Mar 31, 2012

Chicken Spinach Stew

HB and I are gearing up for another batch cooking day.  Broth is very nourishing, healing, and cheap so we like to have at least one broth based soup on cooking day.  Instead of the regular chicken and rice soup, we're going to get a little crazy and try a different recipe!

'Tis the season for greens, so feel free to substitute whatever is in your garden or at the farmers market.  Below is written for spinach and we plan to use a smattering of spinach, bok choy (the green parts), and swiss chard.  Kale or collards would also be yummy.

2 cups each of chopped carrots, celery, onion,  mushrooms
3 cups chopped potatoes
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
8 cups spinach leaves, washed (or greens of your choice)
1 stick butter
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken (about half of a whole chicken)
4-6 cups chicken broth
1-2 cups cream

Melt butter. Sauté all veggies except the spinach in butter for about 10 minutes. Add broth. I like it pretty soupy, but keep in mind you will be adding cream at the end. Bring to boil. Add spinach. Add chicken after spinach is good and wilted. Slowly add cream. Taste as you go. Season to your likin'.

-Julie

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Mar 27, 2012

Granola

This recipe started out as written on Passionate Homemaking. But that recipe was too wet and clumpy for my tastes.

It is possible to cut the recipe in half.  But why would you do such a thing?

Here's how I make granola these days.

In a very large bowl, mix and soak these ingredients at least 7 hours and up to 24.  Maybe 36 hours if you get sidetracked.

8 generous cups oats
16 oz hot water
3 oz raw apple cider vinegar
1 cup melted coconut oil (you can substitute butter)
*optional: 2-4T whole wheat flour that provides phytase to help break down the nutrient binding phytic acid in oats.  Read why here.

Cover and let it sit and do it's phytic-breaking magic.




The above picture is what my oats looked like after soaking overnight (about 10 hours).  The green in the oats is my spatula.

When you are ready to proceed, add:
1/2 c honey
1/2 c maple syrup (You can use all honey or all maple syrup.*  If you want it sweeter, add it just before eating - otherwise your pre-baked granola will be really wet and eventually rock hard and big-ish clumps.)
1.5 t salt
1-4 t cinnamon (I've found that cinnamon helps things taste sweeter)
1-2 T vanilla

* If you use more than half maple syrup it could bake on the harder side of crispy.  I have used all honey with no problem, or half and half.  One reader wrote to say she used all maple syrup and it baked too hard...like rock hard.  I wonder if it is because she didn't use any honey.

I have several of these huge jelly roll pans and they are wonderful.  The pans are large enough to fill an entire rack of my oven.  This recipe fits nicely on two of these pans.

Bake at 250* and stir every 30 minutes till crispy, usually 1.5-2 hours.  I used to bake on parchment paper until one day I got lazy and didn't.  It is fine as long as you stir every 30 minutes (otherwise it will cement itself to the pan, which can be a bit inconvenient).

If I start baking at night, I will turn the oven off and go to bed for the last 30+ or so minutes.  If it is not crispy in the morning, I will turn on oven again. Usually it dries fine.

This is what the granola looked like after 30 minutes in my oven.  The first time you stir, you might think, "This is too clumpy.  I don't want these huge clumps."  Just keep stirring.  And baking.  As it dries out the granola separates.
After one hour:
Trying to keep a two year old occupied in the kitchen.
Two hours later it is crispy to the touch and not burned.  Success!
Because everyone in my family likes different fixin's in their granola, I store it just like this.  My husband likes incredible amounts of coconut and dates in his.  I like mine very nutty (pecans, walnuts, almonds).  My son likes just the oats.  Some weird people like raisins in it.  The sky is the limit as to what you add to granola to make it your own.

-Julie

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Mar 25, 2012

This Week's Menu @ The Majors

Tonight I pulled out my grain grinder and started soaking:

-wheat for pizza dough.  I've found the dough is easier to work with if it has time to mature in the fridge a few days.  Currently I'm using a hybrid recipe I concocted from Artisan Pizza in Five Minutes a Day.

