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Fall Harvest 2018 | arkansasfoodandfarm.com

Fall Farmers Markets

PICKIN' PECANS

NEW SOUTH PRODUCE CO-OP

GOATS 101

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Fall Harvest 2018

WORKING TOWARD SELF-SUFFICIENCY The Ballard Family Homestead

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GOATS 101 Advice for the Urban Farmer

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CHOW-CHOW A Fine Old Tradition

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A QUIET CRAFT Meat Processing is Reinvigorated in the New Local Food Economy

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FROM FIELD TO VASE Demand for Locally Sourced Flowers Blooms Across The Natural State

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TALE OF THE GRAPE Grapes are Ripe for the Picking

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THE NEW SOUTH CO-OP From Boxes to Food Trucks

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THE BEST ONES Accidental Pecan Farmers

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FALL FARMERS MARKETS An Extended Harvest 4

ON T H E COV E R :

A vendor at the Downtown Rogers Farmers Market holds homegrown tomatoes and summer squash. Photography by Novo Studio.

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018


@AgCouncilofAR

Is your agr in the event PROMOTING AGRICULTURE SINCE 1939 Ag Comp is a policy for w Join us today! farms, ag agcouncil.net/join Le @AgCouncilofAR facebook.com/AgCouncilofArkansas

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arkansasfoodandfarm.com KATHERINE DANIELS Publisher katherine@arktimes.com LACEY THACKER Editor lacey@arktimes.com MANDY KEENER Creative Director mandy@arktimes.com PHYLLIS A. BRITTON Sales Director phyllis@arktimes.com ASHLEY GILL BROOKE WALLACE HEATHER SHOEMAKE JENNIFER CORBITT LEE MAJOR LESA THOMAS TRACI BERRY STEPHANIE HENRY Account Executives WELDON WILSON Production Manager/Controller ROLAND R. GLADDEN Advertising Traffic Manager LARISSA GUDINO Advertising Coordinator KATIE HASSELL MIKE SPAIN Graphic Designers KATIE HASSELL Social Media ROBERT CURFMAN IT Director

THE AG COUNCIL ofARKANSAS PROMOTING AGRICULTURE SINCE 1939

We are committed to telling the story of row crop agriculture in Arkansas. We advocate for farmers and agricultural businesses to ensure the continued success of our great state.

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@WLJEmployment

Sound employment practices are always in season. Securing H-2A visas for seasonal workers is a burdensome and tedious process. But your obligations don’t end after the growing season. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have ramped up audits and raids on employers to seek out unauthorized workers. Our legal guidance can help you remain vigilant and compliant. Neemah A. Esmaeilpour • Employment-based Immigration • Wage & Hour Compliance • Agency Investigations • Workforce Training

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I DID NOT DIE.

Amanita Jacksonii, found at Allsopp Park in Little Rock.

Alan Leveritt President, Arkansas Food & Farm Arkansas Times Limited Partnership 6

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ETHAN LEVERITT

A

friend called to say they were picking chanterelles in Allsopp Park. It was August, not June, but thanks to the relentless rain and lows in the 60s, late spring mushrooms were sprouting in late summer. We grabbed a couple of bags and headed down through a pasture into the shady woods along Bayou Meto to where I had found chanterelles in years past. At first we found nothing, but as we headed down an old farm road shaded by hardwood canopy, we saw a brilliant orange mushroom shaped like a door knob sticking out of the leaves. Then we noticed another and another, until we realized we were standing in the midst of dozens of these pumpkin-colored mushrooms. I had rambled these 87 acres for decades, yet I had never seen this mushroom. Nature is a poor incubator for mushrooms. Finding that goldilocks combination of moisture, temperature, light and nutrition makes mushroom foraging a hit-and-miss pleasure. And now, this strange August, with its rain and cool temperatures, had created just such a moment. The mycelium had lain dormant beneath the forest decay for decades, and now it was everywhere. We picked a few and noticed the stem was coming out of a vulva at its base. That looked poisonous to me. Tim Jones at UA Pulaski Tech is the most knowledgeable mycologist I know so I texted him a photograph. “American Caesar,” came the prompt reply. “Poison?” “Edible, but with caution.” Then he added, “They have toxic cousins. Hope you have a hearty liver.” Turns out this is one of the few non-poisonous Amanita mushrooms, though one internet post said the toxicity of which was still undetermined. The cousins Tim mentioned are the Death Cap and the Destroying Angel. Andre, the late and irascible chef at Little Rock’s Andre’s Restaurant, nearly died one time when he accidentally ate a Death Cap that was growing amongst some edible mushrooms. As he was lying in the emergency room about to have his stomach pumped, he reportedly said, in his heavy French/Swiss accent, “I am Andre the chef! Murdered by a mushroom.” The closest look-alike to the American Cesar in Arkansas is the Fly Agaric, a somewhat toxic, hallucinogenic mushroom with the same orange cap, but spotted with tiny white warts. Fly Agaric is so named because in centuries past farmers would cut them up into a bowl of milk for the flies. The toxins would dissolve into the milk and when the flies drank it they would get high and drown. I’m not making this up. So after some more research, where I learned that the American Cesar is related to the Italian Cesar, so named because it was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Claudius, who is thought to have ultimately died of mushroom poisoning, I started to look for recipes. Let me tell you, the Italians are crazy for Cesar Mushrooms, to the point that most of the recipes online are in Italian. So I just sautéed them in butter and a little wine and tossed in some Nickel green beans and slivered almonds left over from Ciao Bacci. They were the most delicious mushrooms I have ever eaten. And I did not get high, and I did not die.


