I got to know Justin during his tenure at Skylight Farm, an organic farm just outside of Atlanta on the historic Glover Family Farm property. We met just over three years ago at the Piedmont Park Green Market when I, a stranger, asked to photograph his farm for this “Farm to Canvas” painting series I was working on. He graciously invited me out, and even though I still have yet to finish a single painting in that series, we became great friends. I am lucky enough to also be friends with his lovely bride, Brittany, a communications and marketing wizard with an eye for beautiful aesthetics (she helped me with tons of brainstorming for this website!).
While the Aiellos were still in Atlanta, we hosted two charity farm dinners together at Skylight Farm, and I spent countless hours with them harvesting, photographing veggies, and talking about agriculture and life. I didn’t want them to ever leave Georgia, but I was still thrilled when Justin got opportunity to be the farm manager at Olivette.
I got the chance to visit Olivette this past February when the greenhouse was barely assembled and nothing was in the ground yet. When I went back earlier this month, I was totally amazed at the bounty that’s already there! With a slightly cooler climate than Atlanta, their growing seasons are a little more compressed than ours. So even though it was June, the two main fields were mostly full of gorgeous greens and spring vegetables like fennel and broccoli. There were several rows of baby blueberry plants, and Asian pear seedlings had their own patch near the homesites. The greenhouse was packed with microgreens of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Justin noticed earlier this spring that hardly any other local farmers were selling microgreens, so he jumped to fill that hole in the market.
You see, Justin isn’t one of those “we’ve always done it this way” sort of folks. He’s got a great mind for business, for creating and executing plans, and for creatively using the resources at his disposal. And he’s a perfectionist. That much is obvious when you look at the way he cleans and presents his produce. I thought his microgreens looked awesome, but he wants to get them just right before he starts pushing them to Asheville area chefs. As a customer, you can tell the difference. Three years of buying produce from him set my standards very high!
Another thing that I appreciate about Justin is that he takes great care to be a good steward of the land. That’s part of why he left the landscaping business several years ago–he wants to sustain and better the earth rather than fill it with chemicals and deplete the soil. He treats the four acres he’s currently farming with such respect and gratitude, hoping to make it better when he leaves than when he got there. That’s why the Olivette community seems to be the perfect fit for him. Their vision is “a community where our connections with water, nature, food, community and lifelong learning are seamless and foster sustainable happiness.” I think that sounds pretty ideal.
You can read more about the community here and the farm here. Olivette Farm offers shares of a CSA (community supported agriculture) and currently sells at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market and Mars Hill Farmers Market.
For awesome veggie, flower, and farm photos, follow Justin on Instagram @olivettefarm.
If you’re in Asheville, get in touch with Justin, and go see the farm! He loves visitors! If you’re not nearby, here’s a two minute video tour of Olivette Farm: