For this alumnus, community comes first

Produced by University Communications

D ylan Amerson, ’12, grew up in Milledgeville but always wanted to explore beyond the area. Once he did, he came right back to where his heart is—the community—and transformed the family store into Huff’s Market.

Amerson’s passion for sustainability and the outdoors started with Georgia College & State University. 

Dylan Amerson rings up a customer at Huff's Market.
Dylan Amerson rings up a customer at Huff's Market.

He went to Armstrong State University for two years but moved back to home due to a health condition. When he started school at Georgia Military College, he heard about Georgia College’s Outdoor Education program and realized it’d be a perfect fit. 

Amerson met with Dr. Jeff Turner, associate professor of Outdoor Education and liked what he had to say about the program. Amerson also met with his surgeon, who encouraged him to find a job where he could stay active. It would be best for his health.

“I've always loved being outside,” Amerson said. “I spent a lot of time surfing, kayaking and backpacking throughout college. So, I decided to give this major a try.”

He took Theory of Outdoor Education and other classes with Dr. Will Hobbs, a former assistant professor of kinesiology at Georgia College. Hobbs taught him the foundational skill of critical thinking.

Amerson considers the program “life changing.”

“It was incredibly thought provoking to think how people connect through adventure, pushing boundaries and just being outside,” he said. “That really resonated with me. I was hooked after his second class. Dr. Hobbs was incredibly challenging and just awesome.”

“He challenged me to think about things in a different way,” Amerson said. “Anytime I made a statement, he would constantly ask ‘Why?’ I had never been challenged to think about why I see the world the way I do.”

Amerson was in classes with a cohort of 15 other students. Some became his best friends. He especially enjoyed the trips they took nearly every other week.

Dylan Amerson looks after his chickens.
Dylan Amerson looks after his chickens.

“It was good to grow and learn a lot together and even be challenged by each other,” he said. “There were some people who I just didn’t mesh with, but learning how to work with them was one of the most beneficial things for me in the long run. That great lesson has helped me throughout my career.”

After Georgia College, Amerson worked at a wildlife center in Mansfield, Georgia. Then, he got a job at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Tennessee. He taught environmental education and led backpacking trips each summer. He lived in the national park for four years, and that’s where he met his wife, Kensey.

“It was the most formative job I've ever had,” Amerson said. “It helped me solidify some things that started to form in college—like who I wanted to be, what I cared about and what work values I had. That was very beneficial for me.”

Turner was professional in the classroom. But when he went on a trip with students, he showed a more personable side. 

It’s tough for people who live out here to get produce. We want people to have healthier food options, so we can go to bed at night feeling good about what we've sold to people.
– Dylan Amerson

“That has carried with me, especially when I worked in wilderness therapy with kids who were very challenging,” Amerson said. “It's better to start off as a professional, like showing them what we're here to do. Then, slowly peel back those layers as a person, letting more of your humanity show in a thoughtful way.”

In 2021, Amerson’s mother called to ask if he’d be interested in buying the family business. The store had been his great uncle William Huff’s, then his great aunt Dorothy “Dottie” Huff’s for over 60 years. His wife also talked about raising their now two-year-old son, Sawyer, closer to family.

The couple sold their Tennessee home and moved to Baldwin County to run the family business. They wanted to make it their own and alleviate a missing food element in the area—so they challenged themselves and transformed Huff’s Store into Huff’s Market to sell local produce, meats, dairy and more.

Before Huff’s Market, there was no store in this part of the county to get local produce, meats, dairy and more. 

The Amersons sell fresh produce in their market.
The Amersons sell fresh produce in their market.

“We wanted to cater to people, who live out this way, who didn’t have access to fresh, whole food,” Amerson said. “It’s also a place where you can feel a sense of community.”

The couple has built relationships with the local residents, including the most of the local farmers where they get their meat from. They even know the individuals who make the cheese straws where only quality, wholesome ingredients are used.

They recently visited a cattle farm for the third time.

“These cows are sustainable,” Amerson said. “We get to go see them out in their pasture to know how well they're cared for. We try to have the same relationship with our other farmers. And that's really cool—feeling so tight with the community.”

“We’re taking care of our neighbors by buying their products,” he said. “We care a lot about that.”

The Amersons are happy they’ve been part of alleviating what was a food desert in this area.

“It’s tough for people who live out here to get produce,” Amerson said. “We want people to have healthier food options, so we can go to bed at night feeling good about what we've sold to people.”

His son, Sawyer, inspires Amerson to do his best every day.

“Eventually, I'd like for him to see the value in working hard, taking pride in what you do and caring about the people around you,” Amerson said. “I want to show that I value these things, so as he gets older, he will hopefully value those things, as well.”

“What we're doing now is perfect at this point in our lives, while we’re starting to raise a family and connecting to the community. I'm really grateful for the experiences I had,” he said, “because it's made me more grounded to be able to do this and feel fulfilled.”