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COOL WEATHER COMETH

I

t’s the fall harvest that I look forward to every year. The weather has cooled, and it’s becoming more pleasant every day to walk through the garden. In October, my brother will wean the spring calves, and the hectic rush of getting in a hay crop will wind down. Soon, it will be winter, and we’ll all begin dreaming of the late winter day when 2019’s seed catalogues begin arriving in the mail. It’s this dreaming that I love so much about food and farm. As Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” And she was right. It’s easy to let ourselves succumb to the sorrow of the moment, but making a choice to grow or raise food is to make a choice, to believe that the future will come, and in the future, we will still eat. In this issue, we meet a fascinating group of people. Andy Shaw, the owner of Cypress Valley Meat Processing, tells Arkansas Food & Farm a little bit about getting his start in meat. The Ballard family takes readers on a tour of their homestead, where they milk cows and raise bees, chickens, pigs, produce and five children. Interested in raising goats? We’ve got a little introduction to get you started on research. Got a few green tomatoes that need to be eaten? Try Richard Ledbetter’s easy recipe for chow-chow. Pecans, wineries, co-ops, and even cut flowers—there’s something for everyone in the Fall Harvest issue. Enjoy.

Lacey Thacker Editor lacey@arktimes.com

P.S. Got a topic you think we should cover? Know someone interesting who deserves to be highlighted? Don’t hesitate to each out via email to lacey@arktimes.com.

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Working Toward

Self -Sufficiency THE BALLARD FAMILY HOMESTEAD By Lacey Thacker Photography by Katie Childs

A duckling wanders through the barn. Facing page: Clint Ballard plays with a nearly-grown bottle-fed calf.

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Clint poses in front of the farm’s two-story barn. Facing page: The farm is home to several friendly cows. A young Jersey cow poses for the camera.

P

ulling up the drive to Milk & Honey Hill Farm in New Blaine, Arkansas is like pulling up to a little spot of farm paradise. At the end of the dead-end dirt road is a lovely home set on the edge of a bluff, and alongside that home is 40 acres, on which the family of seven—yes, seven— raises multiple specialty crops. Clint Ballard says of their homestead, “I think we always wanted to farm. We lived on a quarter acre in Siloam Springs, where I was probably doing illegal things—backyard chickens and bees.” Joy Ballard, Clint’s wife and the child of missionaries, grew up in Papua New Guinea, and says of finding their home, “When I was in the tribe [in Papua New Guinea], we lived by mountains and water. When we were looking at this spot, I heard a boat come through the narrows and I was instantly transported.” Clint and Joy moved to New Blaine in August of 2016, after Clint completed college at John Brown University with a degree in construction management and a minor in business. But that wasn’t his first career move—he spent ten years on active duty in the United States Army and then worked as a paramedic while attending John Brown University fulltime. Today, he’s still a member of the National Guard. It’s partly for that reason, the couple says, that they’re hoping to develop their farm as a

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ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018

retreat for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. While Clint was in college, Joy, a registered nurse, went to a class on essential oils and eventually became a distributor. Due to her hard work, by the time Clint graduated, the couple did not have to seek outside employment. Clint says, “A lot of the folks who are interested in farming are also interested in natural health,” and so the dual roles of farmer and essential oils educator fit the couple perfectly. Roaming the shady yard are guineas, of which Joy says, “They eat ticks and they eat snakes—or at least pitch a fit when they find one.” Near where the guineas roam is a stand of beehives, from which the couple collects honey to sell and beeswax to use in crafty endeavors. Across an electric line is a large pasture with four Jersey cows, two of which are in milk, along with a newly planted orchard of fruit trees and a lovely garden spot, though Clint says, “We tell people we’re rock farmers.” When the family first began preparing the spot, he and the kids hauled away rocks for a full day—yet they still find rocks! Of the children’s help, he says, “I try to pay them well. Seems like people don’t want to do agriculture today because it doesn’t pay well.” Also present on their farm are chickens, which are penned next to pigs that will be butchered in the fall.


“One of the things we’re passionate about is teaching other people.” –Joy Ballard

FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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The chickens, ideally, rotate through the pasture behind the cattle, but heavy losses to predators their first year have led to temporary redesigns of their poultry grazing system. Though the two oldest children, Aidan, 13, and Lily, 11, are in school, the younger kids—Grace, 8; Gabe, 6; and Serenity, 3; spend their days homeschooling and helping on the farm, where they are able to roam relatively freely. When the mood strikes, which is often, Clint says, Grace can be found hopping into the saddle of the family’s horse, which she sits like a natural. Inside the barn are stalls and a loft, most of which Clint built upon moving in. “There was a lot of wood piled up in a stall that I was able to use to build out stalls,” and that wood was cut from the woods on their property. Joy continues, saying, “My husband is a rockstar when it comes to building things, so he built these amazing bunk beds in the basement. We can sleep 25.” Next on the family’s farm list is to better establish their garden, though Clint also says, “We want to get the whole 40 acres in silvopasture—high-value timber and pecan, black gum and other stuff that’s good for the bees.” That’s a recurring theme to Clint’s plans—what can they do to best provide for their bees—and, indeed, how can they, in general, be the best conservationists possible? Also on their list is teaching others how to grow their own food, raise their own animals and be mindful of their own health. After all, the couple explains, it’s fine to purchase needed items, but it’s empowering to know how to make or grow that item yourself. To purchase raw milk, tour the farm or just keep in touch, find Milk and Honey Hill Farm on Facebook @clintandjoy.

