Juniper Green brings new life to Old School Farm

By Hollie Deese

Photography by Jessica Steddom

Just outside of Nashville on nine acres of farmland there’s still a little slice of what used to be the norm, even as Middle Tennessee continues to develop, including the Bells Bend community surrounding it. 

Originally the Wade School, a Works Progress Administration building constructed in 1936, the school closed in 1997 and the building was unused and neglected. Then Susan Richardson and Rowan Miller bought the graffiti-filled shell and renovated it into a winner of a Nashville Historic Commission Architectural Preservation Award in 2015.

Richardson and Miller operated Old School Farm as a farm-to-table restaurant until 2020, when it closed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But they still had 18 months of weddings and events booked in their open-air venue, and all of them were expecting farm-to-table fare. So they reached out to Molly Martin, owner of Juniper Green catering, and asked her to take over the contracts. 

She did, and at first Martin was content to be the venue’s preferred vendor. But once the trio started working together, Martin could tell that she and Richardson and Miller shared values about how to treat people and held the same sense of stewardship for the unique property.

“My dad is a historic preservation architect,” Martin says. “I grew up going to job sites with him and learning all the little details of finials and trusses.” So when the opportunity was presented for Martin to buy the property, she did.

The gift of hosting

Martin ran The Food Company in Green Hills for five years, which ignited her love for catering: Each event is different, and an opportunity to contribute something memorable to someone’s special occasion. 

“It is this window into people’s most cherished moments,” she says. “The thing I always loved about serving was it was the place where people were the most engaged, putting their phones away to have a shared experience of trying new foods and trying new wines or celebrating. Or if somebody’s having a tough time and you want to reconnect, all of that stuff happens around the table.”

Though she knew she wanted to strike out on her own, she didn’t think she could start out with a brick and mortar — she didn’t want to own anything that had hours of operation “with a front door that had to be unlocked at the same time every day,” Martin says. “I wanted something that was a bit more malleable and nimble.”

So she launched Juniper Green catering company in 2017, with the intent of fostering connection and community around other people’s tables. But things changed dramatically on the day Martin was supposed to sign the lease on a kitchen space in Marathon Village: She found out she was pregnant with twins.

She shifted gears, and for a few years Martin operated out of Casa Azafran, then Citizen Kitchen in East Nashville. But having a private dining space was always part of the long-term plan.

“Even catering in these beautiful homes in Belle Meade, everyone’s in the kitchen no matter what,” she says. “There could be a Picasso in the living room, and everybody’s standing around the island talking and trying to steal off of your pan. So I really wanted to have a space that was more interactive, where we could be putting finishing touches on things.”

Martin was still looking for space to establish a home base for the catering company as well as have a place to host weddings, special events and private dining experiences when she took on the contract work with Old School Farm. But she’d been struggling to find anything with soul and history.  

“And so when this came available, it was just unreal.”

The building features brick and original hardwood floors, two private dining spaces and a performance stage that was once part of the school’s auditorium. Outside, a large courtyard with a rose arch and firepit overlooks the nonprofit organic farm. 

It definitely felt like a risk to buy an event venue during the pandemic, but Martin’s whole business was built on a belief that humans needed to be in the same room, having the same sensory experiences. And she believed it even more adamantly after clicking in to so many Zoom celebrations. 

“At one point during one of the first weddings we catered, I was walking across the lawn, and suddenly it was like one of those moments where everything just slows down. I could hear people laughing and forks hitting plates and glasses clinking and corks popping and high fives,” she says. “It was early summer, so it was still kind of cool, and there was a fire in the firepit. The sun was setting behind the farm and the hills, and music was playing. And then, right as I’m just standing there taking it all in, fireflies start coming out of the grass. It hit me just how much I had missed people sounds.”

Juniper Green still offers off-site catering for private events, including weddings, but Martin’s vision of creating a space where people can put down their burdens together and enjoy a good meal has found a home. Martin is planning a redesign of the venue, and she eventually will host ticketed dinners and seasonal festivals and concerts.

Juniper Green still shares the property with Old School Farm, which functions as a nonprofit that donates produce and creates employment opportunities for people with mental and physical disabilities.

On the other side is Cheekee Greens, a zero-waste hydroponic operation that provides Martin and others with lettuce, herbs and mushrooms all year round. 

“We’ve taken a beat to get our sea legs and figure out how to exist in this space. But one of the things that was always important to us is to create a space for the community.”

Get in touch

Juniper Green,, 615-647-9407

Cheekee Greens Farm,, 615-574-9689

Old School Farm,, 888-551-8622