In the News

Earth Pets expands to organic food market

gvillesunjoy

Joy Drawdy has expanded her Earth Pets stores by recently opening Earth Pets Organic Feed & Garden, which offers organic chicken and livestock feed.

By Anthony Clark
Business editor

Published: Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 11, 2009 at 4:23 p.m.

After taking in overheated chickens someone was giving away by the side of the road in Starke, Joy Drawdy decided to take up backyard chicken growing as a way to get organic eggs.

rawdy has dedicated her life to saving animals and providing pets with healthy food as the founder of Gainesville Pet Rescue and co-founder of Earth Pets Natural Pet Market.But she discovered that the only way to get organic chicken feed was to have it shipped in from the Midwest.

That led to her latest venture: Earth Pets Organic Feed & Garden.

“I started to realize that, if I can’t find my own organic chicken feed, there must be others who want it,” Drawdy said.

The store, which opened in July on Northwest 10th Avenue off Main Street, offers organic chicken and livestock feed, native plants and eco-friendly home and garden products, in addition to the same pet foods and products sold at the other location.

The expansion has opened her up to the growing world of urban homesteading as more people grow their own food and are growing organically. The store also is encouraging more farmers to go organic who couldn’t before or who hadn’t thought of it “because it’s so expensive to ship in from the Midwest,” she said.

The store’s organic feed is made by Gainesville veterinarian Jordan Tate, who runs Nature’s Way Organic Feed mill.

After expanding into the human food market, Drawdy said she discovered many of her customers are the same ones who have been buying pet food at the other Earth Pets for the past 10 years.

“That makes sense. They care about what their pets eat. They’re organic gardeners. They care about what their livestock eat — their horses, their backyard hens,” she said.

Drawdy and partner Guy Webster built a following by providing healthy alternatives to most store-bought pet foods. She researches the companies to ensure none of the brands they carry are owned by conglomerates or conduct cruel animal testing. The ingredients do not contain rendered animal parts; no corn, wheat or soy filler. And none from China.

She said when they opened, organic and raw natural foods were not the trend they are now.

“There was skepticism certainly within the veterinary community at first,” Drawdy said.

But the food started making a big difference in pets’ health.

She said people would come in to buy shampoos, conditioners, sprays and fish oils for pets with skin conditions.

“I’ll look at their order, $60 worth of stuff for itchy skin, and it turns out he’s eating something that’s overloaded with corn and all these things. I’ll say, ‘You know what? For $2 or $3 more per bag for what you’re paying now, why don’t you try this?’ They’ll come and say, ‘Oh my God, my dog doesn’t have itchy skin anymore.’ That’s the kind of thing that separates us.”

Contact Anthony Clark at 374-5094 or at anthony.clark@gvillesun.com.

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