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.
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.