Mar 15, 2012

Kellogg Valley Farms

photo credit
by Eddie Stuckey
Kellogg Valley Farms is located in northwestern Pulaski County. The land belongs to my family and was  generously passed on to me (more on that story later).

This is our first year of intensive planting, though we are entering our third growing season. Currently, approximately two acres are in cultivation. We now have three small green houses, multiple raised beds, four tractors, and implements galore. In a few weeks we will be completely planted.  At that time the garden will stay that way year round whether it be with production crops or soil enriching cover crops.

Enriching the Soil
Kellogg Valley Farms is Certified Naturally Grown.  Our main soil amendment is compost, purchased from American Composting in North Little Rock.  Before planting we use composted pelleted chicken litter from Oakley's in Beebe.   I only use organically approved pesticides and fertilizers.  I am also a big believer that incorporating rock dust into the soil produces mineral rich and tasty vegetables.  We utilize drip irrigation in the summer by which we are able to pump fish emulsion, mineral rich compost tea, and worm casting tea directly to the plants.

Fighting Weeds and Pests
We do not use black plastic mulch.  I have tried it and don't like it.   My pest management is foremost to have healthy, fast growing plants.  When that doesn't work I use a Pyrethrin, neem oil, and/or a soap mix.  I try to keep pests at a manageable population, but when that fails (usually with squash) I will burn the entire row.  If my timing is right I will have another row or two in another part of the garden ready to produce.

Future Plans
My mission and business plan is simple.  I want to be the best and only deliver the best I have.  I am 43 years old with intentions of never retiring.  As each season passes I hope to provide you with better and better vegetables, with much diversity.   My goal is to have fifty different vegetables, berries and fruits per year.

Farm hands have come and gone but recently God provided another person, Stormy, my daughter in law.  She has been an amazing asset to the farm.  She is young, limber, and patient - three things I'm not.  Eager to learn, she has what it takes to be a farmer.

Where to Find Us
Our products can be found on-line through the locally grown sites: Little Rock, LR midweek, Farm2Work, and in Conway.  Starting April 14 through October you can find me on Saturdays at the Argenta Farmers Market. I LOVE the Argenta Farmers Market. I am very grateful to them for providing me with a place to sell my vegetables.  I almost forgot to mention that we have a limited membership CSA program.

More of the Back Story
I didn't choose farming it chose me. On December 3, 2005 I had a life-changing, profound moment.   Life prior to that day had been spent running, mostly with good intentions.  But I knew I wasn't fulfilling God's intended purpose on this earth.  I found myself alone, lost, and hopeless, without a will of my own to continue. I gave up the fight.  I surrendered.  From that very moment my life has been full of hope and vision. I prayed and I prayed, telling God I was gonna keep trusting Him until He could trust me.  A few long years passed until God provided a job to help manage an existing small organic farm!

For nine months I was a "check drawing farmer" but the job didn't work out.  I was confused: it had become clear that I had found my gift - I had met some of the most interesting and genuine people but what was I going to do?

After that season of farming, I called Katy Elliott (who founded Arkansas Local Food Network, formerly ASN). I told her my situation and shared my desire to continue farming.  She told me, "Eddie you are a good farmer and if you want to keep doing it, you can find a way."

She inspired me. I went and talked with my dad.  He had about 1/2 an acre cleared land and another 2 1/2 covered in a grove of gum trees as well as a small tractor.  I immediately tilled the clear area and planted it in, found a job, and worked all winter getting rid of those gum trees.

God has provided in so many ways.  From day one things started falling into place.  My cousin came with his backhoe and dug up trees.  My dad's friend loaned me a tractor with a loader.  People and resources started coming out of the wood work.  In the spring of 2010 I was able to plant about one acre.

I'm sure Daddy thought it was just another one of my crazy ideas (this wasn't my first business venture) but he went along with it.  He didn't know about a local food movement or about people that were passionate about chemical free food. My wife, Missy, was very supportive and she covered my part of the light bill more than once until the farmers market opened that year as well as a few times since.  Farming full time is not the most lucrative career!

That summer, God continued placing people in my life.  People that barely knew me were encouraging me.  I became friends with a few of the farmers that first year but then my customers became my friends.  They came to visit the farm.  People that were just customers to me all of a sudden are inviting me into their homes, meeting their children. I was overwhelmed to say the least.

Last summer (2011) was a rough year, as the weather didn't cooperate.  Inexperience reared its ugly head a few times and I learned some hard lessons.  I met even more fantastic people.  Because of these people, my customers and friends, I didn't give up.  Not every aspect of farming is enjoyable but I do love the big picture.  I love you people.  I love doing something that enriches people's lives.  I love knowing that I am doing my part.

Things are still progressing rapidly.  Farming has completely taken over my life - every email, every phone call.  The relationships I've built are growing stronger.  And remember Katy's encouragement to keep farming?  Well, another result of her believing in me is the fact that I'm now on the board of directors for the Arkansas Local Food Network.

One of the most exciting things right now is my wife is getting involved.  These friends I've made at the markets are now her friends as well.  Missy has cooked the most amazing meals of 14 years in the last two months.  The kids (Evan, Emelia and Elizabeth) are resisting a bit, but are taking baby steps with us.  We are making and eating lacto-fermented food, reading labels, drinking water instead of soda, and loving kombucha.  

Successful farming is not just about the bottom line.  It is about delivering quality produce to my friends and new customers (who soon will be called friends).  I believe if I continue to keep overhead low, always deliver quality, stick to my principles, and keep giving God the glory, then someday it will make financial sense to have worked this hard for so little.  I plant seeds and nurture plants, but God grows this food not me.  He started a good work in me and I believe He will finish it.

We are looking forward to our best year ever, the temperatures have been in our favor.  Missy is on board.  Stormy is the best worker I've ever had (I've had many).  Argenta Farmers Market opens April the 14th.  Stop and say hello in person or on Facebook.

Thank you Real Food in Little Rock for this honor and opportunity.
Eddie Stuckey
Kellogg Valley Farms
Also in this series: Rattle's GardenTammy Sue's CrittersFalling Sky FarmWillow Springs Market GardenNorth Pulaski FarmsOak MeadowsFarm Girl Natural Foods, and Laughing Stock Farm.  If you would like to showcase your farm, email Julie: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com

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  1. Eddie-- your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing it. I had no idea you had been through such a rough time. It makes me happy that I was able to split a CSA with another customer, and that she was so gracious to pay upfront while I scraped together my half. I love how we are all working together to help each other and the sense of love and community that comes from it. Everyone benefits. I wish you all the
    best this growing season and can't wait to feed my family the delicious produce that will be coming from Kellogg Valley Farms!

  2. Good blog post Eddie!! I'm proud to be your friend!



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