Most of our farmers will talk to you about the importance of family, but one family stands out above the rest: the Dettelbach Family. Their farm is powered by three generations, working in unison to create not only a sustainable farming system, but a closer family unit.
Josh Hardin always seems to be smiling. Maybe that is why he calls his farm Laughing Stock Farm. He is one of those people who you meet, and you just know they have found their calling. They are certain in who they are and what they are meant to do. John certainly knows.
His long-time customers at the Central Arkansas farmer’s markets look for his familiar face. It is this love of service that calls Josh to farm:
“I have been driven to farm by many people and beliefs. The most prominent moment has really been my connection to customers in the direct market atmosphere. From the first time I sold produce at market with my brother at the age of 14, I have been a market farmer. Since that summer, I have only missed one season of selling our family’s fruits and vegetables directly to the people that enjoy them. I am also driven by the family’s that take time to eat better tasting, better grown food. It is the demand for what we do that makes the job exciting so the more new customers and smiling faces the more excited I get about the tougher parts of the job.”
“The biggest challenge is taking on all of the roles at once and not really having the income to pay for the professional services you need like accountants, lawyers, mechanics, and therapists. Farming is all about finding creative ways to meet those same problems without all of the resources available and still find measured success. It is also a huge challenge to juggle family life and work, and the two are so co-mingled there is no line between the two worlds. In a family business, we expect each other to do a lot more than normal boss/employee relationships demand and that can make for lots of conflict.”
Josh is now working two farms, his Certified Organic farm in Sheridan, and a Certified Naturally Grown plot at the family farm in Grady. But change seems to be an ever-present factor in Josh’s farming career.
“Our farms are constantly evolving before our eyes every minute. Laughing Stock has more crop than we have ever had with about 5000 row feet of certified organic beds in production. It has taken me 9 years to clear forest, plant cover crops and build good soil, so this year is a real pinnacle for us. The farm is heavily focused on spring and early summer crops like onions, leeks, spring mix, kale, chard, fingerling potatoes, cauliflower, and head lettuces.
“Hardin Family Farm has also taken a great turn this year. We have a new high tunnel about to go into grafted heirloom tomatoes as well as an acre of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, and cucumbers all planted and growing nicely. We are planting green beans and pinto beans tomorrow so lots of organic and CNG food from both farms if we can keep the bugs and disease at bay!”
Joe Carr wasn’t always an organic veggie farmer. While he has a long history of farming and working hard, he began his career as a cattle man in Northwest Arkansas. Eventually growing produce caught his eye, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
When I asked Joe recently what drives him to farm, he replied with his tongue-in-cheek style.
“What drives me to farm? Usually it is my forty horse Kubota tractor! But seriously farming is part of my heritage something I inherited from my grandparents.I love growing crops and building the soil. I like the independent lifestyle, and I’ve always enjoyed working hard and being able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. There is much more to be realized than just the monetary benefits.”
Joe’s farm, Joe’s Farm Fresh Produce, is one of the founding members of the New South Produce Cooperative. His commitment to sustainable agriculture is evident by the long hours and dedication needed for his certification.
“Although I’m certified naturally grown, I’m transitioning to organic by developing an organic conservation plan that helps establish buffer zones, shelter belts, windbreaks. It also covers the use of cover crops and establishing beneficial insect habitats. It also addresses drainage, erosion control and water usage. My farming methods have changed a lot in the last couple of years since becoming acquainted with the cooperative. I have learned a lot of basics such as bed preparation, use of high tunnels as season extenders, insect and weed control. I have had some improvements on record keeping
as well. I have learned how to improve the quality and the shelf life of the produce that I grow. I have learned more about how a produce coop works.”
All of this education has certainly paid off, as Joe continues to be a vital contributor to the cooperative. With his wife Vilma, Joe is now passing on this farming heritage to his two sons. His grandparents would surely be proud.
On any given morning, you can find Brandon Gordon in his fields. He is a full-time farmer at 5 Acre Farm in Bradford, with two small boys and a love for what he does. I recently asked Brandon what attracted him to a life of farming.
Just stepping in the doors, you know you are in the right place. The earthy scents of caramel, the rich aroma of chocolate, and a slightly twangy edge to it all, and you’ve found Airship Coffee Roasters. Zephan and Mark are both smiling when I enter. They have a surprise waiting for me.
These enthusiastic owners have set up a surprise coffee cupping, just for me. They have laid out four very diverse coffees, from all over the world, with different processing methods. They are patient and thorough in their explanations with me, as I dive into a world of exotic smells and flavors.