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Grace, age 8, is excited to show off two of the barn cat’s kittens. Chickens are just one of the animals the Ballards raise.


Serenity, age 3, insisted the writer and photographer be shown the children’s tire swing.

FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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Goats are great livestock to keep on small urban farms. The animals aren't as expensive to buy or maintain as cows but require shelter and secure fencing.

Goats 101 ADVICE FOR THE URBAN FARMER Story and Photos by Deborah Horn

L

ong before goat cheese was all the rage, the Scrogins family of Olvey kept about 10 milk goats, enough to satisfy the family’s needs. The youngest daughter, Ginger, who was deathly allergic to cow’s milk, remembers her older sister Frances Scrogins Harris some 70 years later. “It was the only kind of milk she could drink. It’s easier for babies to digest,” she explains. So goat’s milk was used in family favorites like white gravy and potato soup, Scrogins remembers, adding, “We didn’t know the difference.” The family operated a small dairy for more than half a century, and, in many ways, the lifelong farmer — Scrogins continues to farm not far from where she was born — finds goats less demanding and less expensive to purchase than milk cows. “Goats are a good choice for the small urban farmer,” she says. However, Monica Butler, Arkansas Goat Producers Association president, cautions against buying goats before doing your homework. STOP AND THINK—TWICE That’s the advice Butler gives every future goater, and she adds, “Sure, we all think bottle babies are cute, but they’re hard work.” She speaks from experience. “I started with one cute goat,” Butler says. Thirty years later, she has about 12 milkers (mother goats producing milk) on a little more than three acres at Butlerville. She also has a few babies, yearlings and bucks. And of course, she has hard-earned and invaluable advice to pass along. First, make sure the baby goat is weaned, otherwise “you’ll lose it,” and be prepared to bottle feed it every few hours. That means a weekend getaway is out of the question, she says. As importantly, 16

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018


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Bottle babies, like the Saanens pictured here, are cute but demanding. Each goat requires feeding every few hours but for many Arkansans, the trouble is worth it.

she adds, “You need to have a suitable facility and fencing in place before bringing a baby goat or two home.” It doesn’t have to be a barn, but the goat needs some protection from the elements. While Scrogins uses 5-foot-plus web wire fencing, Butler relies on cattle panels. Butler explains, “It won’t break under the weight of an adult male goat.” Chain-link fencing also works, but without a secure system, Butler says, “Your garden and flowers are in danger.” Coyotes enjoy goat for dinner, and, Scrogins says, “When they’re hungry, they’re highly motivated, and most fences can’t keep them out.” Wild dogs and wolves can also be a problem. For that reason, Butler and Scrogins strongly recommend a companion animal for protection, such as a dog. Because coyotes are wary of donkeys, Scrogins says she always keeps one with her goats. A WORD OF PROFESSIONAL WARNING Conley Byrd Jr., a country vet who practices in Redfield, has three decades of experience with livestock. He’s a former state veterinarian, and last year he was appointed to the Veterinary Medical Examining Board. He’s seen plenty of goats and says when starting out, there are many health considerations: parasites can be a problem, especially in pastures where cattle or deer have grazed; it’s important to vaccinate for Clostridium, or blackleg; and don’t overdo it with the grain. “Baby goats also need to be treated for worms,” he adds. COWS VS. GOATS Milk producing cows need about two-and-a-half acres for each mother and calf, while a goat can get by on fewer. For example, self-described urban farmer

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Jaimi Zeringue, owner of DeerBunny Soaps, keeps six Lamanchas healthy and productive on a single acre near Searcy. Scrogins says, “Goats eat about one-fourth of what a cow does, and a good goat can produce about a gallon of milk a day. A good cow can produce, on average, from four to six gallons per day.” However, she counters, cow’s milk only brings about $4 a gallon, whereas goat’s milk brings about $4 a quart. In other words, goats are about four times more profitable. BREEDING MATTERS Butler also cautions against buying goats at auction, because of potential diseases or problems, and says “unless you plan to show your goats,” papers aren’t a must. Instead she suggests looking at a baby’s parentage and how well it’s been cared for. Like dogs, she says, “Each breed has its advantages and disadvantages, and what you want will depend on your preferences.” Butler suggests doing your homework before buying just any old goat and says there’s information online and through the University of Arkansas. OLD SCHOOL IS HIP “Raising goats is becoming more popular, especially with backyard farmers. It’s quite rewarding. Plus, they’re pets with great benefits,” Butler says. Today goaters are using the milk in diverse and creative ways, including soft and hard cheeses, yogurt, butter, and in soap or hand lotions; and like the Scrogins family so many years ago, Butler says, “We make gravy and biscuits, ice cream and lots more with our milk.”


