We had the good fortune of connecting with Paul and Betsy Priest and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paul and Betsy, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
We are #growingthegoodlife. As both school teachers, now farmers and market coordinators, Paul and I’s (our) purpose has always been to create a thriving life for ourselves but also to encourage others to flourish. In the classroom, we empower, love, build and learn from young minds. We tend and grow our garden, Shady Grove Farmstead so that we may feed and nourish ourselves and our community. And even now as market coordinators, our ultimate goal is to develop and support local business owners. And, as parents, we share and include all these experiences with our daughters. All of this in turn, feeds our souls and inspires us to continue to evolve and grow good food. Shady Grove is uniquely intimate, for us and our customers. And it is this intimacy that we believe creates quality: quality of life, quality of food, quality of relationships, and quality of time. By keeping our scale small and working mainly with pre-industrial hand tools, we get to enjoy the physicality of the work while tending to each row and the connection with the people we meet through the farm. We grow using organic and regenerative techniques and in the intensive European market garden styles. We touch every plant regularly from seed to harvest. We offer our customers diversity through our seasonal produce such as eggs, vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, and more, as well as a variety of delivery and pick up options. We know that the food grown on Shady Grove is the freshest, most nutrient-rich produce available. And we are honored and humbled to share it with others. It is a level of connectedness that is extremely satisfying and fulfilling. It is spiritual, it is sacred work for us. And we believe our customers can literally taste that care; they can feel the love put into their food.
What should our readers know about your business?
Shady Grove Farmstead started as a side venture of entrepreneurship from our daily teaching jobs. Over the years, our suburban farm has slowly but perfectly grown into a thriving business. Paul loves to cook, we both love to eat good food, and we learned that the freshest foods equate to the best meals and recipes. So we started growing our own food in the backyard. As we began to have excess, we would share with our friends and family. Soon that turned into a small, but ever-growing weekly email list of customers that we delivered to. Now ten years later, we have an email list of over 200 people, we sell produce and flowers to restaurants and a local farm store, we coordinate a farmer’s market, and attend a variety of events to sell our produce. All the while we are raising our two girls and still teaching full time. Time has always been one of our biggest challenges. But this challenge has actually become a huge asset. Because farming is not our first gig, we have always grown in small increments, adjusting to each new expansion. Whether using a tried and true bed prep process between each planting or creating a wash station that fits our needs or keeping detailed notes on plants and customers, we have learned to become as efficient as we can because time is in such limited supply for us in the garden. We have also learned that we can produce a lot in a very small space. Even now, we have room to become more efficient and more productive on our 1-acre lot. There is no real need to get bigger if we still have room to get better where we are. We have also recognized and become attuned to the rhythm of the garden, the spirituality inherent within its nature. The garden has always provided and we have learned to trust in her bounty. And sometimes her lack of bounty which often is at just the right time such as we need some rest or are wanting to travel. We understand that all things have their place, their purpose. We have learned that diversity creates the life and health and vitality of the garden and that which she provides. And we believe that is a beautiful reflection of how we feel about the greater world we live in. The garden has taught us to honor it all.
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?
One of the things we are “digging” the most right now is the focus on local and the revival of the small town downtowns. Here are some of our favorite places to eat, drink, hang, and shop in these growing downtown districts. BRASELTON: FOOD & DRINK: Braselton Brewery, Cotton Calf Kitchen, Local Station, Blake’s, SHOP: Joy Company Market, Braselton Farmer’s Market on Friday evenings, and multiple antique shops to peruse LAWRENCEVILLE: FOOD & DRINK: Local Republic, Exhibit Ale, Dominic’s, Universal Joint, Slow Pour Brewery, McCray’s, The Blue Rooster, and more HANG: Aurora Theater SHOP: Slow Pour Farmer’s Market on Sunday afternoons, Lovin Flowers, WINDER: FOOD & DRINK: Bistro Off Broad, The Lobby, Latin Flavors and its RoofTop bar and bottom floor “speak easy, Rock Solid Distillery SHOP: Drunken Gypsy, Our area is also home to a growing number of small farms, many of whom you can meet at the Braselton and Slow Pour Farmer’s Markets: Shady Grove Farmstead, Fry Farm, Southern Harvest Farm, Dirt Road Farm, Struggleville Acres, Cattywampus Acres, Faithway Cattle, Finch Creek Farm, Thousand Hills Cattle Ranch and more.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
WE LOVE SLOW POUR BREWING COMPANY in LAWRENCEVILLE! Owners John Reynolds and Marty Mazzawi, Manager Nate Grove We were delighted when two years ago, the Slow Pour Brewing Company asked us to decorate their tables with our homegrown flowers. They took a chance on us and gave us a new platform to share the bounty of Shady Grove. This last year, we were even more delighted when the manager, Nate Groves asked us to start and manage a Farmer’s Market at the brewery. Through the market and other weekly events, Slow Pour has become a hub for the community to come together to celebrate local products, good beer, and ultimately people. At the Sunday markets, the experience of shopping is no longer one of drudgery but one in which our customers look forward to their weekly visit to the market to talk to and learn directly from those that produce and create the goods they are purchasing and consuming. And we are grateful to John, Marty, and Nate for giving not only Shady Grove that opportunity and platform for success, but all the businesses involved with the brewery. We have always been amazed with how the leadership at Slow Pour actively seeks to grow and empower the local community and business owners. For us Slow Pour represents the small town revival that is happening all across the country in which people are valuing local products and relationships with the producers. This set of values is reflected in one of their mottos…THE MOMENT MATTERS. Life is meant to be enjoyed, savored, and an opportunity to live in the now/the present moment. It is an opportunity to slow down. We believe this adds to the vitality of our community and we are humbled to be a part of such a wonderful place! We are also ever grateful to our loyal customers. They are our friends and they are our family. It is truly their support and their love that has allowed us to see this dream into a reality.
Heather Dupree Photography