Gardening expert Emily Shepherd’s unique designs at YARD to TABLE have the power to transport.
Shepherd sees herself as an “awe hunter-gatherer, helping people develop that ability to draw life and beauty from the earth beneath their feet.” She helps her clients’ gardens flourish so they can nourish their owners, body and soul.
Last summer Shepherd watched droves of people gravitate to the outdoors because they had more time on their hands and for their emotional health. She launched YARD to TABLE (Y2T) and, while many small businesses have floundered, she realizes she is fortunate to have thrived in the garden coaching industry. And thriving is what she’s all about…
“My goal is to pioneer the edible landscaping and organic kitchen garden movement sweeping the country, here in the Charlotte region,” she said. The way she puts it is, “Gardening is part of our human experience; it is hardwired into our DNA.”
March is Women’s History Month, and as a female small business owner, Shepherd has cultivated a healthy sense of power in making her own mark by doing what she believes she was created to do.
“Y2T has allowed me to fully pursue and embrace my heart’s desires,” Shepherd says. “I love encouraging other women to pursue that as well. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all operated out of our sweet spots?”
She first recognized her love for gardening while in college in Charleston, S.C.
“I spent many a happy study break roaming Charleston’s streets and alleyways during college, peering into hidden gardens,” she recalls. “While studying in Spain, the walls coated in flowers enthralled me.”
These experiences are evident in her work–whether in the form of an “awe wall” or an edible landscape installation.
She got her start in gardening as a Nature Study teacher. The school yard is where her passion flourished.
“I would return late at night to fix up the garden with a new strategy,” Shepherd says. “The plants just had to grow. I could not let those kids down.”
This giving-back through gardening eventually extended beyond the school. Shepherd became involved in community gardens while leading one for her own multi-ethnic faith community, Wellspring Church, and in working with refugees. Shepherd sees many refugees leave highly agrarian cultures and arrive to urban food deserts. Working with them to establish gardens has had the power to unite, heal, and inspire–a victory garden of sorts.
She’s finding some of the same fulfillment with Y2T.
As all successful business owners realize, they don’t arrive at that place alone. Having taught gardening in schools for many years, Shepherd had the expertise and skills to launch a garden coaching business, but she sought official training and mentoring to coach and consult with Gardenary.
“That support was critical, especially without a background in business or entrepreneurship,” Shepherd says. “I would encourage anyone interested in launching a small business to align themselves with a business coach.”
Shepherd’s own daughters have grown up watching their mother sow the seeds of her calling, “with their feet in the soil,” she says. They are her “most precious garden, requiring tending, patient pruning, and fertilizing… stunning her regularly.” In day-to-day operations, Shepherd gives them the freedom to be as involved (or not) as they wish.
Savvy business women also do not halt when life throws surprises. Instead of shutting down, Shepherd opened up to the possibilities of extending her reach through publishing last spring.
“When the pandemic closed everything down in March 2020, I decided to use that time to fulfill my dream of writing a book,” she said. “I started by gathering all the years of experience from teaching children in the school gardens and addressing parents’ questions and doubts that they could ever grow their own garden at home. Then, I distilled it into an accessible and readable eBook on Amazon. The feedback has been tremendous with all 5-star reviews. People have found it helpful and inspiring, and that encourages me.”
The biggest gardening mistake Shepherd sees is people not focusing enough on developing their soil, which is why she devotes an entire chapter to it. Another theme she explores in her book is that all gardeners need to see themselves primarily as “shepherds of the decomposers in their soil” who will do much of the work needed if we only provide what they need.
Most importantly though, Shepherd wants to see people not give up on gardening too quickly. Even she admits to having failure. “I am still learning how to embrace those moments as part of the process. A gardening life is just too rich to go without.”
That is where a garden coach can step in and take away the overwhelming part.
Shepherd explains, “Y2T can help you remain on your quest to find the green that’s latent in every human thumb–even the skeptic’s.”
In lieu of, or in addition to, all those Peeps and jelly beans this Easter, consider the joy and adventure that might be found through one of Shepherd’s Salad & Herb Boxes this year for your little ones (and yourself)!
Win a complimentary 15-minute virtual coaching session with Emily! Get your most burning garden questions answered once and for all. Just be one of the first three to comment below with a topic you’d liked covered in Emily’s next Y2T FREE newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered straight to your inbox (containing year-round, seasonal planting tips).
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