Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Middle Valley resident Pat Stewart’s current job is a far cry from her years spent working for Fortune 500 companies.
Today, she owns Down to Earth, a small conglomeration of plant growing, herb blending, T-shirt designing and more.
Stewart grew up in Middle Valley, graduated from Hixson High School and then from UTC with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. Then she spent 32 years working in testing manufactured food quality.
Her plan was always to leave the corporate world when she was 55.
She actually left at the age of 54 and a half, eventually starting Down to Earth.
As the daughter of avid gardeners, the now-61-year-old has been growing things all her life. Down to Earth encompasses 2,400 square feet of greenhouse off East Varner Road where Stewart grows her herbs and plants to sell at the St. Albans Hixson Market, among other venues.
“Basically, [I plant what] suits my fancy,” she laughed, explaining she doesn’t grow plants on a mass scale. “I’m more interested in quality than quantity and variety than volume.”
Her years of experience testing food quality against USDA regulations didn’t go to waste — she still uses her know-how every day as she produces edibles for her customers.
Beyond growing plants, Stewart designs her own brand of Garden Girl T-shirts. She also concocts her own recipes of herbal tea and seasoning blends. Though she doesn’t grow everything that she blends, she said she makes sure to buy it from a reputable organic source.
Stewart even dabbles in photography, selling her pictures as note cards, and she’s a master herbalist, often collaborating with her local doctor to help create herbal alternative medicine options.
“My brain never sleeps,” Stewart said. “I’m always thinking. I really enjoy educating people. I like to speak to groups and I like to help people solve their own problems with their gardens.”
The tagline of her business is “Garden-inspired Goodness,” and Stewart said she tries to come up with lots of different products to belong under that umbrella.
Catch up with her on her blog at downtoearthtn.blogspot.com, or stop by her booth at St. Albans Hixson Market at 7514 Hixson Pike, open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.