-wheat for bread using the soaked bread for the bread machine recipe

With the extra flour, I added it to these oat-loving recipes - because the phytates in the wheat helps break down the oats and becomes more digestible.

- oatmeal for tomorrow's breakfast
- oats for granola similar but a tweaked from this recipe.  Email me or leave a comment if you want the recipe I use.
- oats for baked oatmeal

Dinner tonight:
Grass-fed steaks on the grill with asparagus and roasted bok choy

Tomorrow
Quinoa, swiss chard, and feta

Tuesday
Curry from our freezer cooking day

Wednesday & Thursday
??? Hubby out of town
probably McDonalds
**just kidding!!**barf.

Friday
homemade pizza night

Saturday
GO CATS!
I graduated from Univ. Kentucky and Hubby graduated from Univ. Louisville.  We are a house divided.

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Risk-Management Training for Beginning Farmers

Sustainable Specialty-Crop Production
There will be a two-day workshop, sponsored by the USDA Risk Management Agency and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, April 6 and 7 focused on business planning, identifying markets, and online marketing for sustainable specialty-crop production.

Activities at the workshop, which will include a tour of North Pulaski Farms at 13018 Ellen Cove, Cabot, Arkansas 72023, will feature hands-on training on a number of topics, including the following:

- Season extension
- Succession planting
- Organic certification

Sustainable Livestock Production
April 21-22, 2012 at Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, Arkansas: This educational workshop will teach farmers how to manage risk through business planning, recordkeeping and budgeting, and marketing strategies. It will also combine educational presentations with a tour of Falling Sky Farm and hands-on training on topics including pasture poultry, pastured pork, and grass-fed cattle.

Register online for either workshop here.

For more information about NCAT's "Farm Foundations" workshop series, please contact Margo Hale at margoh@ncat.org or (479) 442-9824.

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Mar 21, 2012

Green Clouds of Pollen: Fighting Allergy Season Naturally


  

by Erin
Since we are in full-blown allergy season here in Little Rock, I wanted to share a tidbit that I discovered a few days ago.

I was starting to have sinus pressure and headaches on Friday.  Having had my first sinus infection a few months ago, I was desperate to avoid that scenario.  I recently read an article that said humming was very good for sinus health, so I hummed in the van as I was running errands and then hummed again at home that night.  I hummed for about 5 minutes at a time periodically all afternoon and evening... so maybe a total of 30 minutes to 1 hour.  I woke up Saturday morning with zero sinus pressure and no headache.  I had taken no medications or other remedies at all.  I love this remedy because it's easy for kids to do too.  Here's to happy sinuses!

Something more to think about: Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist says it's not pollen that's the problem.  Read here for more.

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Mar 18, 2012

Falling Sky Farm:: Open Farm Day

The following is an invitation from Andrea and Cody at Falling Sky Farm.

Spring "Open-Farm" Day! Looking for a good excuse for a spring outing in the Ozark’s? Want to come and see the farm where your meat comes from and get to know your farmers?  Here is your chance! On Saturday, April 28th, we will be having another “open-farm” day for any of you who would like to come tour the farm and join us for some good food.  The farm is about 100 miles north of Little Rock in Marshall, Arkansas.

We plan to do two tours, the first at 10:30 am, and the second at 1:30 pm with food in between (food beginning about noon). The meat will be provided, but if you would like to bring a side dish or a homemade desert we would welcome your contributions to the meal!

In the event of rain we will reschedule for the following weekend as we will be outside (not enough room in the Airstream to move indoors!).

Bring your walking shoes, your sunscreen, your folding chair if you have one, and an extra layer as the wind can be chilly, and we look forward to seeing all who can make it.

If you will please RSVP with me (Andrea) so I have an idea of how many people to expect and how much meat we’ll need to cook, I would appreciate it (andrea@fallingskyfarm.com). If you plan to bring food if you could give me an idea of what you will bring that will also aid in the planning process. I will respond to your RSVP with directions.

