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Summer Harvet 2019

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CHANGE IS HOME-GROWN

Heifer USA works with small-scale farmers and farmer-owned cooperatives in Arkansas to revolutionize the way people produce, sell and eat their food. With increased access to technical support and reliable markets, these farmers are using sustainably produced, local food to provide for their families and ignite change. Come see for yourself at Heifer Ranch in Perryville!

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RESEARCH FIRST Researchers Trial Aquaponics at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

SUNNY SIDE UP The Real Yolk About Arkansas Eggs

HOMEMADE BUTTER Old-Fashioned Delight

WALKING THE TALK Bentonville Members-Only Club Commits to Local Food

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BETTING ON THE SMALL FARM Miracle Farms Market in Bodcaw 4

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | SUMMER HARVEST 2019

ON T H E COV E R :

Photography by Kat Wilson.


Seasoning for Your Entire Plate

arkansasfoodandfarm.com ALAN LEVERITT President alan@arktimes.com KATHERINE DANIELS Publisher katherine@arktimes.com LACEY THACKER Editor lacey@arktimes.com MANDY KEENER Creative Director mandy@arktimes.com

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KATIE HASSELL Art Director/Digital Manager PHYLLIS A. BRITTON Sales Director phyllis@arktimes.com

is a unique blend of 13 ingredients that is good to use on anything you would normally salt and pepper.

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ON TOMATO FARMING

Alan stands among heirloom tomatoes he has planted in one of his hoop houses.

Alan Leveritt Publisher, Arkansas Food & Farm Arkansas Times Publishing

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ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | SUMMER HARVEST 2019

KATIE CHILDS

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unning a tomato farm is sort of like walking on the beach. It starts out as a stroll with plenty of time to plant, weed, run string, spray and tie. The plants are beautiful-no wilt, no fungus and the weather is cool. Then the first tomatoes start to turn, slowly at first and then, like a slow moving tidal wave, it hits you. Suddenly picking once a day is not enough, Overnight, the aisles start to fill up with glyphospate resistant pig weed and the stink bugs appear everywhere from nowhere. The hoop house heirloom tomatoes that just a week earlier were seven feet tall and disease free are now suffering from a grey leaf fungus. But now there is no time to do anything but pick. If it didn't get done before mid June, it won't get done till next year. But the heirloom tomatoes are full of flavor and color and they are coming in by the thousands. Goldies, Carbons and Annas Noirs, my holy trinity of tomato heaven are filling up my sorting shed with many of the Goldies and Annas Noirs weighing in at over a pound. The hoop house vines look like hell with blight and fungus but they stayed healthy long enough to produce huge, perfect tomatoes. In a sense I have only myself to blame for the less than healthy hoop house vines. The 48 foot hoop houses cost $5.000 and the 96 foot house is $10,000. That is expensive real estate so a small farmer needs to plant the highest value crop which in my case is heirloom tomatoes. But now in my 5th year of planting tomatoes without rotating outside the nightshade family, I am reaping blight and fungus. In mid July the vines will be spent and I will pull them out and solarize the soil but I will still have to find another non-nightshade crop this fall which will probably be butterhead lettuces. I will construct another hoop house later this year but I am going to figure out someway to put it on rails three times the length of the house. This way I can move the house to fresh ground each year on a three year rotation. I've never seen one like this but it must be possible. Meanwhile, the acre of heirloom tomatoes that are out in the field are heavy with green fruit. They were planted in mid April as opposed to the protected hoop house vines that went in mid March. They need to be tied for a fourth time and sprayed with BT to ward off the pin worms and horn worms. Not sure how but I'm I'm going to get to it.


EASY LIVING

Lacey sets out flowers for a launch party at Dunbar Garden in honor of her new book, "Rooted: Central Arkansas Farm & Table".

