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It’s only natural at Stoney Slope Farm in Gray

In her early 20s, Emily Peters worked at a nursery where she had to wear a lot of protective gear to handle pesticides.
Peters began to wonder, if she had to put on that much protective wear to spray the pesticides on plants, then how safe was it for her to later eat those plants?
Since then, Peters and her partner, Patrick Linkous, have been growing their own food at Stoney Slope Farm using natural methods, and selling the excess at area farmers markets.
“We just wanted to know where our food came from. There’s a real detachment that people have now with food and when people go to the grocery store, they aren’t thinking about how it’s grown.” Linkous said. “It’s important for us to be confident in what it’s grown with and how it’s grown.”
Linkous, originally from the Knoxville area, and Peters, who grew up in the Johnson City area, met through a mutual friend.
They are now in the fourth season of their produce partnership. Both have a passion for growing food naturally and educating others about what it means to eat naturally grown foods.
Stoney Slope Farm is located on the farm that was Peters’ childhood home in Gray.
She and Linkous raise an assortment of produce, including lettuces, squash, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, peas, okra, beans, corn, sweet potatoes, peppers, radishes, melons, berries, spinach, herbs and even cut flowers.
“I took a botany class in high school and that was really what set all of it off. I’ve always loved plants and flowers and growing things,” Peters said. “We’ve been able to turn my childhood home into what I always thought it could be.”
Her love of growing things, combined with her years of nursery work and first-hand experience with chemical pesticides, have enforced her conviction about growing food with care.
Linkous shares Peters’ love of natural gardening.
“I’ve done gardening in different capacities for probably 10 years, off and on, in different places, but never so much for the market as we have in the past four years,” he said. “I’ve grown up around it. My grandfolks had gardens and I used to help them when I was younger.
“It’s been a part of me to do the naturally grown. It’s something we’re really passionate about — to not apply chemicals and things of that nature.”
Locally grown produce is also important to Peters and Linkous.
“We realized a lot of the area farmers markets don’t always have the actual people who grow doing the selling,” Peters said. “The Jonesborough market is where we found our home because everything that is sold here has to be grown by the person who sells it. This keeps it local. We only live about 11 miles from Jonesborough. Considering that some food travels thousands of miles, 11 miles is really close.”
The pair’s .75-acre garden is ever expanding. They are working to incorporate more fruit trees and berry bushes into their plantings.
Linkous describes these plants as “an investment.”
While it will take about four or five years for the trees and bushes to produce fruits or berries, the plants will last for a number of years, so they will not have to replant them each year.
Linkous and Peters continue to maintain their garden using all-natural methods.
“There’s a lot of hands-on work, picking insects off by hand and coming up with creative ways to manage pests,” Linkous said. “It takes a lot of time between the weeding, watering and the harvesting to come to the market. It’s a labor of love, but we get so much back from the customers and the support we find at the market.”