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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
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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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Mar 14, 2012

GAPS Support Group

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet/detox protocol is used for healing many chronic health and emotional/behavioral problems by bring healing to the digestive system which is critical for the  body to obtain the nutrients it needs for overall health.  You can find out more about GAPS at  "The Gaps Diet".

There is a free community resource for learning about healing through food.  The 2nd GAPS support group meeting will occur at Terry Library this month.  The Little Rock GAPS meetings are led by local GAPS practitioner; Pam Berndt, RN.  The focus of the next meeting is the “Gut-Brain Connection”.

Pam will be teaching about the psychological symptoms that may occur in both children and adults who have gut imbalances.  If this is an area of interest to you, I know you will enjoy hearing Pam speak and benefit from her knowledge on this subject matter.

I originally began studying the GAPS protocol because of my interest in helping children with learning and behavioral issues.  I believe this is the best nutritional program currently available for this.  In the past few months, I began the GAPS protocol for my own healing.  Pam Berndt has been a very helpful resource on this journey.

Whether or not you can attend this meeting, if you would like to continue receiving meeting announcements, please email Pam { pmberndt AT sbcglobal DOT net } and ask her to add you to her contact list. Feel free to forward to anyone else you think may be interested.

Lisa Lipe, M.Ed.
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Dear GAPS Group ~
Thank you for your interest in the GAPS dietary protocol.  I was very pleased to be able to share important information with you last Saturday and so as not to "drop the ball", I have booked additional meetings at the Terry Library.  (see below)

During the first meeting, (Lesson 1) we laid the foundation for understanding the anatomy/physiology of the gut lining, the role of beneficial gut flora and what damages it.   We also briefly described a typical GAPS scenario for children and adults.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 17 from 1-3pm.  Here is the structure for that day:

Lesson 2 Explore the symptoms of GAPS (psychological) for children and adults.
Discuss the Gut-Brain Connection
Define key treatments Total presentation time:  40"
News Need volunteer to collect information prior to the meeting such as local resources, farmers markets, kitchen equipment, personal insights and/or success stories or other relevant information.

Video GAPS Introduction Diet:
   Meat stock
   Chicken stock
   Fish stock Total viewing time:  26"
   Basic Vegetable Soup
   Yogurt & Sour Cream

Questions Group
Questions One-to-One

Please be sure to mention these meetings to friends, family and co-workers.

GAPS Group Meeting Schedule    (Terry Library)

March 17
1-3pm
April unable to book   (Please call me with ideas for alternative site.   501-224-2167*)
May 26
10-noon
June 30
10-noon
July 28
10-noon
September 1
10-noon

*Pamela Berndt - GAPS Practitioner
pmberndt AT sbcglobal DOT net
 501-224-2167

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Mar 12, 2012

Potluck and Celebration of the Seed

The Little Rock Local Food Club (formerly known as ASN) asks that you join us for a 100 MILE POTLUCK & CELEBRATION OF THE SEED.

We’re hosting the Little Rock Seed Swap with Conserving Arkansas’ Agricultural Heritage (CAAH) and Elevate. Our seed swap is part of a series of swaps across the state.

WHY: 
Arkansas farmers and gardeners have a legacy of heirloom seeds that are in danger of being lost, and sharing of seeds will encourage production of diverse varieties for posterity and more sustainable food production.

HOW IT WORKS: 
Anyone can bring open-pollinated/heirloom seeds to swap or share. If you do not have seeds, you could bring envelopes or garden implements, anything to share or trade with other gardeners – or just come to eat lunch! Bring a dish to help us all enjoy lunch while we swap seeds and talk gardening.