Mark shows me how they rank a coffee: flavor/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance, sweetness, clean cup, and overall. We smelled first the whole beans for each coffee. Then Zephan ground each, and we smelled again. Yes, the scents had changed. After that came the hot water. We let the grounds form a crust on top (about one minute) then I had the privilege of breaking the crust. With my spoon, I inexpertly pushed the grounds away from me, releasing the scent into the room. And once again, the scent had changed, developed, deepened. Zephan cleaned away the grounds, exposing the dark, rich liquid beneath. It was time to taste.
In order to taste like an expert, you must suck the coffee into your mouth in a spray, mixing as much air in with it as possible. I was terrible at this, but I did my best. The flavors were so complex that it was almost overwhelming. We continued tasting even after the coffee had cooled, as even that will subtly affect the flavor.
One coffee in particular changed with each step of the journey. It was different each time I returned to it, and in a good way. But the star of the show was a natural processed bean that, no joking, has a fruity profile. The dried beans smelled like blackberries, but the finished coffee had a watermelon candy flavor. It changed forever my assumptions about what coffee can be.
Airship roasts all of their coffees from around the world right here in Bentonville, Arkansas, but their flagship cafe is Mama Carmen’s in Fayetteville. When you sign up for a New South CSA share in Fayetteville, choose Mama Carmen’s as your pick-up location. They will have pick-ups at their location on Fridays from 4pm to 6pm (2850 N. College Ave). It is also the perfect time to pick up some world-class coffee for the weekend ahead.
Want to learn more? Visit their website here.
Spring in the Ozarks is beautiful and exciting. All of the newness and possibilities. The farm at Ozark Alternatives is no exception. Paul Chapracki took time out of his morning chores to show us around. His farm is one of our associate farms for New South Produce Cooperative. He relocated his farm just over a year ago, and he has made amazing progress.
He has one large row house, filled with forests of kale that Dr. Seuss would adore, summer seedlings sprouting through the ground, and of course, Hazel Clementine the cat. Paul is currently supplying spinach, kale, and lettuce to the cooperative. His farm is Certified Naturally Grown. He has a row of test strawberries ripening in the sun, and he was excited about future expansion. The wholesale sales and CSA membership are giving Paul and his family a secured market for his produce and allows him to spend more quality time focused on farming.
Early spring on the farms is a very busy time. Our farmers have been growing steadily throughout the winter, providing fresh, seasonal produce to our wholesale customers. Now the big push for preparing the soil and the beds is underway. Greenhouses are filled to capacity with seedlings: tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucumbers, squash.
A big problem for the farmers lately has been mice in the greenhouses. Mice are attracted to the warmth inside. Once in, they see what looks to them like a food buffet. Seeds lined up in all of the trays, just ready to be nibbled upon. They will dig up emerging plants and eat down the leafy greens. Ashley at Dettelbach Farms has had several flats of beets and kale mowed down by the pesky mice. Five Acre Farms has also had issues with their seedlings.
Non-toxic measures are employed to combat the problem. Ashley put up a metal barrier around her seed trays and has been covering them every night (in addition to the other farm duties she performs each day). It is helping so far. Kat at Five Acre has been relocating the trays to other areas for protection.
In addition to the loss of the seeds, when the plants themselves are lost, it is also a loss of time for the farmer. It takes several weeks of growing time to germinate the seeds and get the plants large enough to be moved to the soil. When the plants are destroyed, the farmer must start over or purchase seedlings. Luckily, within the cooperative, these farmers have access to seedlings when needed.
A long-time partner of the New South Produce Cooperative, The Natural Food Store has much more to offer than the name suggests. Certainly, they have nutritional supplements, local and organic produce, allergy-friendly foods, non-GMO and organic groceries items, and a huge selection of natural personal items. However, it is their specialty services that really sets this store apart.
Co-owner Eric McMullen is a clinical nutritionist. He also studies herbal medicine and holistic nutrition. He provides nutritional counseling by appointment. Eric says,
“My particular fields of study are herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, and health coaching, but a big part of how I help people is by bringing a holistic approach to their health. This also provides me the opportunity to lean on a network of people that share the same passion for health as I do, whether they are doctors, farmers, teachers, restaurant owners, counselors, or truck drivers’ wives.”
It is this individual approach that sets The Natural Food Store apart, as well as the specialized services, including massage therapy, that are offered to anyone seeking to improve their health and well-being.
The Natural Food Store can be found at 312 Beebe-Capps Expressway in Searcy. They are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturday from 9am to 3pm. Contact them via phone at 501-268-9585 or email at email@example.com.