil and the rest of the team—paid staff and countless volunteers—have a bond with the members that’s something special to watch. They don’t have clinicians or therapists, technically, but Foil says everything they do is therapeutic. Gardens, horses, walking trails, community spaces—every corner of the sprawling farm makes a difference in the lives of its members.
“Every day we’re open is another day a mother doesn’t have to put her son or daughter in a nursing home. People talk about meeting needs all the time, but eventually someone has to create the solution,” said Foil. “Davidson taught me about motivation and how to plan and execute.”
A fifth generation Davidsonian, Foil says Davidson is part of his DNA. His great-great-grandfather, Colonel Martin, is the namesake of the Martin Science Building.
Marty attended the college’s tennis camp for years, but it was July Experience—a pre-college program for rising high school juniors and seniors—that sealed his fate as a Wildcat. Foil had a class with the late Locke White from the physics department, and he decided if half of the professors had half of the passion of Professor White, he needed to go to Davidson.
“July Experience is the best secret weapon for recruiting talented kids,” he said. “It’s also the reason one of my daughters is now a junior there.”
Davidson wasn’t an academic walk in the park for Foil, and he remembers one course where he and his friend Forrest Ranson ’85 studied for hours upon hours for a test. They studied every statistic related to macroeconomics they could think of, and they showed up for the test prepared and confident.
“We walked in, and the test was an essay, which is exactly what we did not study for,” recalled Foil. “We both did so poorly, Dr. Peter Hess brought us in to figure out if we cheated. He did point out, though, that typically if someone cheats, they don’t score a 23.”
Foil ended that course with a C-, and he was prouder of that grade than of any other during his four years on campus.
Foil’s sense of humor shines through in his daily work at Hinds’ Feet Farm—a journey based on love and passion for those in need. The farm pushes him to explore new skills and to figure things out as he goes.
“Coming from a career in computer science, it was easy to question how I was qualified to do this,” he said. “But I always say I went to Davidson. And that means I can learn anything I want.”
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