While studying agriculture in Prague in 2011, Mallory Jennings and her group came across a huge statue of the Greek goddess Demeter.
“She was strong and beautiful with leaves and plants throughout her hair, holding a bundle of grains,” the Lebanon resident said. “They told us she was the Greek goddess of agriculture, fertility and the harvest.”
Jennings, 28, has been fascinated by Demeter and her story since that college trip and it has helped inspire her new lifestyles grocery that will debut this spring in Lebanon.
“It’s called Demeter’s Common,” said newly engaged Jennings, who is ‘mom’ to felines Batman and Robin, as well as a dozen chickens.
Demeter’s Common is an oasis for Jennings who grew up on her family’s 300-acre farm – Big Springs Farm – in Lebanon. This lifestyle grocery is the culmination of her finely honed philosophy; that in order to live a fulfilled and happy healthy life, you have to be aware about what you put on and into your body.
“Where it’s coming from, how it’s made or grown, and who is making or growing it,” Jennings said during a break from painting a mural in her 1,300-square-foot store front. “Our beautiful Earth has provided and continues to provide us with all the tools we will ever need to live a healthy life. I cherish our Earth, the soil, the organisms within it; the science and rhythms of every animal, rock, fish, bug, raindrop, plant – the list is infinite, working together in harmony to keep our Mother Earth alive.”
Bun and bare feet
As a child, Jennings roamed their family farm with her three younger sisters -- Madeline, 25, Molly, 21, and Merritt, 17. She doesn’t take this role lightly and is a powerhouse role model. She got her hands (and bare feet) in the dirt early. She set tobacco with her dad when she was six, and “tomboyed” her way through an idyllic adolescence.
“We would swim in our creek and ride 4-wheelers, eat soybeans and it was all about a bun and bare feet,” Jennings recalled.
A favorite memory is an old house boat, hidden in the woods that served as a secret clubhouse. All the while, Jennings grew an appreciation for the outdoors and all things nature. She was an active member of the FFA throughout high school and college, took that trip to study agriculture in the Czech Republic and eventually built a greenhouse and, the past five years, homesteaded on her own farm nestled in Big Springs Farm.
Jennings gained her business savvy the last six years when she worked in a retail management position on an organic farm in Nashville. She graduated from Tennessee Tech in 2013 with a degree in agriculture with a minor in Agribusiness.
“Agriculture is a key part of my life, shaping me into the woman that I am today, and I thought it was time to share my lifestyle with my community,” she said.
Share the love of nature’s bounty
“I cherish the magic of holding rich soil in my hands and knowing that it’s the key to growing everything I will ever need,” Jennings said. “The feeling of holding a tomato seed in February, nurturing it and caring for it, then harvesting a sweet, sun ripened tomato in early July is probably one of the most fulfilling feelings I can ever explain. I love knowing how a coneflower and dandelion root can heal almost any skin problem I could ever have faster and more naturally than any tube of Neosporin could ever dream of. I love the beauty of a dairy cow. The trust they have in us to milk them every day and rewarding us with pure gold cream and milk. I could go on forever.”
But instead, she expounds on what she hopes will be a go-to grocery for her community.
“I love our magical planet, I love how with just a little understanding and appreciation, we could all benefit from what it has to teach us,” Jennings enthused.
She said teaching will be her mission at Demeter’s Common. She will show customers how to eat locally, and seasonally. She wants to educate customers on how to start their own a garden and plans to introduce them to local makers and farmers.
“I will provide you with the freshest ingredients for your weeknight dinners,” said Jennings. “I will provide our community with the best customer service imaginable. At Demeter’s, we will show you what it means to really live ‘farm to table’ and ‘farm to body’, because we are taking it to a whole new level.”
Fiancé Miles Miller is a traveling musician and shares Jennings’ passion for her new store. She said they don’t get freaked out by this new path, but rather embrace the challenges and triumphs along the way. Jennings said the ‘seed’ was planted a long time ago for this venture, and now she’s about to harvest the rewards of sharing her dream with others.
“I’m young, I’m willing and I try hard,” she laughed. “I’ll figure it out and I’ve surrounded myself with good people.”
Some of those people are over 30 local growers, makers and vendors she’s cultivated through the years working in Nashville in this industry. She will stock her store with products made and grown by people she trusts who “speak the truth” through their products
“I have a network of farms who grow beautiful produce and we will only provide seasonal, fresh products,” she said.
Kale, tomatoes, herbal teas, ferments, homemade cleaning products, body care and beauty products, local milks, cheeses, meats and eggs are some examples of what she will carry. And that’s just a drop in the bucket, she said.
But, it’s beyond the shelves as well. She will host classes that teach customers all about hosting dinners, planting heirloom seeds and working with healing herbs, among a host of others. Her friend will come to teach about homemade, natural dyes made out of onion skins.
“It’s about knowledge and understanding,” she said. “What I sell will be harvested that morning, 30 minutes before, and this lowers the carbon footprint.”
In the meantime, amid solidifying vendors and makers, she and three good friends work on a spectacular mural in her shop.
Of course, it’s of Demeter, with roots of the earth as her feet and veggies in her hair. She will be a showstopper upon completion.
To de-stress, Jennings practices yoga and loves hot tea and healing crystals. She’s renovated a farm house and that’s where she spends time during this exciting venture. Her sisters and mom plan to help out in the store.
“I want to give our community a new understanding and appreciation of what it means to love ourselves and our planet,” Jennings said. “It’s time to celebrate the beauty of our Mother Earth. It’s time to arrive to our bodies and redefine what it means to ‘treat yourself.’ Demeter’s Common will be a lifestyle grocery store because I’m ready to show you what I think it means to really live a lifestyle that celebrates the land we walk on. Join me this Spring to continue the beautiful celebration of agriculture, food, and the magic of our Earth.”
Demeter’s Common is located at 228 West Main Street in Lebanon, Suite E. Follow Demeter’s Common on Facebook to see updates and news heralding a Spring opening.