Feb 26, 2012

Willow Springs Market Garden

by Robert Lashley
Peg and Robert
Willow Springs Market Garden was founded April 6, 2006.  Peg, myself and son Alex, work the garden, with occasional volunteer helpers. Three dogs provide security from rabbits as well as people.

Our 3 acre garden is on a gentle southern slope just south of Little Rock, a half mile from the city limits. We couldn't find a single rock in the garden soil!  An ancient river used to run through our place, a neighbor told us, leaving a sandy soil for our use.

Inputs to improve the soil include: alfalfa pellets, compost from American Composting on Faulkner Lake Road. (One cubic yard is $12 wholesale.) Worm castings, our own "homegrown" compost and cover crops of legumes, vetch and oats in the cooler weather and buckwheat and Iron and Clay cowpeas in the warmer months. Initially well rotted horse manure was used as a fertilizer, but we have stopped using that in favor of fish emulsion, seaweed extracts and the worm castings mentioned earlier. Our animal manure is now provided by our small flock of ducks, who's mobile pens are moved regularly so they can "weed and feed" the garden.

Because our garden is small we do not have any financial pressure to make a profit, as Peg and I both work as registered nurses in local hospitals. This allows us to experiment freely with various unusual vegetables.

This year we are growing Mars celeriac, and Flower Sprouts, a cross between kale and brussels sprouts. Unusual fruits in the works include Goji berries, honeyberries, jujubes, and paw-paws. Minutina, lambs quarters and radicchio liven up a selection of salad greens. Asparagus is a spring treat coming up in April.

The inspiration for starting the garden came from Eliot Coleman's book The New Organic Grower
which spells out the steps to follow from land selection, to organic inputs to improve the soil, to tips on marketing. The section on which type of equipment to purchase, was very instructive.

We chose a BCS 853 diesel 2-wheel walk behind tractor as our main workhorse.  Five years of almost daily use has proved the durability of this well made Italian machine. Provided with a PTO we run a range of implements with the tractor. We highly recommend Earthtools, the leading retailer of 2-wheel tractors in the U.S.A. We were able to buy the tractor, rotary plough, tiller, brush mower, trailer, dozer blade, for $8,000, a huge savings over the John Deere type conventional tractors. The diesel engine requires little maintenance and we use bio diesel to run it.

I am a founding member on the board of directors of the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market, located April through November at 6th Street and Main in North Little Rock. We are opening quietly April 7th this year, with a Grand Opening the following weekend. You can also find our products online here (Saturday pick up) and here (Wednesday pick up).

Come and visit with us to get to know your farmers by their first names.  

Robert, Peg and Alex.

Willow Springs Market Garden, LLC*
4924 Willow Springs Road
Little Rock AR 72206
* We decided to incorporate as a LLC to take advantage of the legal protections offered by being a corporation.  Today's society is so litigious, and we also obtained a sales tax number. Dealing with the sales tax division is one of the most trying aspect of running a small business in Arkansas.

Come and see us soon: take exit 133 Geyer Springs off I-30 and go straight south 4 miles until the end and make a 90 degree left onto Willow Springs Road. We are one half mile on the left.
Also in this series: Rattle's GardenTammy Sue's Critters and Falling Sky Farm.  If you are a farmer and would like to showcase your farm, email Julie: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com

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