WHEN AND WHERE: 
This Saturday, March 17th, 12pm to 2pm at ASN (Inside Christ Episcopal Church at 6th and Scott Streets in downtown Little Rock)

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Mar 11, 2012

Laughing Stock Farm

by Josh Hardin

Laughing Stock Farm is a 40 acre diverse fruit, vegetable, and aquaculture farm located about 30 minutes south of Little Rock and seven miles west of Redfield.

I bought the farm in November 2009 then later asked Anna to marry me.  Next month we will celebrate our first anniversary.

Currently I am working towards a degree in Agriculture Education with hopes to teach in a public school one day.  Anna is a clinical dietician with the Veteran's Administration splitting her time between Pine Bluff and North Little Rock.

We also help with my fifth-generation family farm, Hardin Farm near Grady, Arkansas.  My brother is also passionate about local, sustainable food; many people in Arkansas have benefited from Jody's visioneering.

Laughing Stock Farm is focused on producing the highest quality fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and eventually farm raised fish in our seven acre spring fed lake. After two years of clearing sweet gum trees and building soil through cover crops and on-farm composting, we are going to begin a small scale one acre approach to our local markets.  This year is the first market garden for our new farm, but I have been marketing for my dad with Hardin Farm for 15 years in central and southeastern Arkansas.

How and What We Grow
One of my favorite Native American proverbs is "We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."  With that in mind we do not use any synthetic chemicals or fertilizers on our sensitive woodland surrounded farm. Because of this commitment to natural practices, we have recently been approved to become a Certified Naturally Grown farm, pending the upcoming inspection by Kellogg Valley Farm.
compost on the autumn soil
We are committed to using sustainable and french intensive farming methods including raised beds, cover cropping, composting, and natural soil enrichment.  To give us more flexibility to grow early and late crops as well as protect summer and winter plants, we have one hoophouse and are adding a movable hoophouse.

heirloom potatoes
This year we are growing six varieties of fingerling and colored potatoes, several varieties of cabbage, colored carrots, heirloom and hybrid squash, lots of heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes, onions, lettuce, seven varieties of sweet and hot peppers, baby pickling cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, fairytale eggplant, and a few other surprises.

Where can you find our products?
We will be marketing in several places and are always looking for new markets for our growing business. We are at Hillcrest and Argenta on Saturdays from 7:00am-noon beginning in early May. We will also be at the South Main Market at The Bernice Garden, though the dates there have not been finalized yet.  You can find us at on-line locally grown markets in Little Rock and Conway.

chicken tractor
We also co-market and participate in our fifth-generation family farm, Hardin Farms in Grady, Arkansas. You can find our farm products throughout the season at our family store just east of Little Rock on hwy 165 in Scott along with the fruits and vegetables and prepared and canned goods from Hardin Farms. We are currently helping my father develop a better marketing and crop plan to satisfy the demand for chemical free and sustainably produced food.

We are resisting the GMO foods and fighting to keep some diversity in a very monocrop environment surrounded by thousands of acres of conventional row crops. This has made the tough decision to accept some of these crops as the only option. As mid scale producers, these are the most vulnerable farms around, and they need support like the small scale folks do, and sometimes they need our help even more to be convinced that it is a good idea to move in this direction.

Consumer demand = Biggest Force In The Universe!  Like Michael Pollan says, we all  "vote three times a day with our fork."

Anna and I look forward to serving and growing with all of you. At Laughing Stock we feel like farming is not just our livelihood, food is our passion and reason for living so your support to do what we love most is much appreciated. Happy (upcoming) Spring and see you all at the market.  By then, Anna will be sporting a "baby bump" as we are expecting our first child in September.
 
Josh & Anna Hardin
Laughing Stock Farm

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Also in this series: Rattle's GardenTammy Sue's CrittersFalling Sky FarmWillow Springs Market GardenNorth Pulaski Farms, Oak Meadows, and Farm Girl Natural Foods.  If you would like to showcase your farm, email Julie: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com

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Mar 8, 2012

Farm Girl Natural Foods

Katie and Lindsay at CAFM, Argenta
Katie here, from Farm Girl Natural Foods. First off, a big thank you to the Real Food Little Rock blog for giving us this opportunity to get our name out, and for being such tireless advocates for the local farming community.

