The July Farm Tour

Saturday’s farm tour was a wonderful experience. As the day progressed, so did our understanding of and appreciation for what goes into the food that we eat. We learned how a cool and rainy spring can have a profoundly negative effect on the farmers, and their goods. Most importantly, we got to connect with community members and each other in a way that we don’t usually take the time to do.

We started the tour at Killer Bee in Bigelow. Brian Isaac lives in Conway, owns Ristorante Capeo in North Little Rock, and operates a small one acre farm. He recently started farming on an acre of land in Bigelow as a way to keep busy, and as he put it, keep out of trouble. Out of the three places that we visited, Brian’s operation had the most in common with smaller scale backyard gardens. His style was laid back and approachable, making for a great first stop.
Next we went to Rattle’s Garden in Vilonia. Tara Stainton, who many of us know from Conway Locally Grown, gave us the tour while her husband ran their table at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market in Little Rock. Here we saw the effects of all of rain, as a number of their plants had drowned. That’s not to say that the farm was a barren swamp, though. To the contrary, it was a beautiful place. From the colorful flowers and the delicious blackberries to the high tunnel where some of the biggest peppers I’ve seen were ripening, Rattle’s “beyond organic” approach was a wonderful example of what comes to mind when one thinks of what a local farm should be. The greater diversity at Rattle’s Garden, and its larger scale made for a nice transition from Killer Bee—from the feel of a well executed, large garden to a larger income generating farm.
Next, we ate a large lunch at Sawbucks in El Paso and then headed towards Fox to visit Meadowcreek. On our way there we came across a low water bridge, it was really more water and less bridge. A local, who happened to be on a trek to check his mail on his rhino, was able to cross and assured us that we could make it. Looking back, it was probably not as risky as we thought, but in the moment it was nerve-racking. Even so, we all too gladly took a different way back after our time at Meadowcreek.
While Arkansas Killer Bee is a labor of love, and Rattle’s Garden supports a family, Meadowcreek is more of a lifestyle-based operation where its members immerse themselves in sustainable living. Led by Aliza Yarden-Cummings and Tim Cummings, we were shown the grounds and were fed the most amazing foods such as fried Queen Anne’s lace and mulberry scones to live culture ice cream and ginger ale. While Meadowcreek’s heyday was decades ago, the effort to revitalize it is alive and well. The residents’ passion for their vision was readily apparent, making for an inspiring conclusion to an already great day.
The experience of a farm tour is one that everyone should have. Getting to interact with the farms and farmers first hand cultivates a renewed appreciation for what we eat and where it comes from. I think it’s safe to say that any one of us on the tour would recommend something like this to everyone we know. When you’re able, take the time to get to know the people who grow and raise what you eat. As for me, and the others who were lucky enough to have gone on this tour, we’ll be raising our next glass of live culture ginger ale to a day well spent.

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