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CHOW-CHOW

A FINE OLD TRADITION Story and Photos by Richard Ledbetter

Green tomatoes, not yet picked, are the key ingredient in chow-chow. Below: All the necessary ingredients for chow-chow preparation.

T

here’s a long held custom in the South of picking the last green tomatoes of autumn just prior to the first killing frost to preserve them for coming seasons in the form of chowchow. But just like fried green tomatoes, you don’t have to wait until the end of the season to make chow-chow. Green tomatoes may be picked throughout the summer, even early in the growing season, before they first ripen. For those unfamiliar, chow-chow is a green tomato relish with various other ingredients added in that is used to garnish and flavor the likes of cooked peas and beans. It’s been a popular condiment on rural tables for generations, and in recent years it’s found its way into urban kitchens. And why not? It’s a great way to utilize green tomatoes and dress up almost any dish.

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Combine the following ingredients in a large pot. Cook on medium heat for fifteen minutes: ½ gallon of apple cider vinegar 1 1/2 cups brown sugar 1 1/2 cups of white sugar 2 tablespoons of turmeric 1 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon ginger 2 teaspoons celery seed And 3 tablespoons dried mustard

This will produce 16 pints of finished chow-chow, ready to can. While still hot, spoon the final product into sterile glass jars, wipe any excess chow-chow from jar rims and set metal lids in place. Finger-tighten metal lid rims and allow to cool. You’ll know you’ve achieved an airtight seal upon hearing the dimple in the lids snap down. Always date and label your canned goods. Then, enjoy sharing the fruits of your labors for months to come.

Add the following chopped, drained vegetables to the mixture, and simmer for one hour: 1 gallon of chopped green tomatoes 1 medium cauliflower 6 large banana peppers 2 bell peppers ½ head of cabbage ½ bunch of celery 2 large onions

The accompanying chow-chow recipe prepares 16 pints of ready to serve green tomato relish.

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Carcasses hang in the cooler anywhere from ten days to a month, depending on customer preference.

A QUIET CRAFT

MEAT PROCESSING IS REINVIGORATED IN THE NEW LOCAL FOOD ECONOMY By Lacey Thacker

A

s the popularity of locally produced food increases, so too does the demand for processing facilities to ready the food for consumers. But, between local food co-ops like Grass Roots and independent producers selling under their own label, meat processors have struggled to keep up with that increase in demand. Forty years ago, there were dozens of independent meat processing facilities in Arkansas. The rise of large meat companies, which are able to afford the additional personnel required to monitor important procedures required by USDA-inspected facilities, meant many of the independents were soon out of business. Today, there are fewer than half a dozen facilities in Arkansas suitable for a small producer—the other, larger facilities are used by national companies such as Tyson. Cypress Valley Meat Processing is one of those independent processors. Their first location, which opened in 2010 in Vilonia, does not offer inspected meat. Their second location, in Romance, burned down in early 2018. Their third location, in Pottsville, which does offer USDA-inspection, opened only a year ago. They are investigating several locations for rebuilding another USDA-inspected facility and hope to be operational by late summer of 2019. Owner Andy Shaw, when asked what led him to start Cypress Valley Meat Processing, explains that he began working in a retail grocery store almost two decades ago. He noticed a real dissonance between consumers and their understanding of where their food came from. In 2000, he went to work at Goss & Son in Romance to better learn the art of butchering, which he says he “really enjoyed,” particularly working with farmers. Cypress Valley, also a 22

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“I SAW US SOLVING A REAL PROBLEM FOR THE FARMING COMMUNITY. MORE AND MORE CUSTOMERS ARE BECOMING AWARE OF THE SOCIAL AND HEALTH COMPONENTS [OF THEIR FOOD].” —ANDY SHAW co-owner of Natural State Processing in Van Buren County, opened in 2010. Shaw says, “I saw us solving a real problem for the farming community. More and more customers are becoming aware of the social and health components [of their food]. It’s educating consumers that’s so important.” Because of that education, more consumers are choosing local. Yet farmers must often schedule their animals to be processed months in advance. One of Cypress Valley’s primary goals upon opening the new facility is to reduce the backlog— sometimes between three and six months. And though it might seem like an obvious business opportunity for an industrious person, Shaw explains, “There’s so much overhead and regulation,” and because of that the margin between success and failure is extraordinarily slim. When animals are brought to the facility, they’re held in a quiet, shaded pen with misters that are used to bring the surrounding air temperature down about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s time, the animal is brought inside, where they are killed in one of two ways. For larger animals like cattle, a bolt gun quickly plunges a metal bolt into their brain. For smaller animals, like pigs, an electric shock is used. The animal is then bled out and the hide and viscera are removed before the meat is rinsed with hot water. If

the meat will be USDA-inspected and thus available for sale to the public, it’s at this point the inspector verifies, through inspection of the viscera, that the animal was healthy and suitable for consumption. After the hot water rinse and a visual inspection for any dirt or other debris, the meat is sprayed with vinegar-based anti-microbial spray. Finally, it goes in to a cooler to cure until it is butchered in two to three weeks, depending on customer specifications. The entire area, from the pens where the animals are held to the room where meat is cut and packaged, is clean and organized, despite the fact that workers are currently completing an order. During the tour, Shaw apologizes for the endof-day disarray, but the guest can’t find any disarray to forgive. If there’s one thing about which Shaw is particular, it’s the quality of work Cypress Valley can be relied upon for—and it’s not just about the quality of the cuts. Referring to local cattle farmers, Shaw explains that unlike in some commercial feedlots, “You don’t go over to his farm and find an animal knee-deep in feces. By and large, they’re a cleaner animal coming in to us. These farmers take a lot of pride in that.” And so, once Cypress Valley takes possession of the animal, Shaw ensures “that it goes as humanely and as smoothly as possible—and that we give a package back that exceeds expectations.”