Lacey Thacker Editor

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PHOTO: SCOTT MEISLOHN

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ometimes I feel like I wait the entire year for tomatoes to appear in salads at my favorite local restaurants. There are some varieties, small and cherry red or pink, that bring tears to my eyes. Their bursting flavor is sweet, sweeter than some strawberries, even. For me, the joy of the whole summer is distilled in these tomatoes. The farmers market is in full swing now, and all our favorites, tomatoes included, can be found fresh and ripe, thanks to the hard-working growers who toil all week, only to wake early and load up for early-morning markets in the blazing hot sun or driving rain. Those favorite foods can be found at many restaurants across the state that focus on local meat and produce. One of those restaurants is the soon-to-open private club BlakeSt in Bentonville. BlakeSt’s executive chef, Simon Brown, has spent the last six months traveling the state, meeting farmers and learning about Arkansas’s local food scene. It’s those lessons he plans to implement in every dish on the restaurant’s menu. In South Arkansas, Miracle Farms Market is making waves with its on-farm market stocked by not only their farm, but a cooperative effort from surrounding growers. In this issue, you’ll also read about aquaponics, learn about pastureraised eggs and discover how easy it is to make your own butter at home. If you haven’t made it to the market yet, it’s time. Pick one and swing by this week. And, if you’re considering how you can implement some food and farm activities at home, grab some chickens, set up a mini-aquaponics experiment or try your hand at making butter—and tag us in your Instagram photos @arfoodfarm!


Local Liime

Little Rock’s dining and craft beverage scene is on the rise. Whether enjoying a romantic dinner for two, using our Locally Labeled Passport program to sample our city’s everexpanding offerings of ales, wines and spirits, or savoring the amazing flavors local chefs are creating, there’s never been a better time to enjoy great food and drink in Little Rock.

Indulge in

LittleRock.com

SUMMER HARVEST 2019 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM

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Research First Researchers Trial Aquaponics at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff By Benjamin Harrison

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obbyists, backyard gardeners, small producers and large companies are becoming increasingly interested in the advantages of aquaponics. But it’s buyer beware in the current market. “There have been a lot of people that will go ahead and buy what people say is going to work,” says Dr. Nicholas Romano, associate professor with the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. “Then they go out of business because either they don’t have the training to do it, or the system wasn’t good to begin with.” Still, the allure is powerful. Inland growers now have the potential to produce, in a local setting, products that are generally shipped thousands of miles from distant seaside

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fishermen to the dinner table. The promises from aquaponics systems manufacturers of certain revenue expectations per square unit is unrealistic, Romano says. “My advice to [buyers] is to be very cautious going into this. Do research and talk to other successful farmers to learn from their mistakes. Don’t just believe the first guy you come across.” Romano completed his doctoral degree in 2006 while studying aquaponics systems in Australia. From there, he completed postdoctoral work in Malaysia, where he worked with some of the most advanced aquaponics systems. “In Singapore,” Romano says, “they had whole racks that would rotate up and down to save on space because it’s an urban area. Space is at a real

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | SUMMER HARVEST 2019

premium there.” For other urban aquaponics users, Romano says, “It depends on what they want to grow and what their space requirements are.” Most recently, he inherited the aquaponics research at UAPB and was co-funded $478,000 in a collaborative capacity grant with Kentucky State University. With that funding, he has begun his research into the potential of a new waste treatment system called Biofloc. Biofloc is gaining in popularity among aquaponics aficionados and, essentially, minimizes the need for water change and removes the need for a filtration system. It also helps prevent the introduction of diseases from water newly added to aquaponics systems.


“When you throw in food, you’re throwing in protein,” Romano says. “That protein breaks down into waste, which is toxic to the animal.” To get rid of that waste in the water, Romano adds a carbon source, often a sugar, starch or glycerol. This transforms wastes, like ammonia, into microbial biomass, which the animals (fish, shrimp and more) can then potentially eat while also increasing the capacity for the aquaponic system to self-regulate. Potentially, Biofloc will be used as a protein substitute in place of soy meal and fish meal, which can further reduce operating costs. Along with this new technology, Romano is conducting a number of experiments. “We take the extra Biofloc and feed it Black Soldier Fly larvae,” he says, “to see if that enhances the nutritional value of the fly larvae.” If all goes well, these larvae are then used to feed the fish, which could turn into another potential cost-