Where
We are located in Perryville, though the land we farm is spread around a little bit. All in all, it totals 36 acres. Of course, all of our activities can be found in one place on our website. We can also be found on Facebook.

A Little History
Our farm started in 2005 when I began leasing pasture and raising sheep.
Ashley
Shortly, this blossomed into a small multi-species meat share program that delivered to a customer’s porch in downtown Little Rock.  In 2009, Farm Girls expanded as MC and Betsy came on board and we were able to add a tiny vegetable CSA to our offerings as well as pastured chicken eggs and much larger chicken and turkey crops. It was also an exciting first year at the Certified Arkansas Farmer’s Market (CAFM) in Argenta connecting with the whole local food community. Unfortunately that winter, MC and Betsy were both called to other things, which threw the future of the farm into question. In a bid to find harmony with farming, the marketing aspect, and my growing family, I turned to my friends already doing some kind of farmy stuff. This collaboration has worked out fabulously and today the Farm Girls are Lindsay, Amber, Ashley, Will, and myself and we offer free-range chicken and duck eggs, some organically grown produce and flowers, pastured pork, and 100% grassfed beef. Each of us produces our own products independent of the others, we only work together to market our products at the farmer’s markets and online.
Lindsay

About WHY
My interest in farming began as an interest in a more balanced relationship with our food systems than I could find in industrial scale, so-called “conventional” agriculture. I wanted food that not only tastes good and is nourishing, but is good for all the various elements involved in its production; from the soils, plants, and animals we care for, to the people doing the work, to the consumers, and to the greater community we function in. I want truly wholesome food. I have a lot to learn about this complex, multi-faceted lifestyle and know this is a pretty high goal, but every season we take a few tiny steps closer to the dream.

About How
Though we work independently, all of the Farm Girls agree about how we produce our products. All of our flowers and vegetables are grown organically with as little outside inputs as possible, though we are not certified organic. This means lots of cover cropping, composting, and heavy mulching for weed control and water retention. We don’t spray any chemicals, even organically listed products for pest control. For those problems we use all manner of physical barriers and deterrents plus carefully planned crop rotations and companion planting.

Our animals all live on pasture. Will and Ashley free range their chickens and ducks while giving them access to “tractors” for roosting and laying. The birds are offered a complete layer pellet and free-choice oyster shells, though they spend most of the day foraging for more delectable things. In return for the kind care, our chickens and ducks give us enormous, multi-colored eggs.

Will also breeds pigs for me and his sows and boar live in large wooded paddocks, contained only by a single strand of electric fencing. His herd is a mix of Hampshire, Blue Butt, and Hereford breeds though this year he’ll be adding Berkshire to the lineup. Each pig has its own hut, though they live communally and rotate through the paddocks on a regular basis.

After a good start at Will’s (including delayed weaning), the hogs move to my farm where Lindsay and I grow them out on pasture. It takes about 6 months to reach market weight and in that time we move them at least weekly, feed them a whole lot of whey (produced in Little Rock) and a standard hog grower pellet. This season we’ll be switching to a high quality non-gmo ration to back up the free-choice whey.

We grow an old-fashioned style beef on 100% grass. To do this we use Holstein and Jersey cross nurse cows to raise Jersey and Jersey cross steers that we purchase from a local, grass-based dairy. With the abundance of milk that comes naturally to these dairy mamas, each cow is able to raise 2-4 calves for us each season including her own. These are calves that would otherwise be raised on a bottle and sold on the commodity market but instead find a home in our pastures with an adoptive mother, then give us some of the most tender, evenly marbled beef money can buy. I can’t remember how many “old-timers” have told me that beef from Jersey steers is absolutely the best for flavor and tenderness. I couldn’t agree more. They take a little longer to grow to full size and yield a little less meat per animal but the quality is worth it.

