above: Natalie Pollard, owner, Villagers by Olivia Siegel
by Ashley English
If it were possible to summarize a person in a mere two words, “intrepid and observant” might best describe Natalie Pollard. The owner of Villagers, an urban homesteading supply store in west Asheville, she’s equally bold and attentive in her approach to all arenas of life, be it plants, landscapes and cultures (she’s traveled to more than 30 countries), or the patrons of her own store.
Backgrounds in art and landscape architecture (fields of study in which she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees, respectively), coupled with a profound and abiding interest in the way individuals interact with and react to their environments, provided the staging ground for Villagers’ creation. Hard work, coupled with acute vision and an understanding of what her community needed—and at the time was lacking—have translated into a thriving, vibrant business.
“I like that it is known as an approachable place, where customers can gain access to knowledge and the supplies they need to make more conscious consumer choices.”
~Natalie Pollard, owner, Villagers
A San Francisco Bay area native, Pollard has called western North Carolina home since 2010. Originally drawn to the area for its storied history in herbalism and plant studies as well the fact that her parents had recently relocated to the Charlotte area, she completed a yearlong course in herbalism from Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. Although most attracted to the vast landscapes of the ocean and desert offered in her home state, preferring the “expansive, open horizons and dwarfing scale of those places,” Pollard wasn’t quite ready to leave the area upon completion of her herbal certificate. After cobbling together employment from a variety of part-time jobs, a desire for more directed, meaningful work led to her opening Villagers in October 2012.
Whether seeking out a source of organic chicken feed, cultures for making yogurt or fermenting vegetables, or heirloom-worthy garden tools, Villagers offers a wide selection of items falling under the far-reaching umbrella of “urban homesteading.” Furthermore, the store maintains a regular roster of classes, ranging from creating a home apothecary, to identifying birdcalls, to woodcarving, and beyond.
True to Pollard’s original vision of cultivating community, Villagers has developed a well-deserved reputation as a community nerve center. “I am most proud that the shop has become an established resource in Asheville, as a hub for sharing information and ideas, and for supporting the knowledgeable community that inspired me to open it in the first place,” she says. “I like that it is known as an approachable place, where customers can gain access to knowledge and the supplies they need to make more conscious consumer choices.”
Villagers is located at 278 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Visit the online store and learn about classes at forvillagers.com.