saving advantage of this technology. Romano and his team are also experimenting to see how their animals grow and behave in these systems based on the presence of plants. “We want to see what the biggest limiting factor for the growth of the plants is,” Romano says, “which plants take out which micronutrient the fastest.” The preferred aquaponics system design chosen by Romano and his team is a rack system. In this system, plants float on a Styrofoam container at the water’s surface, and Romano believes it has advantages over a variety of other aquaponics systems now available on the market. Another design option is the gutter system, in which plants do not float but rather sit on top of the water, with the base of the plant closer to the water’s surface. But the problem, Romano says, is the roots grow too quickly and require frequent trimming. In his chosen system, the racks have

greater depth, which means the roots require less frequent trimming, another consideration in labor costs. During his school days in Australia, Romano grew lettuce, coriander, tomatoes, chilis and more in aquaponic systems. “But I think,” he says, “the future of aquaponics is we have to get away from all the lettuce. People are not going to be rabbits. We have to use different plant species.” The ultimate goal for his research project is to work with other farmers in the region to understand their problems and gain insight from them, and he is seeking growers to collaborate with. This method of agriculture’s impact on the environment is substantial, and Romano hopes to impact the sustainability of such endeavors. In the end, he looks to publish his research in scientific journals and trade magazines, to spread awareness of his learnings and to increase the ability for more growers to find low-cost methods of entering the aquaponics arena.

Tool Central knows agriculture TOOLCENTRAL.COM

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Pastured hens produce brightly colored yolks, in part due to their greater access to varied nutrients.

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THE REAL YOLK ABOUT ARKANSAS EGGS BY DEBORAH HORN PHOTOGRAPHY BY HAPPY EGG COMPANY

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A farmer cradles a clutch of fresh eggs.

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ARKANSAS HENS LAY ABOUT 3 BILLION EGGS EACH YEAR. t’s still early, but already 14-year-old J.C. Carlton’s 40 Hyline Brown hens are scattering into the warm spring morning. Unlike most of Arkansas’s commercial laying hens that are confined to cages, J.C.’s are free to roam the family’s 300acre farm near Rosston. Generally, J.C.’s birds remain close to their coop and the farm’s activity center. He describes his method as freerange, saying, “I put them out in the morning and back up at night.” It’s this varied diet that makes the eggs taste richer and more flavorful. Plus, he says, “The chickens are good for the land and the land is good for them.” J.C. says he loves his hens, but perhaps his favorite part is the pancakes his mother makes with the eggs. While the hens are scratching for the early worm, J.C. is busy collecting the eggs and cleaning out the coop and nesting boxes. J.C.’s hens started as a 4-H project with plenty of support and educational information from the organization, but it has grown into a paycheck, and while the teenager handles most of the work, his

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mother, Tara Carlton, is in charge of sales. She’s also a 4-H leader. Carlton says, “It takes J.C. about 20 hours a week to care for his hens,” and while he will consider increasing his flock, he realizes he would have to build a second coop. In addition to keeping about 280 eggs a week cool, J.C. washes the protective bloom off the egg just before packing each dozen into a recycled carton that is shipped to Miracle Farms Market a few miles away. “People don’t always realize how much time and energy it takes to produce an egg. At the grocery store, they just grab a carton and go,” Carlton says. THE BIG BUSINESS OF EGGS And yet, according to the multi-state Poultry Federation’s director of marketing & business development, Holly Rogers, poultry is an important part of Arkansans’ lives. Whether eating or using eggs in food production, Americans eat about 279 eggs per person annually, based on the USDA's 2017 figures, and egg consumption has been steadily rising. The American Egg Board

states that number is now about 287, and in February, U.S. egg production was about 8.56 billion a year. That’s keeping America’s hens working full time. According to Rogers’ information, Arkansas ranks fourth in the nation in egg production, with hens laying about 3 billion eggs each year, and poultry is the state’s leading agricultural industry. It’s worth about $479 million annually, creating about 150,000 jobs. About 5,800 farms work in some aspect of the poultry business. Rogers says at least one national survey indicates that Carlton’s right; most consumers give little thought to what a layer hen is fed or under what conditions it is raised. But when it comes to her family, Carlton cares about the quality. So do her customers as well as Happy Egg Company, CEO Dan Arnsperger. “We’re the next best thing to backyard fresh,” he says. IT TAKES A HAPPY HEN Arnsperger says Happy Egg moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Rogers about two years