All of our animals are handled with low stress techniques that respect the animals’ natural instincts. We don’t use antibiotics unless it is necessary for a specific health condition (which are rare in pastured animals), and have never found a reason to use growth hormones.

Joys & Challenges
There are many real challenges, which I prefer to think of as opportunities for growth. The hardest things are disasters, often weather related, sometimes human, that spring up overnight. This job can be heart wrenching when things aren’t going well, especially since we care so much about what we do.

Luckily the tough stuff is balanced very well by the joys of farming. I like how connected to nature and my animals I feel simply being outside so much. I like the science-y parts of trying to grow the best forages and the healthiest, most delicious animals. I also like eating the foods I’ve grown. I like connecting with other local foodies; customers, farmers, and chefs alike. Above all, the farmer’s market is a real shot in the arm that keeps me going during the least glamorous, most difficult parts of this life and for that I really love market days.

In the future
This season, we are switching our hogs to a non-gmo ration created especially for us by Hiland Naturals. Their rations contain a lot of exciting things like species-specific probiotics and kelp meal, as well as all kinds of healthful grains. I think this will complement our whey-feeding very well.

As for the slightly further future- we’re currently putting together the infrastructure for a small dairy and hope to be offering cow shares as soon as January. More details will come as we get some of the kinks and bumps worked out (and as the cows gestate their little bundles of joy), but we’re excited to be able to share the benefits of dairy cow ownership that we’ve enjoyed privately for years. Keep an eye on our website and facebook page for future announcements on this project.

Once again, thank you Julie and Lisa for all you do for the local food community and for spreading the word on more healthful food traditions. We look forward to seeing everyone this market season, beginning in April at CAFM Argenta.

Thanks,
Katie Short
Farm Girl Natural Foods


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Also in this series: Rattle's GardenTammy Sue's CrittersFalling Sky FarmWillow Springs Market GardenNorth Pulaski Farms, and Oak Meadows.  If you are a farmer and would like to showcase your farm, email Julie: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com

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Mar 7, 2012

My New Favorite Homemade Salad Dressing

For those of you on the beginning of your real food journey - making your own salad dressing is easy to do.  Commercial salad dressings are usually made with bad-for-you oils, filled with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, or other unpronounceable ingredients.

This is a dressing you can feel good about.  And it tastes good, too!

True confession: I'm not crazy about salads.  They can be a lot of work chopping all the ingredients and I am picky about dressings.  A friend came for lunch and brought this yummy salad dressing.  I told her I must have the recipe.  She shared - thanks Carolyn!

 The recipe:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (she used coconut oil, but it solidifies when colder than 78* so you will need to warm it before pouring on your salad.  I made the dressing with olive oil and it was fine.)
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg's)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt (I use Real Salt)
dash of pepper, or to taste
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, pressed

Shake like mad before pouring.  I made mine a few hours in advance so the flavors could meld.

If you don't have a fancy salad dressing shaker thingy then just put your ingredients in a measuring cup and stir like crazy with a fork before pouring on your salad.  That's what I was doing until my neighbor gave me her fancy bottle.

-Julie

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Mar 4, 2012

Oak Meadows

by Drew and Kit Coons
Drew and Kit Before

“After retirement, you’ll probably want to travel.” said the financial adviser.  “Omh … actually, no.” was our answer.    We were then staff of a Christian marriage ministry.  Those 19 years allowed us to speak at over 100 events in every part of America and in 32 other countries. We’ve even lived in Africa and in New Zealand. We’ve been to most of the world’s famous places and many more places not even on a map.  The desire to settle down is how we found ourselves on a small Arkansas farm living a creative and sustainable lifestyle.    See our blog at oakmeadowsadventures.blogspot.com
Drew and Kit Now

As we were considering purchase of this 23 acres and old (money pit) house, Drew was excited about the many signs of wildlife.  Reality came quickly in the form of beavers.  They come out of the river into our pond and yard. There they show a decided preference to eat fruit trees and ornamentals.  One of the big rodents cut down our peach trees by the back door.  In response, we built a 400 foot fence between the river and pond.   But, beavers can easily bite through the welded steel wire.  If there are beavers in heaven, I can only guess that God Himself wonders why He made them.

