As long as Kimberly Conner can remember, she and her family have battled a weed that grows wantonly in their Fairburn horse pastures. In 2004 she asked a friend with a Bush Hog to clear it. Instead she got a lecture on the wonders of elderberry, the “weed” all over her property. That summer Conner made elderberry jelly; its flavor was light, clean, warm, and earthy all at once. First she gave it away, then she sold it at Fairburn Farmers Market.
As the lines grew for their jelly, Conner and her husband, John, offered a deal to neighbors who owned fruit trees: The Conners would maintain the trees in exchange for fruit. “It’s amazing how much is out there that just goes to waste,” she says. “Figs, apples, peaches, muscadines, blueberries, blackberries. I have access to fruit all over Newnan and Fairburn.” Her flavors grew bolder: strawberry-lavender (below), pecan pie, kudzu blossom jelly. When farmers gave them unsold vegetables, Conner made pumpkin butter, green tomato jam, sauerkraut.
In 2006 the couple built a commercial kitchen, where they pack up to 500 jars a week. (Fairywood Thicket, the company name, refers to a legend that fairies ride elderberry branches like horses on midsummer nights.) They sell to hotels and restaurants and at farmers markets including Peachtree Road, Sandy Springs, and Serenbe. Nine-ounce jars cost $6. fairywoodthicket.com