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Eggs aren’t just for breakfast. They can be added to a number of savory dishes suitable for all-day consumption, like the rice dish pictured above.

ago so it could be closer to its hens In the U.S., only about 8 percent of and farmer-partners. The company the eggs sold are raised free-range, sells free-range, regular or organic, but Arnsperger believes that number eggs from their Lohmann Brown Lite will grow, too. Instead of increasing specialty hens nationwide. “We offer the size of the individual farms in [consumers] a better egg option,” order to grab a bigger market share, Arnsperger says. Happy Egg believes it’s in the best In fact, the company is betting interest of the bird to keep the farm the egg farm that the number of small and personal. So the company caring customers is growing. That’s build additional farm-partnerships not based on wishful thinking, to meet the egg demand. but on the company’s bottom line, It’s not only good for the hen, and Arnsperger, who grew up in but each farmer is guaranteed Missouri, says, “We’re growing the company will purchase their rapidly.” eggs, thus creating stability and The company sells about a million financial security for the farmer. dozen eggs every month or about 12 “For us, we’re really focused on million dozen annually. It has about what’s best for the bird, for the 30 farm-partners in Missouri, with a farmer, for the customer. There’s second Arkansas farm partnership no trade off,” Arnsperger says. just announced, and on average each farm raises between 16,000 and WHAT’S BEST FOR THE BIRD 20,000 hens on about 10 acres. Its operation is classified as 16 ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | SUMMER HARVEST 2019

free-range, but the company goes beyond the usual industry standards. Instead, it uses the American Humane Association’s standards and guidelines. “To qualify, the Happy Egg Co. had to meet the program’s rigorous standards, which, uniquely, includes providing each hen with access to 21.8 square feet of outdoor space, available shelter, nearly 200 more science- and welfare-based standards,” according to the company ’s website. In addition to inspecting its farm-partners on a regular basis, Happy Egg Company conducts monthly farm checks and bi-annual audits to ensure the “highest standard of hen care,” Arnsperger says. Happy Egg received the Compassion in World Farming’s 2016 Good Egg Award.


The sound of a pair of hens cooing as they pluck worms and bugs from the grass is one of the soothing sounds one can expect from a small farm or backyard flock.

Ever wonder what all those different labels on egg cartons mean? We’ve provided a few below. In some instances, there are no real federal standards or definitions for labels, like free range or pasture-raised; the best advice is to get to know your local farmer and the conditions under which the hens are raised.

FREE RANGE

Also: free-roaming Depending on the resource referenced, free range may mean the freedom to roam anywhere, anytime; unfettered outdoor access from daylight to dusk; or a small window to the outdoors via a hole in their cage. The USDA requires that birds have outdoor access or access to the outdoors. However, this may mean only a hole big enough for a hen to put her head through and no perbird space requirement. On the other hand, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) certification requires the hens be outside at least six hours each day, with at least 2 square feet of space per chicken.

PASTURE-RAISED

CAGED

In some cases, pasture-raised may be another term for free range, but HFAC-certified pasture-raised requirements include no more than 1,000 birds on 2.5 acres. There must be enough land for rotational grazing, and the hens must be allowed outdoors year-round and have permanent, secure housing.

Hens are confined to small cages for egg production. Often called battery cages, these are used in high-volume production operations and minimize the per-bird space requirements. Usually birds are fed a processed diet and are often debeaked.

FREE RUN

Organic labeling looks at every aspect of an animal or plant operation from soils, additives and feeds to animal welfare. Also, certified organic means produced without hormones, radiation, pesticides, non-organic fertilizers, GMOs and more. In order to sell under the organic label, a grower or producer must be certified through the National Organic Program by a USDA-accredited certifying agent.

Most often, chickens are allowed to run free within the confines of a barn or chicken coop with lots of perches and nesting boxes. The amount of space per bird is not guaranteed.

