Tuesday morning, Little Boy, Girl 1, and I joined some Mom Group friends for a tour of Five Acre Farms in Pleasant Plains. Five Acre Farms was founded 4 years ago by Brandon Gordon and is now operated by he and his wife Catherine. Just off Hwy. 167, they're in a prime location for selling to locals, but their biggest earner is the Searcy farmer's market. Additionally, they arrange through email for Wednesday drop-offs in Batesville, providing a range of items from not only their farm but also other vendors who sell at the Searcy market. They've begun sourcing a Searcy restaurant and are looking into doing more of that in the future.
While not certified organic, Five Acre Farms does use organic methods and is a great option for local shoppers. I love being able to walk through a garden and sample its contents as you go; no need to wash off the pesticide residues first.
A roadside stand offers a shaded place for displaying today's goods: some yellow squash. A large hoop house can be seen in the background of this shot.
They use permaculture, which is a no-till method, so their one big rule for visitors is not to step into the beds, which would compact the soil and potentially disrupt the microbial life beneath its surface. Despite not having been tilled, the soil is surprisingly loose. They top beds with what Gordon referred to as silage, his version of which is cast-off already-decomposing hay that has been chopped up into small pieces. It seems to make a great mulch.
This is a look inside one of their large hoop houses. In the winter, it's used as a cold frame and grew lettuce and other greens all winter long. This summer, they've lifted the sides to provide airflow and added a shade cloth in hopes of warding off the blistering some of their peppers and tomatoes suffered last growing season.
They use several different methods of trellising. Here is an interesting trellis used to keep their heirloom tomatoes upright.
They had a couple varieties of kale, which they say is in pretty high demand at market right now. This variety was new to me and is a red leaf that is both cold and heat tolerant.
They get a lot of customers at market who are seeking out more local foods, which is great. However, they noted, that those shoppers come with a shopping list of items including tomatoes in April. It seems we've become so conditioned to shopping our grocery stores that we've forgotten what it is to eat seasonally. We need to reconnect with the ground and with what it provides us in each season. If you're buying a tomato at a farmer's market in Arkansas in April, you'd better be suspicious. Rather than let our menu dictate our shopping lists, we ought to generate our menus based on what's fresh and in season at the market. Like in the chicken-or-egg riddle, it's the in-season food that should come first, not the menu.
I greatly enjoyed getting to meet these two and tour their farm. Though I'm sure they had tons of work that needed to be done, they were very gracious hosts and their enthusiasm for their work was evident.
Contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the Sunday/Monday mail-out related to Batesville delivery.