The Great Escape
Find peace of mind at Julep Farms
Words by Jennifer Kornegay
“I want people to come here, take a break from everything, take a breath, and just be.”
Over a chorus of clucking hens, Lauren Weaver issues this invitation and explains why she and her husband Rick bought 22 acres in Dillard, Georgia, and created the pastoral oasis they named Julep Farms. Hers is a tough offer to refuse. With one look at Julep Farms’ green fields unfolding at the foot of soft-peaked mountains, stress knots begin to untangle. Pull in the gravel drive and begin to explore further, and there’s no way you won’t R.S.V.P with a yes. While Julep Farms is an agricultural entity, “Farms” leaves out a good bit; it’s so much more. What the Weavers are really cultivating at Julep Farms is calm—encouraging people to slow down and creating a place to do it.
It all began a few years ago, when the couple was ready to start a new chapter and sold the restaurant they owned in Atlanta. (Before that, Rick, a former Marine, was a self-described “techno-geek,” and Lauren was a designer and decorator who’d worked in real estate.) They had some initial ideas, but today’s Julep Farms—what the Weavers call a “modern farm resort”—sprouted organically. “This really kinda evolved without some huge master plan,” Lauren says. Originally a dairy, then a pig farm, and later a hangout for horses, the property’s natural beauty provided plenty of inspiration. “We saw this land, and it was so perfect,” Lauren says. “We didn’t have to move a single tree.”
From there, the Weavers’ interests took over. “This place is just everything I really love about life,” Lauren says. And it’s all in one lovely package. “I love making beautiful spaces,” Lauren says, thus The Market, housed in the main, barn-like building, featuring a curated (by Lauren) collection of wares such as glasses and bar essentials, gourmet goodies, candles, cookbooks, handmade jewelry, cozy throws, and more.
“I love great food and cocktails and hanging out with my favorite people.” So, there’s the Social House, a coffee spot that’s the centerpiece of the Market, and behind it Julep Kitchen, which serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. “It’s new American cuisine with a Southern twist, which means more butter, cream, and maybe some fried things, right?” Lauren laughs, adding, “and it’s all very fresh.”
There’s the garden and farm that support the restaurant, growing sweet corn, herbs, lettuces, squash, zucchini, and more, plus eggs from resident chickens. “We source as much from our own gardens as we can,” Lauren says.
“And I really enjoy just having fun outdoors and soaking up fresh air,” she says. For this, there are acres of rolling pasture for wandering, the garden for strolling and sniffing (its raised beds perfume the air with aromatic herbs), and the verdant lawn, decked with yard games such as corn hole and life-size Connect Four. These spaces underscore Lauren’s invite to savor the moment. (And she suggests you sip a cocktail while drinking in the scenery.) “It’s the chance
to experience all these things and not be in a hurry,” she says. “It’s about being truly relaxed and taking it all in.”
Lauren notes that this requires a certain type of location and is another reason she and Rick knew they’d found the right spot for their vision when they arrived in Dillard. “You can’t have an unhurried place in an area with super high real estate prices or in already crowded spots. In those places, to run a business, you have to move people in and out. At your restaurant, you have turntables.” She didn’t want that necessity to influence anything at Julep Farms. “Here, come at 10 a.m. for a coffee,” she says. “Walk around outside for a bit. Go in The Market and shop. Then have lunch and stay for afternoon wine. I want you to just go at your own pace.”
Allowing guests to while away an entire day in outdoorsy charm is the purpose underpinning Julep Farms and its entire team. It was the impetus for the flower fields that bloom in summer and draw guests to peruse the petals, pick what they like, and cut a bouquet to take home. (This summer, there’ll be a new treat—a bar right among the blossoms serving fun cocktails.)
It also led to the addition of Julep Farms’ animal residents, including two fluffy Great Pyrenees pups, some Babydoll sheep, three ponies, an orange barn kitty, and Ferris, a micro mini Scottish Highland bull, who ambles over to nudge the wooden fence signaling he’d like a pat on the head anytime he hears his name. “We really weren’t sure about getting the animals at first—we’ve never had sheep or cows—but it has worked out so well,” Lauren says. “They make sure we never get too stuffy.”
This laid-back philosophy is also behind a packed calendar that includes holiday themed dinners at Julep Kitchen, mixology classes, DIY workshops (such as how to make a wreath), and movie nights on the lawn all summer long (screening classics such as “Grease,” “The Sound of Music,” and “You’ve Got Mail”). Plus, there are plenty of other events still in planning stages. “I’m thinking about doing a kite day one weekend,” Lauren says. “You’d come out, get a kite kit, and make it here, and then fly it. We have such a nice light breeze coming off the mountains.”
With abundant outdoor and indoor space, including some specifically designed for special events, Julep Farms is also welcoming private functions, including weddings. “We love having weddings here, but we don't want to overdo it. We’re looking at keeping it to 8 to 10 a year so we can do each fantastically well,” Lauren says.
The level she hopes Julep Farms is reaching with its nuptials, it has already hit with its accommodation options. The four white clapboard cottages dotting the pasture extend Lauren’s invitation further, allowing guests to slow way down and stay a night or two. Set just far enough apart for privacy, each cottage has a porch (with rockers) and is outfitted with thoughtful details and décor in keeping with its name (The Derby, The Boat House, The Magnolia, The Sweet Tea). Julep Farms’ expansion plan calls for 14 more cottages in the future.
But Lauren and Rick aren’t looking too far ahead; Lauren’s trying to focus on meeting the wants of her guests. “Things can feel pretty intense sometimes. I can be high-strung, so I relate to that, and I just love seeing people come here and unwind and play with their kids,” she says. “That’s what I want people to find on a visit with us: peace of mind, an escape from the rest of the world right now, and the time to reflect on simpler things.”