CAGE-FREE

This means birds are not confined in cages, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the hens have outdoor access. May include birds under the term “free range.”

ORGANIC

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a growing family affair

PHOTOS: DEBORAH HORN

by Deborah Horn

Jack Daniels and his wife, Sunny, were named Nevada County Farm Family of the Year in 2013. Jack and his parents also received the Farm Family honor in 1983 in Hempstead County. Pictured left to right, top row: Sunny Daniels, Tara Carlton, Jack Daniels, Jimmy Daniels, A.J. Daniels, J.C. Carlton, Emma Daniels, Tabby Stone, and Tammy Daniels-Baldwin. Front row left to right: Cora Carlton, Maggie Daniels, Charlotte Daniels and dogs, left to right: Fancy, Miss Kay and Lollie.

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ecky and Bruce Goyne drove about 100 miles across Southwest Arkansas on a recent Saturday morning to Miracle Farms Market. They came for grass-fed beef but stayed for hours, relaxing under the shade of native pecan trees, drinking homemade lemonade and discussing the year’s excessive rainfall as cool breezes blew across the hot afternoon. Instead of traffic or sirens, the afternoon is occasionally

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interrupted by chirping birds, baaing lambs or laughter. The market, a co-op of local farmers, is the brainchild of Jack and Sunny Daniels, and set on their three-generation-owned farm on County Road 15 near Bodcaw (Nevada County). As well as offering visitors a family farm experience, there’s a handsqueezed lemonade stand set up on the lawn. And inside the market, there are old-fashioned fried pies and fresh-baked breads, jellies, jams,

ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | SUMMER HARVEST 2019

teas, spa products and whatever veggies and berries are in season, either fresh or canned—and more. FARM FRESH In the market, there are four freezers filled with grass-fed, USDA processed beef, Berkshire Pork and lamb, and, in the refrigerator, real Jersey milk. Bruce, who lives at Crossett, says, “The meat is worth the drive … It’s healthier, and it’s the most tender beef that I’ve ever had.”


“WE WANT PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO GET EVERYTHING THEY NEED HERE.” – SUNNY DANIELS

Bread from Tara Carlton, a Miracle Farms Market co-op member, left. The co-op offers whatever is in season and fresh—for example, locally grown potatoes, right, and green beans, next page.

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The meat comes from the Daniels’ farm, with Jack running about 60 head of cattle and 25 ewes on their 200-acre spread, and the milk is a product of the Daniels’ teenage son, Jimmy, who raises and milks the cows. They hope to add hand-churned butter to the refrigerator’s lineup soon, Sunny says. She cans all they sell in the market’s commercial kitchen, and that’s where their teenage daughter, Emma, prepares her cakes, pies and breads. Emma, who sells under Emma’s Baking Co., says her inspiration is driven by whatever’s in season. But there are also bath and spa products and hard lotions made by nearby Stone Farms and teas packaged by Laura Ward. What’s in the market’s fresh produce section depends on the month.

Inside Miracle Farms Market, co-op founder Jack Daniels, customers Bruce and Becky Goyne, co-op founder Sunny Daniels, and co-op members Tara Carlton and Laura Ward spend their Saturday afternoon visiting.

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CO-OPING IT Inside the market, the day’s last customer grabs a dozen eggs, a quart of locally grown blueberries and a loaf of sweet white bread before checking out. Because of their rural location, Sunny said, “We want people to be able to get everything they need here.” Jacks says there are about seven farms selling their wares at his 4-year-old market, and in Arkansas it’s an unusual but creative arrangement. Most often, co-ops allow farmers to pool their resources when buying seeds, fertilizers, fuels or machinery. Tara Carlton, a co-op supply member who sells pastured poultry, eggs and breads at the market, says she had no doubt the market would succeed from the first moment the Daniels family talked about it. “I was excited. It works … and the word [about Miracle Farms Market] is spreading,” Tara says. Jack also takes their products to farmers markets in Hope, Texarkana and Camden. For a time, Sunny says, “we worried these would steal business from our market,” but it’s proving the opposite, and she adds, “It gives people a taste and they want to see what else we have.”


