We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamie Rosenthal and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
In 2018, I sold my farm in Jasper, GA and moved back to Atlanta to work in the urban ag and permaculture space. At the time I was rereading Toby Hemenway’s “The Permaculture City,” and something just clicked for me. While rising land prices were making it harder and more expensive to operate urban farms, homeowners and businesses in the Atlanta were spending $4b per year on landscaping services. I thought, what if we simply showed land owners and landscapers how to make urban areas more ecologically sound? Rather than relying on grants and donations, these huge landscaping budgets could be used to fight climate change, grow green jobs, and feed people all while solving for a bunch of other ecological problems. That was really the genesis of Roots Down, realizing that there was plenty of money to fight climate change, we’d just been looking at the wrong budget line.
What should our readers know about your business?
I get this question a lot, and I think what really sets Roots Down apart from other companies and organizations working in the space is that we filter everything we do through two lenses. First, is what we’re doing useful to people in a practical way. With so many converging crises, we’re well passed the point of theory. We need action, and so everything we do is focused on providing people with the tools and resources they need to take direct, local action in their own neighborhoods, cities, and counties. Climate change will be solved at the local level, and that’s where we’re focused. Secondly, we believe that saving the world should be a good time. People alive today have an enormously important role to play in the future of the planet and our species, and while that’s scary and, frankly, depressing at times, it also can be a source of inspiration, passion, and even joy. That’s the space Roots Down wants to play, at the intersection of action and joy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, for starters, we’d definitely have to visit one of the 6 Fruitful Library gardens we’ve installed around DeKalb County…maybe the Clarkston Library garden, where we’ve converted almost 10,000 sqft of degraded lawn into a pollinator garden and mini food forest. For food, you can’t leave Atlanta without grabbing some ribs or pulled pork from Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ near Adair Park and the West End. While you’re there, why not drop into CreateATL, a new co-working and event space near the Met. It’s got a great mission, a Finca to Filter coffee shop, and an adorable pocket park that opens to the neighborhood. If you’re a fan of a little urban exploration, there’s an old abandoned waterworks off the trails around Mason Mill park. I always love walking around there. I also have to give a shout out to my hometown of Decatur. The Decatur Square is the perfect place to spend an evening, especially in the spring and fall. Oh, and you’ll probably recognize it from tons of movies and TV shows since it’s a popular filming location.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Oh man, there are so many people that have gone before me and my team. As they say, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. First and foremost, Toby Hemenway’s book “The Permaculture City” was a massive influence on me. He laid out the need (and opportunity) for permaculture in urban spaces, and that book was a tremendous foundation for launching Roots Down. I’ve also been massively influenced by the regenerative work of Alan Savory and the Savory Institute, of land stewards like Ben Falk of Whole Systems Design. With regard to our work here in DeKalb County, none of it would have been possible without my business partner, Tres Crow, who has been instrumental in helping focus the business model and create a fun and engaging brand. Commissioners Ted Terry and Mereda Davis-Johnson were also tremendously helpful by taking a chance on us early on. Commissioner Terry in particular has been an inspiration to us as he fights for better landscapes and ecological practices in DeKalb County.