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FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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A bouquet from Felder Farm purchased at Hillcrest Farmers Market.

From F Field to Vase DEMAND FOR LOCALLY SOURCED FLOWERS BLOOMS ACROSS THE NATURAL STATE BY SAMANTHA SCHEIMAN 24

ew simple pleasures rival a bouquet of flowers, and the freshest, most sublime blooms you can buy are those grown locally. Wrapped in paper and artfully tied with twine, local flowers are fixtures at Arkansas farmers markets from April to November, and they’re dazzling in their diversity, representing sought-after heirlooms, specimens too delicate to ship, or even responsibly foraged wildflowers. And their beauty is more than petal-deep: The flowers of local farmer-florists are sourced mere counties—not countries!—away, at the farthest, requiring less fuel to reach you, and many are grown sustainably, with pollinators in mind. It is no wonder, then, that locally sourced flowers, also known as slow flowers, are rising in popularity, elevated by the success of the local-food movement and a modern desire to downshift and enjoy everyday beauty. By bringing local flora into your home, you will not only brighten your table but also discover a deeper connection to the seasons, your neighbors, and the land you live on. At the spring farmers market, daffodils declare the end of winter in cheerful shades of pale yellow, orange, and cream. Look for double-flowering varieties such as ‘Delnashaugh’ or ‘Tahiti,’ which exhibit layers of petals and a light fragrance. Daintier daffodils such as ‘Poet’s Daffodil’ are lovely in snow-white and make a sweet statement en masse. As the daffodils start to fade, tulips debut in common colors of scarlet and school-bus yellow,

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018


but you can also find them in light pink or the deep moody purple of ‘Queen of the Night.’ Ranunculus, which resembles a rose, is another springtime treat, and if you live in northwest Arkansas, Dripping Springs Garden offers ranunculus alongside tulips and lilies in sensational mixed bouquets. Another quintessential flower of spring is foxglove, whose belllike flowers clustered along tall stems look incredible in a vase all by themselves! If you are lucky, you might find Icelandic poppies with papery petals in lush reds, yellows, and whites. Keep tabs on Delta Sol Farm in eastern Arkansas if poppies are a must-have for you. Summertime offers an unparalleled abundance of blooms in a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Without question, zinnias are the star of the summer farmers market: They are the most common flower you can find and available in every color of the rainbow! Keep an eye out for cactus-flowered zinnias, which exhibit unique quilled petals. Other varieties of note include the aptly named ‘Peppermint Stick’ and ‘Queen Lime’ in a wonderful shade of chartreuse. Zinnias shine in mixed-color arrangements, but if understated elegance is preferred, hydrangeas in cream or robin’s egg blue might fit the bill. Another flower with a decidedly elegant look is lisianthus, often found in yellow, violet, and white and available in central Arkansas from Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries. Dramatic and tropical-looking, gladiolus is easy to find in summer, and bi-colored varieties are especially striking, such as those grown by Whitton Farms in eastern Arkansas. Though not as common as the zinnia, dahlias are summer’s other darling and a favorite of brides. Seek out dinnerplate types such as ‘Café au Lait,’ which display giant show stopping blooms in dreamy pastel hues! Autumn is the season for sunflowers, which offer a rustic beauty that pairs nicely with Mason jars or French flower buckets. Unique bi-colored varieties in shades of plum and gold are available from Bell Urban Farm in Conway, while other farmer-florists are growing teddy bear sunflowers, which look as adorable as they sound. In mid-fall, when many flowers are fading, heirloom chrysanthemums ramp up production, yielding whimsical flowers with spidery petals in a spectrum of pinks and yellows. Felder Farm of Little Rock blends chrysanthemums with end-of-season dahlias, creating exquisite bouquets that are truly works of art. As autumn progresses, the season’s last flowers are increasingly accompanied in bouquets by non-floral elements such as grasses, herbs, or even okra pods, which add interesting texture. When the last flowers finally succumb to frost, do not despair: Celebrate the holiday season and purchase a handmade wreath from your favorite farmer-florist and give thanks for a wonderful year of blooms and beauty! While your local farmers market is your best starting point for finding local, seasonal blooms, other avenues exist for purchasing slow flowers. Some local-food cooperatives such as New South Produce Cooperative (newsouthcoop.com) and online farmers markets like the Arkansas Local Food Network (littlerock.localfoodmarketplace.com) offer options for customers to purchase locally grown flowers, and increasingly, such bouquets can be found at specialty stores or pop-up community events. Wherever you find them, slow flowers are bound to help you cultivate more joy in the moment and richer relationships with local people and places dear to you. They truly help you live your most beautiful life, firmly rooted in community and sustainability.