FARM PAST Jack, as well as his grandfather, I.J. Daniels, and father, Jim Daniels, grew up on County Road 15. In fact, I.J. Daniels started the family farm there in the 1940s and retired in the 1970s, but it was the 1980s that were rough on the American family farm. It was so devastating that Jim, who had taken over the farm, went back to work as a civil engineer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the USDA. But father and son were determined to farm. The original plan was that Jack and Jim would work the farm together, but unfortunately, Jim was killed in a car accident in 1997. Instead, Jack and his family tackled it alone. His mother, Tammy Daniels-Baldwin, helped make their dream of a sustainable family farm possible. In addition to working the land,

Jack toured with gospel and secular musician David Phelps as a pianist for about 20 years. It was “hard to do both,” but in the long run, Jack says, it was worth the hard work. “It was a great time in my life. I got to see much of the world and perform in places like Carnegie Hall in New York and The O2 in London,” he says. And while traveling around Europe as a musician, Jack says, he “enjoyed seeing the small-scale farms … and I knew that’s what I longed for. Small family farms and community.” FARM FUTURES After traveling to Swoope, Virginia, for a tour of Polyface Farm, owned by Joel Salatin, Jack says, “We came away encouraged that we could support our family with our family farm.”

The mood inside the market and out is light and welcoming. So it’s not sur prising that Nor way ’s Ole’ Har t wedt tour owner asked if he could stop by with t wo separate groups in early May for a farm tour and lunch. The tourists, who were traveling from Little Rock to Da l la s , were t reate d to g r i l le d meat a nd f resh side d i shes . Later, t he g roup vote d M i r ac le Fa r m s t hei r favor ite s top on t he 1 4-day trip through the U. S., and the Daniels family hopes to host more groups in the future. Armed with the knowledge that agriculture is Arkansas’s No. 1 economic driver, with tourism a close second, Jack believes that agri-tourism holds possibilities, and he says, “People really seem to enjoy the experience.”

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HOMEMADE BUTTER

Old-Fashioned Delight by Richard Ledbetter

Fresh butter being chilled before it is placed into molds.

Wrapped butter ready for the freezer.

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PHOTOS: RICHARD LEDBETTER

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any Arkansas families are steeped in rural roots. I count myself fortunate to be among those. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents had farmsteads where I spent a good deal of my formative years. Among the many traditions passed down from generations of ancestors are hickory-cured bacon from the smokehouse; cool well-water from a dipper straight out of the pail; fresh free-range eggs and poultry; grass-fed beef; fresh and home-canned produce from the vegetable patch; and whole, raw milk from Bessy the cow. The heavy cream, available to self-sufficient folks when it rose to the top of whole, raw milk, provided the makings for churning their own butter. This and other almost-forgotten food sources have seen a resurgence in recent years due to the health benefits of unprocessed sustenance that comes directly from the land. Maybe that’s why I never much cared for margarine. Few of us still have ready access to a milk cow, but heavy whipping cream, the primary ingredient for butter, is available on most any grocer’s dairy shelf. The higher the fat content, the better the butter. Without sufficient fat content, you may find you’re making a creamy butter spread rather than the firm butter you’re accustomed to. As fascinated as I was by my grandmother’s May and Willie Bess magic of pouring clabbered cream into a ceramic urn and churning out a delicious, creamy spread, it’s much simpler to make butter than you might suspect. Here’s an easy step-bystep tutorial similar to the manner used by our predecessors.


INGREDIENTS: 3 pints heavy cream 2 tablespoons buttermilk ½ tablespoon salt DIRECTIONS: Pour three pints of heavy cream into a large mixing bowl and stir in two tablespoons of buttermilk. You won’t want to use more than three pints unless you have an exceptionally large mixing bowl because, once whipped, the cream will expand to twice its original size. Cover bowl with a clean white cloth and allow to set out at room temperature for 48 hours to clabber. At the end of two full days, place covered bowl in refrigerator for no less than 12 hours. The antique butter churn has been replaced by the modern electric mixer. Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and blend on

