Meet Meg Darnell! Meg was born in Santa Monica, California and raised in the suburbs of Roswell, Georgia. She graduated from Pope High School and moved to Athens in 1997 to attend UGA, where she studied nutrition and graduated with a degree in Food & Consumer Sciences. Meg is co-owner and co-operator of Community Meat Co. with her husband, Gus. They raise and process pasture poultry and run Community Meat Co. where they buy pork and beef from local farms distribute it in a CSA model with monthly pick up at Normal Bar. She has a certification as a Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, and started Vital Roots, a nutrition consulting business. Meg is also a server at The National. She lives with Gus, and daughter, Frances, on their farm in Colbert. They have three dogs, a Great Pyreneese, Mable, who watches the chickens, Mina and Layla who are inside dogs and a cat, Kitty.
What inspired you or led you to your current career?
For as long as I can remember I have been into food. When I was a kid I used to create meals out of what was in the fridge when my parents were out. Like, “pizza” from sandwich bread, marinara and string cheese and my famous fried bologna that consisted of microwaved bologna. I started reading more about nutrition in high school and went on to study it in college. I became vegetarian at 19, disgusted with what I learned from friends about the conventional meat industry. About ten years later I was having health issues related to nutrient deficiencies and was starting to work at Farm 255, the first farm-to-table restaurant in Athens. I was exposed to the whole farm-to-table movement, including sustainable meat and that there was a different way to raise meat that was healthier for the animal, land and consumer. I met Gus there and we did our first chicken processing workshop together at Daniel Dover’s farm. It was important to me that if I was going to start eating meat again, that I be able to process an animal start to finish. After we had been dating awhile, Gus decided he wanted to do a farming apprenticeship, and I thought that sounded rad so we explored that together. A friend of ours who was getting his Ph.D. at UGA was just finished and moving back to Indiana, outside of Bloomington, to start his own farm and family. He heard we were interested in farming so he created an apprenticeship for us up there. We did beef, pork, chicken, turkeys and rabbits. We lived up there for a year and also worked on a vegetable farm. It was really hard work, but really fun and awesome. We’ve been farming on our own ever since. The story behind my NTP certification is long but I will say that I’ve been fascinated by the connection between soil health and gut health. Farming & nutrition are definitely intertwined.
What is your favorite restaurant in Athens, and what do you love there?
I gotta go The National. It is my favorite restaurant. My favorite thing at The National is so hard to pick, but I would have to say the hummus with lamb.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I have been thinking a lot about this actually. I have been daydreaming. I think I would say Italy. Our dear friend, Olivia who was the owner of Farm 255 lives there with her husband, Giacomo and their baby Vasco and they make wine. It would be so fun to go visit them and spend time there.
What is your favorite movie, or what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
I think my favorite movie is Big Night. It stars Stanley Tucci and is about two brothers who own this struggling Italian restaurant and Louie Prima is going to come to town and eat at their restaurant and they have to pull out all the stops. It’s filled with scenes of them cooking all this elaborate Italian food. It is amazing. I love that movie.
What advice do you give to people often?
Maybe go easy on yourself, don’t be hard on yourself. Try to let people off the hook a little bit. My line is “everyone is doing the best they can”.
What is something on your bucket list?
Visiting all of the national parks. I would love to do that as a family, travel across country in a camper, zig zagging to different spots.
If you could see any band, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
So many come to mind but I think I have to say Fugazi in D.C. in the late 80’s.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens?
Eating out is probably my favorite thing to do. I love happy hour at Seabear. I absolutely love their Mai Tai, it’s in a fun glass and makes me feel like I’m on vacation.
If you could put anything on a billboard, what would you put?
I have always wanted to do PSAs. I guess something to the effect of it is important to the health of the local economy, the land, and to human health to eat local meat and veggies. Maybe just: EAT LOCAL
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
Off the top of my head, when I was nineteen I crashed through the front window of Flowers, Inc. after fainting in my car after giving blood. It is a great story and an amazing picture that accompanies it. Everyone was fine, no one was hurt.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Nourish. Serene. Comfort.