Free range catfish have probably been our best agricultural success.  The way we cook them, very lightly fried in canola oil or in chowder, catfish are a health food.  Our acre pond is carefully managed to create an optimum ecosystem.  In the beginning, we used chemical fertilizers to stimulate algae growth, the basis of the food chain.  Then wild geese discovered the pond and now organically fertilize it for us.   We don’t sell the catfish in the marketplace.  The priceless experience of our guests catching a 15-20 pound fish is worth more than the value of the meat.    
guests and catfish

Once again, wildlife are a challenge.  Lots of predatory birds come here to feed, even one bald eagle.   Then one day we noticed a river otter in the pond.  “Isn’t he cute?” we thought.  Then it started slaughtering our fish, hundreds of dollars worth of fish.  I tried to live trap the otter using a $20 slab of fish for bait.   But, the otter came to watch me set the trap.  That ended the trap effectiveness for the otter.     We did catch a rather humorless raccoon.  After scolding it, we let the raccoon go.  To repay us, it destroyed our cantaloupe crop.  Finally, we got the otter to leave by waiting until it was playing in the river.  Then we simply blocked the beavers’ hole in the fence.  Beavers can bite through wire, but otters can’t.

Buck deer destroyed our pecan orchard rubbing the velvet from their antlers on our little trees.   A copperhead (type of poison pit viper) hid in our blackberries.   Skunks and armadillos continually dig up the garden.   Coyotes ate our entire watermelon crop.  Who knew that coyotes love watermelon?  But, believe it or not, we do produce commercial quality vegetables in our raised bed, nearly organic gardens.

Kit at the Hillcrest Farmers Market
Kit sells them along with value added baked goods at our stall, “Celebrate”, in the Hillcrest Market.     Please come to see us there starting Saturday mornings in May.

And if you ever need a pair of entertaining speakers on relationships, travel adventure, or how not to manage wildlife, give us a call.

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Also in this series: Rattle's GardenTammy Sue's CrittersFalling Sky FarmWillow Springs Market Garden and North Pulaski Farms.  If you are a farmer and would like to showcase your farm, email Julie: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com



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Mar 2, 2012

North Pulaski Farms

North Pulaski Farms
13018 Ellen Cove
Cabot, AR 72023
Owner: Kelly Carney

Why I Started Farming
In 2008 I decided to stop trout fishing 2 to 3 times weekly and go back to work. After 20+ years working in the travel and information technology (IT) industry and going thru the transition of a small business to a large regional US company then to a national and finally to a global company, I decided that making a difference was more important than making money.

I had always talked the talk of an environmentalist and since one of my favorite gulf fishing areas was a hypoxic area the size of New Jersey I figured sustainable agriculture may provide the solution that could make a difference in a number of areas.

First let me say that while the first few years of our farming life qualified North Pulaski Farms LLC as a non-profit organization, sustainable agriculture has to provide a GOOD living for those who risk it in order to be sustainable. Additionally converting conventional farmers to organic has a far greater chance of happening if it can be demonstrated that it’s financially feasible. So…after MUCH planning and research we found, bought and built our farm.

About Us
We have 4 growing systems on 5 acres in northern Pulaski county.  To help keep track of them, we have named the systems Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty.

Fred, our main production system, is a 2.1 acre series of high tunnel hoop houses (picture below).


Wilma is a 20x96 heated green house used to start seeds and has a small growing area.  Our tunnels extend our season and help us manage water which goes a long way toward a quality crop.  Below are heirloom grape tomatoes, or “crackberries” as they are known, because they are so addicting!


Barney is a field we are planting blackberries this spring and our other field, Betty, has a small grove of Arkansas Black apple trees planted this winter.  Look carefully below to find the saplings in Betty’s field.