high speed from 15 to 20 minutes, until butter begins to form. As the mixture thickens, the mixer will bog down. Slow to low speed and whip for another 5 to 10 minutes. If any liquid remains in the mixture, strain this off with a colander or cheese cloth. The excess liquid is uncultured buttermilk you can save for other recipes. Take a second bowl large enough to accommodate the mixing bowl and fill three-quarters of the way with ice and cool water. Set the mixing bowl in the bowl of ice water, allowing enough time for the freshly made butter to chill and harden. This is sweet butter. If you prefer salted butter, stir in a half tablespoon of salt, mixing thoroughly into the delicious creamy substance before chilling. You may want to make half sweet and half salted by removing a

portion of the butter from the bowl before adding only a quarter tablespoon of salt to the balance. The sodium will contribute to the preservation of homemade butter. To remove excess buttermilk, rinse the butter in cool running water while shaping it into a ball. Using clear plastic wrap, line the inside of your chosen molds. Leave enough overlap to wrap the butter when removed from molds. Scoop butter into molds, taking extra care to remove any air pockets. Flip molds over and tap lightly to remove butter. Completely wrap your new butter in overlapping plastic and store in the freezer until needed. Make sure to allow frozen butter to thaw somewhat before using. To experience the fullest delight, bake a pan of cornbread and spread generously in the middle of a warm, fresh slice.

PETER BRAVE

YOUR CHOICE FOR BEST CHEF

Supporting Arkansas Farmers through farm-to-table fare.

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Chef Simon Brown stands near Red Barn, the structure welcoming visitors to Red Barn Agrihood near BlakeSt.

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ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM | SUMMER HARVEST 2019


New Members-Only Club Commits to Local Food

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By Lacey Thacker

he upcoming members’ club BlakeSt in Bentonville embodies lofty principles and big goals: to be wellfed and well-informed. Executive chef Simon Brown says, “It is ambitious; anything worth doing usually is. It’s also simple: We support you–and your neighbor –in the pursuit of a personal best.” To that end, BlakeSt will offer relaxing dining, a bar, a gymnasium, a pool, spa area, library, game room and a soundproof music room, all intended to create a space where members can spend time developing into the person they want to be. Active networking will be prohibited in the club; only organic relationship-building will be allowed. Members will be treated to the cuisine of Chef Simon, who moved from Mississippi to open Blake Street’s restaurant, but he moved

Photography by kat wilson

from even farther before that. Simon was born in Dunfermline and raised in Dundee, Scotland, a most lovely corner of the world where fresh ingredients—including handdived scallops and fresh salmon— can be found aplenty. After a bad knee injury sidelined his plans for a professional football—soccer, to Americans—career, he had to make a different plan. Simon worked at a local hotel called The Milton, where he washed dishes and “… was mesmerized by the action of the kitchen.” But when Chef Simon asked the head chef what it took to become a chef, “He slapped me on the back of the head and told me to stop being stupid. I guess I never listened. I went on to work the fry station and thought I was a top deal,” he remembers with a smile. In 2009, an American woman named Jen moved to Glasgow to

study for her master's degree at the University of Glasgow. She and Simon had a mutual friend who encouraged Jen to call Simon “because he had a car.” She and Simon are now happily married with a toddler. In 2011, the couple moved to the United States to live with Jen’s parents in Louisiana. At the time, their aspiration was to move to Nashville, Tennesse but now Simon says they’re loving life in Northwest Arkansas. The Arkansas topography isn’t dissimilar from Scotland’s, and Simon says he feels right at home among the hills, farmers and fourwheelers. Simon grins as he says that Jen has been known to remark that, despite being from the South, she had “to go to Scotland to marry a redneck.” His family isn't all he brought with him to Northwest Arkansas. “I met Jacoby Burks when he was

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Clockwise from top left: Chef Simon prepares fresh vegetables from locallygrown produce. Melissa Millsap, the head farmer of Red Barn Agrihood, and Chef Simon pose with freshly-harvested greens. Red Barn Agrihood, located less than five miles from BlakeSt, will be providing the club with much of its produce.