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FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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tale of the grape GRAPES ARE RIPE FOR THE PICKING STORY & PHOTOS BY DWAIN HEBDA

T

he rows of grapevines stand shimmering in quarter-mile long rows, stretching into the hazy mountain vista. Foliage hunches over their bracings, shaggy and round, like emeraldgreen bison slow-moving in the late summer heat. Underneath, grapes dangle in clumps and colonies, some ripened to a deep amethyst hue, others yielding the softest blush of color. “These aren’t quite ripe yet,” said Joseph Post, whose family has tended these acres for almost 140 years. “You can pick your own.” The shooter marble-sized grape is fleshy and sweet and the taster can imagine immediately what sort of wine it will yield. Post grins and looks around. “I like to come out here because it’s real,” he said. “It’s a real reminder of what we do here and what my family has done here. We’re raising bottles of wine.” Now knocking on the door of six generations, the Posts are one of the first families of the state’s vino. In fact, Jacob Post, Joseph’s great-great-grandfather, is credited with introducing winemaking in Altus, the cradle of the craft in Arkansas. His grandfather, James Post, was a member of an early winemakers co-op in the 1930s and perfected the means of mass production. “Our grandfather wanted this location because of the cold-water spring on the hillside,” Joseph 26

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“I’d really like to see more people open wineries up here.” —Joseph post

said. “The basics of fermentation is heat working on sugar; you have the production of alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. Heat is the enemy; the wine gets too hot, you lose the God-given flavor of the grape.” With more than 30 wineries and grape growers, and more coming online all the time, wine is Arkansas’s new farm stand. From Springdale to Southwest Little Rock, Little Italy to Eureka Springs, Tontitown to Mountain Home, most of the state’s wineries are small, family-run affairs. Some don’t grow their own grapes, others don’t turn their grapes into wine, but all look to cash in on a growing foodie culture and alcohol tourism. Post’s operation covers all those bases. With hundreds of acres and a thriving retail presence in multiple states, the company processes grapes by the 18-wheeler-load, which doesn’t go as far as you might imagine. A small steel fermenter holds the juice of a semi-load of grapes, and there is row upon row of the gleaming missile-shaped tanks throughout the winery. Up top, Post opens a hatch on one of the cold fermentation tanks like he’s popping a cork on a 12,000-gallon bottle of red. All in, Post’s operation can process 800,000 gallons of wine, and its output ranks among the 50 largest out of about 10,000 wineries in North America. And yet, Post said, the Natural State’s wine industry could be so much more. “You don’t want to be big, you want to be profitable,” Post said. “When we have market access our life quality is better. When we have market access taken away from us, through bad policy or change in laws or whatever, that can be very hard on us.” Post said wherever one can grow corn, one can grow grapes, and there are varieties for every climate and soil. Even the University of Arkansas

is helping make strides by producing new cultivars of wine grapes—work that is now being short circuited by flawed public policy, Post says. “Arkansas has a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “We need to look at some county taxes and think of some of the madness that is going on. I’d really like to see more existing Arkansas farmers put in grapes as a supplementary crop. We really need to talk to farmers that already understand farming. “They already have the land; it’s an issue of how they utilize that land. They already have the equipment they need. I think we should look at tax credits for people that put in (grape) farming operations that are going to put a lot of people to work.” The industry itself bears some of the blame as growers, producers and winery owners are disjointed in their promotion efforts. Some, like Sassafras Springs Winery in Springdale, enjoy the benefits of local population growth and novelty. The four-year-old winery, event center and wedding venue has been a hit since it launched four years ago, largely due to it being the only operation of its kind in that part of the state. Gene Long, who owns Sassafras Springs with his wife, Cheryl, said while wine does draw its share of visitors, it often just augments the operation’s other amenities, both natural and manmade. Production is somewhere around 1,000 bottles a year—miniscule compared to others in Arkansas. But events and gatherings clamor for a spot on the calendar and have since the day the place opened four and half years ago. “If you’ve traveled around and visited other wineries, you’ll see our situation is unique,” said Gene. “I don’t know of any winery that has an events center like we have. Ours is so much different; we don’t make a lot of wine, but we have hundreds of weddings a year.” FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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Left to right: A former horse barn now hosts elegant weddings and community events at Sassafras Winery in Springdale. The farm also includes a chapel, tasting room and has plans for a lodge. The tasting room yurt at An Enchanting Evening in Little Italy offers visitors a sample of the grape and a breathtaking view off a back deck.

Joseph Post amid some of Post Winery's massive cold fermentation tanks. One of the oldest Arkansas wineries still in existence, Post has a total winemaking capacity of about 800,000 gallons.

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ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018

Sassafras does have one thing in common with its much larger, more wine-forward colleagues: When the Longs were looking to open the winery, they picked up the phone and began calling around looking for guidance, Post was the one that responded. “There is no book out there that says, Beginning Winery 101,” Gene said. “The best advice we got was from the Posts. They were very cordial and very nice. Whenever we pick up the phone, they ’re like, ‘What can we do for you? ’” Another operation that blends events and wine is An Enchanting Evening, perched on a cliff ’s edge near Roland. The operation is a labor of love by Roger and Wendy Quaid, who opened the winery and wedding facilities in 2014 and who operate the company around their full-time jobs as data processors. “There’s been a few neighbors that just saw the sign and dropped in to see what we were doing. There’s a few regulars that started coming in,” Roger said. “Then the weddings are bringing guests out; we host about 75 events a year.” Wendy serves as winemaker while Roger manages the yurt that serves as the tasting room. They produce about 2 ,000 bottles of wine per year and are content with that for the time being.


