(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a series spotlighting the start-ups that participated in the recent “AgLaunch Bootcamp” hosted by the AgLaunch organization and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.)
One might say that DeeAnn Dean has literally and figuratively gone back to her roots.
The native of Dellrose, TN, an unincorporated community hear the Tennessee-Alabama border, recently relocated to the family farm that she left in the early 1990s to accept a scholarship and play for the Lady Commodore basketball team. That experience included being on Vanderbilt University’s 1992-93 Final Four team.
Now, after raising her children in Knoxville, Dean has returned to 2,000-acre farm in Lincoln County with a renewed passion, inspiration, and several big ideas. They all center around food, proper nutrition, healthy living, and a self-stated mission “to help make people healthy.”
We met Dean and Jason, her husband, when they participated in the recent “AgLaunch Bootcamp” hosted by the Memphis-based AgLaunch organization and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Their start-up is named Plow & Barrow, a symbolic reflection on the importance of that rural upbringing, but there is much more to the story than the one start-up.
“About five years ago, I saw a disconnect between health and wellness and the practices I was raised on,” DeeAnn says. She spent the next two years researching human design, and the knowledge she gained caused her to approach healthy living in a different way.
What she found were two crises – one in health and the other in farming – along with a renewed sense of how important tourism is or could be to many communities like Dellrose. “We’re connecting the dots for people,” DeeAnn says of her multi-pronged effort. “What we are doing . . . you have to have imagination to connect all three. I can connect all three.”
So, how does she plan to do so? It starts with the VIVE Academy, an umbrella for a number of projects that collectively represent a comprehensive and systematic approach to addressing the root causes of poor health by identifying and meeting the basic needs of human design.
One part is Plow & Barrow which offers “ready-to-go” plant-based meals and vegan treats. Jason is a chef and describes the offerings this way on the webpage: “Our meals are made with the freshest, most natural and organic ingredients. Ninety percent of the weekly menu is label-free. If we do use labeled ingredients, then we always use minimally processed items. Meals are purposely prepared to activate the availability of nutrients needed to create optimal gut health and supply the nutrients we need to heal, fight and reverse disease; and rid the body of excess weight and toxins.”
The Deans want to expand that business and are awaiting certification of their commercial kitchen.
Another component is what DeeAnn describes as “a space . . . a health and wellness retreat where we can connect people to farm life and health food.” That would clearly be built on the farm in Dellrose.
“It’s exciting to talk with dad about such a diversification,” DeeAnn says, explaining that the facility she plans to construct will draw tourists to the small farming community and, in the process , help them start a journey to better mental and physical health.
“This is my calling,” she says. “This is not just a personal project, but a community effort.”
To underscore that point, DeeAnn cited this quote from American novelist Wendell Berry: “In this difficult time of failed public expectations, when thoughtful people wonder where to look for hope, I keep returning in my own mind to the thought of the renewal of the rural communities. I know that one resurrected rural community would be more convincing and more encouraging than all the government and university programs of the last 50 years, and I think that it could be the beginning of the renewal of our country, for the renewal of rural communities ultimately implies the renewal of urban ones. But to be authentic, a true encouragement and a true beginning, this would have to be a resurrection accomplished mainly by the community itself. It would have to be done, not from the outside by the instruction of visiting experts, but from the inside by the ancient rule of neighborliness, by the love of precious things, and by the wish to be at home.”