a cook for Seafood R’evolution  in Ridgeland, Mississippi, almost five years ago. He had such great determination and raw talent.” Simon recalls loving the way Jacoby conducted the line during service, and when Simon was made chef de cuisine, he asked Jacoby to be his junior sous chef. He gladly accepted. Jacoby’s hard work paid off, and he became Simon’s number two, taking over for him after he left. Simon says, “I am extremely proud of him. One of the busiest days of the year at Seafood  R’evolution  was the owner’s Christmas party, the last Sunday before Christmas. It was a very high-profile party and probably the wrong time to tell Jacoby that I was leaving.” But Simon had seen the position at BlakeSt on a recruiting website and thought cooking in a members' club sounded exciting. He spoke with the general manager, Doug Lapuc, and the director of operations, Kurt Berman, and says it just seemed like a perfect fit. When Simon told Jacoby about the opportunity in Arkansas—and that he was allowed to recruit his own team and would love for Jacoby to join him in Arkansas— Jacoby accepted. The two have become good friends over the years, and Jacoby is excited about the opportunity to continue working together. “Simon is an SUMMER HARVEST 2019 | ARKANSASFOODANDFARM.COM 27


“Using local farmers and producers to fill the menu is amazing – it’s like a blank canvas for a chef.” –Chef Simon Brown

Millsap works to prepare dirt for planting.

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Hlp ing Peop le Hlp Te Land

A r k a n s a s Association

extraordinary chef, friend and family man. He gives 100 percent in all aspects of his life. At BlakeSt, we hope to provide an unyielding sense of community for the greater good, so that everyone can become their personal best,” Jacoby says. “I was so happy when Jacoby accepted, and we are now looking forward to opening another venture together,” Simon says. “It’s like being back home again where people are interested in food and want to experience new food adventures. Using local farmers and producers to fill the menu is amazing–it’s like a blank canvas for a chef. Plus, supporting and showcasing local farmers and producers is a must. As I said, I’d rather support a family than a CEO buying a third vacation home.” On a tour of BlakeSt, owned by Ropeswing Group, of The Preacher’s Son, Pressroom and The Holler successes, Simon’s excitement is contagious. Highly energetic and always free with a funny story, Simon says the wait to open BlakeSt was worth it to see a top-notch facility built that provides real value to members.

CONSERVATION DISTRICTS ARE COMMIT TED TO LOCALLY-LED, cooperative conser vation to promote productive soils ; clean and abundant water; healthy plant and animal communities ; clean air; and ef ficient usage of water and energy. Conser vation district of fices are located in ever y county to provide technical and financial assistance for conser vation in par tnership with universities as well as local, state and federal agencies. They help landowners, farmers and ranchers develop conser vation activity plans and provide advice on the design and management of recommended conser vation practices. Conser vation practices are designed to :

of Conservation D i s t r i c t s

• Protect water quality by minimizing nonpoint source pollution including proper management of animal manures. • Protect air quality by mitigating actual or potential air emissions. • Protect soil health by reducing soil erosion, improving soil organic matter and properly managing nutrients in the soil • Increase water use ef ficiency through irrigation water management, cover crops and increased water infiltration • Provide wildlife habitat, food and cover • Prevent or mitigate pesticide risks to pollinators, soil, water, air, plants, animals and humans • Promote sustainability of family farms through optimal utilization of resources, reducing input costs, financial incentives and technical assistance

OUR PROGRAMS HAVE BEEN EXPANDED to include Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and Veterans. Recognizing that these individuals have unique barriers and needs the USDA of fers additional suppor t for these groups. Programs, technical assistance and financial incentives are available to all eligible landowners, farmers or ranchers.

FOR INFORMATION on how to get star ted or available conser vation programs contact your local conser vation district of fice. That information can be found at www.aracd.org or by calling our state of fice at (501) 682-2915.

FOR CONTACT INFORMATION ON YOUR LOCAL CONSERVATION DISTRICT, CALL (501) 904-5575 OR EMAIL US AT DEBBIEPINREAL@AOL.COM

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—Alice Waters, chef, author and owner of Chez Panisse

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Arkansas Food & Farm | Summer Harvest 2019  

Arkansas Food & Farm | Summer Harvest 2019