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“We just sell out of here; I haven’t gone to a distributor, we don’t have it in stores,” Roger said. “I think with that we could boost production, but at the time being I’m plenty busy just keeping this going.” So too with Keels Creek Winery in Eureka Springs. The small winery produces about 2000 cases per year, and they do not currently have plans to scale up. Instead, they ’re focusing on producing quality wine from Arkansas-grown grapes. Small craft wineries such as Sassafras Springs, An Enchanting Evening and Keels Creek are music to Joseph Post’s ears. Even as he drives the visitor past field after field of generations-old Altus vineyards – all either in or approaching the traditional harvest window of Indian summer through crisp autumn – he still sees potential for the future and not just for his family ’s operation that dominates the landscape. “I’d really like to see more people open wineries up here,” Post said. “It would be good for the industry and benefit everybody.”

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FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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Derek Smith, general manager, has increased sales by 26% since he was hired in March.

The New South Co-op FROM BOXES TO FOOD TRUCKS Story and Photos by Deborah Horn

If the local food movement is to become sustainable and farmers are able to sell enough to feed and support their own families, it will take more than a handful of farmers markets scattered around the state. That’s how a group of certified naturally grown and organic Arkansas producers sees it, and through the New South Produce Cooperative, headquartered in North Little Rock, it’s achieving that goal while supplying Arkansans with a healthy food source. New South, a farmer-owned cooperative, is working to improve the lot of Arkansas’s farmers through its Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Originally known as Foodshed Farms, it got its start in 2014 through a Heifer International incubator program at St. Joseph’s Center in North Little Rock. By the following year, a handful of member farmers filled about 150 boxes with fresh products. This year, New South distributed 6,650 produce boxes to more than 550 customers — New South refers to them as shareholders — during their 16-week combined spring and summer season. Their farmer members are now 24 strong, with an additional 10 farms supplying the co-op with additional products ranging from fresh veggies, fruits and honey 30

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018

to meat and milk. Peyton Olsen, New South community marketing manager, says, “It’s been five years of hard labor, but it seems like it’s all coming together, and I’m excited about our future.” GROWING INTO ITS OWN In addition to moving into a 5,300 square foot warehouse with 900 square feet of cooler space, Ozark Natural Foods, a cooperative grocer in Fayetteville, has made room for New South on their premises so they can operate as a distributor in Northwest Arkansas. They also supply the food store with product. But there’s more good news. “We just started working with the Walton Family Foundation Inc. [of Bentonville], looking for ways to strengthen and grow the local food system,” Olsen says. This relationship comes with $80,000 “to explore better warehouse options in the future, and they’re introducing us to area farmers and to businesses and institutions that want to buy local,” she adds. Brandon Gordon is an original New South board member and says the co-op is a “missing link” that brings farmers and producers together with customers


One of New South’s pickup locations is Heifer Urban Farm in downtown Little Rock.

in a new way. Since joining the coop four years ago, Gordon says, “There’s been incredible growth.” IT’S A CATCH 22 For New South to reliably supply grocers or restaurants, the supply base and the product must be dependable, Olsen says. It’s hard to grow the supply-side without a customer-base and vice versa. Nonetheless, New South is forging ahead. It’s developing more market opportunities for its farmers, including restaurants and grocery stores in Central Arkansas. Already, they work with Natural Grocers in Little Rock, and they’re in the process of “developing a

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Left to right: Peyton Olsen, New South’s community marketing manager, holds a box of vine-ripened tomatoes. A market worker checks her list twice.

relationship with Harps Food Stores,” primarily in Northwest Arkansas, the River Valley and in Conway, Olsen says. “Harps has expressed interest in sourcing local produce, because so many farms are so close to their stores,” Olsen says. Of course, the members benefit from the co-op’s growing demand,” Gordon says. For example, a restaurant like The Root in Little Rock can’t promise a spring mix with every dish without a consistent supply. This helps individual farmers plan their crop and decide when to plant. By sharing information, it allows several farmers to stagger their plantings to extend the season. And if one farmer’s crop fails then the others can step in and fill the gap. “You can’t build a menu on unpredictably,” and, Gordon adds, instead of dealing with 40 different farmers, The Root owner Jack Sundell only has to deal with the New South personnel. THEY’RE ATTEMPTING TO EXPAND THEIR INVENTORY. Their pick-up and delivery system, with vehicles crisscrossing the state almost daily, benefits members. For instance, Olsen says, “It’s hard for White River Creamery at Elkins to get to Little Rock more than 32