How We Do It
The first line of defense for the pests our great state serves up is a healthy plant. Growing under poly helps with that process. We grow a fairly large variety of leafy greens, strawberries, cucumbers, peppers, okra, cantaloupe and tomatoes. Our crop planning focuses on items listed on various ‘dirty dozen’ lists and how easily items can be processed after harvest.

Growing ‘dirty dozen’ items is our favorite and most challenging task. My first year I must of heard, “You can’t grow that organically” from my conventional colleges weekly; I have not heard that statement in some time.

Leveraging my IT experience, creating an easily found dynamic website was a key element in the original business plan. You can find www.NorthPulaskiFarms.com by searching for “Organic Vegetables Arkansas” in Google and we are usually the first non-sponsored farm on the list.  Our site has a link to the farm's Facebook page where we publish pictures of our crops and growing systems.
We publish our crop plan and farm calendar on our website and even have a few working webcams.  The idea was to design a site that would be found by the search engines and provide information to our customers to promote transparency in our farming activities. We are currently updating the site with links to recipes for our crops and a new section designed for new farmers.  The new farmer section will host our farms business plan, risk assessment and presentations from the conferences I have had the privilege of speaking at this winter.

Our Employees
We provide opportunities for able bodied men and women to work on our farm. We take good care of our workers by paying a living wage, maintain workmen’s compensation insurance, and provide training in all aspects of the farm. Hiring local workers ensures that dollars spent on our crops are recycled in the community. Our workers will either demonstrate they know how to work, quickly learn to work or find another place to spend their time. 

Wholesale and Retail Sales
Our original plan was to split our crop distribution 50/50 between wholesale and retail and evaluate after 3 years. Well our evaluation is that splitting it up works fairly well. We have good relationships with The Fresh Market, Argenta Market (the store) and the Little Rock Athletic Club who re-sell our products. A few restaurants (The Root, The Capitol Hotel, Heifer CafĂ© and Boulevard Bread) also buy our produce. This steady predictable income they provide has been critical.  Additionally the area locallygrown.net sites (LR pick up Saturdays, LR mid-week, Conway & Farm2Work) have been invaluable for us especially since we are still in production when most of the physical markets are closed. In 2011 we doubled our farmers market income with the addition of the Hillcrest Farmers Market to the Argenta Farmers Market we started with.

Challenges of Farmers Markets
The challenges with the area farmers markets is there does not seem to be a comprehensive marketing plan and getting all the farmers to agree on a strategy for one seems impossible. Additionally the markets have no coordinated effort to produce enough items to compete with the local peddler markets. Running out of zucchini squash or summer tomatoes can be mitigated with better coordination and planning.  Communicating, building consensus and planning past the current season are areas of potential growth for local farmers.  We miss opportunities everyday that could help us increase the LESS than ½ of 1% market share we have.

I love the relationships that the local markets provide and believe we all can do a much better job serving our customers by working closer together.

The Future
2012 is starting out great and I thank all those especially Real Food in Little Rock readers for making this happen. Our sales for February alone were better than any month our first year. Adjustments to our systems last year and the years spent building our soil is making a difference with our crops.

For 2013 we are in talks with a few other organic farmers to possibly create a CSA co-op and hope to provide details later this year.

The Rewards
My original business plan was comprehensive but failed to identify a few items I have found to be the most rewarding. The quality of my farming peers is second to none. I know of no other industry where someone will stop doing what they are doing and go help a competitor.

Finally growing healthy food and then having someone say ‘Thank You’ for doing so means I don’t need an alarm clock to wake every day at 4:30am.

How many folks can say they help make a difference in today’s world?  Your local farmers can every day.

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Also in this series: Rattle's GardenTammy Sue's CrittersFalling Sky Farm, and Willow Springs Market Garden.  If you are a farmer and would like to showcase your farm, email Julie: luvmyhub AT gmail DOT com

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