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018

once a month, but we can help them and they help us fill our [delivery] vehicles.” Their hard work is starting to pay off. Since New South General Manager Derek Smith came on board in March, sales have increased by 26 percent. He’s fond of saying, “We’re building a new South. Grow it with us.” BIG ADVANTAGES FOR MEMBERS Josh Hardin, owner of Laughing Stock Farm at Sheridan and a member and board member, says, “There are several levels of benefits to membership.” Ten farmers “working together can combine their energy and expertise.” However, he adds, New South welcomes beginners, too. “We can source organic seeds, soils, and buy products in bulk in order to get better prices,” Hardin says. Also, he adds, members can access equipment and infrastructure, and their network of members can provide advice, training and on-site assistance. For instance, Olsen says, “We can dispatch a team to help a member with hoop house or caterpillar tunnel construction.” Hardin says organic and certified naturally grown “requires farmers and producers jump through higher hoops than traditional farming, so the co-op provides staff to help with certification,


food safety and good, sustainable agricultural practices.” KEEPING THE COMMUNITY’S TRUST New South founding members decided on their own high production standards early on and before accepting new members, the co-op must be assured of a potential member’s practices and quality. Gordon says the co-op can’t sacrifice excellence for a bigger market share. New South Produce Cooperative is hosting a general interest meeting for certified or noncertified farmers in Northwest Arkansas on Thursday, September 20, at 6 p.m. at the Benton County Extension Office at 1204 SW 14th St., Bentonville. For more information, call (501) 615-8963 or email: Derek@newsouthcoop. com. FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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T he Best Ones ACCIDENTAL PECAN FARMERS By Lacey Thacker Photography by Katie Childs

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L

eanna Clark, a retired critical care nurse, spent the last 20 years of her career in the emergency room at St. Vincent’s before retiring five years ago. Her husband, Bob Clark, is a physician who retired from surgery 20 years ago and medicine 15 years ago. Their previous occupations might be considered by some a far cry from the primary occupation of their retirement— raising pecans and cattle. “We got the orchard by accident,” Bob says. Leanna laughs and continues, “When we bought this land, we mainly bought it for the hay, because we have a cow/calf operation that has about 300 head.” Bob told Leanna that if she wanted to mess with the orchard, it would be her project. She took that statement to heart. After they purchased the property in Mayflower, about 30 acres of which is orchard, Leanna called the 20 people who used to help bring in the harvest for the previous owner. “I learned everything I know about pecans from those 20 people, including Royce Hall, who had the only pecan cracker in Conway,” she says. The previous owner used to open the orchard to the public as opposed to selling commercially. Leanna continues that tradition “to honor the history of the place,” but because they’ve moved almost their entire operation to commercial sales as of 2012, they’re only able to do so for about six days each season, which runs from roughly the end of October to the beginning or middle of December. Visitors can come and pick as much as they wish, and they’re allowed to keep half of what they pick for free. Additional pecans may be purchased. “It’s good to meet the people,” says Michael, Leanna and Bob’s son. “But what we don’t sell retail, we’ll wholesale—and that’s most of it.” The orchard has two types of trees. The first is an older native variety named “Desirables,” and they ripen later in the year, usually after Thanksgiving, while the

FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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“T hey [crows] want the best ones—just like people.” —Robert Clark

Michael holds beautiful uncracked pecans.

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ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018


newer hybrids, called Stuarts, ripen earlier—just in time for Thanksgiving. The Desirables in the orchard are tall and picturesque—soaring many feet into the air before branching. Despite the size of the trees, the nut itself is much smaller than one might expect. “They’ve got a thick shell, but they’re so much better— oiler, sweeter. Confectioners like them a lot,” Bob says, breaking one open to show the interior of the not-yet-ripe nut. The morning the family— Leanna, Bob and Michael, who is a partner in the pecan business—met with Arkansas Food & Farm, they had just come from an ag committee meeting in Little Rock, where, Leanna says, various farmers meet with the extension agent who hears the current concerns from farmers, which allows him to begin making statewide plans for the next year. Michael, who received his undergraduate degree in substance abuse counseling and a graduate degree in conflict resolution, says wryly that though raising pecans and beef is all he’s ever done, “[My education] has helped me with all the boards and committees I’m on.” The process of harvesting pecans is a detailed one. First, the trees are shaken by, yes, a shaking machine, though the older trees can’t be shaken until they’ve gone dormant, or they might be damaged. While many of the pecans will have already fallen to the ground, the shaking brings down the rest. Next, the pecans are collected, and finally, they’re cleaned of debris. As they come down the conveyor belt, a worker stands and separates the good from the bad. Bob says he finds the work relatively pleasant, but that it’s easy to look up from the conveyor belt and become dizzy. “Your brain has decided that this moving belt is actually still, and when you look up, it takes a minute to adjust,” he says. Visit cowsandpecans.com for more information about Clark’s Pecans and the 2018 picking season. FALL HARVEST 2018 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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FALL FARMERS MARKETS AN EXTENDED HARVEST

PHOTOGRAPHY: NOVO STUDIO

There are dozens of farmers markets around Arkansas, but it’s few and far between that are open beyond the summer months. Read on to find your options for year-round markets!

DOWNTOWN ROGERS FARMERS MARKET

HILLCREST FARMERS MARKET

ARKANSAS LOCAL FOOD NETWORK

101 East Cherry Street

2200 Kavanaugh Boulevard

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Saturdays May-October, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturdays year-round, 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

November-April, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 38

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | FALL HARVEST 2018

Order online and pick up each week.


O

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Arkansas Food & Farm | Fall Harvest 2018  

Arkansas Food & Farm | Fall Harvest 2018