The debut issue of Arkansas Food and Farm is out, and we’re already making plans for a bigger, even more inclusive issue for this summer. We’ve worked alongside Arkansas Grown, the Department of Agriculture program that seeks to connect farmers and consumers in a way that strives to be as inclusive as possible for everyone across the state.
I’ve had a few people from outside Little Rock tell me that they haven’t seen an issue yet — it’s being distributed at many farmers markets statewide, but I know that some of you still might have trouble finding it outside Central Arkansas. Still others prefer reading these sorts of things on their tablets, phones, or laptops — which is my own preference, honestly. So for all of you who haven’t been able to read Food and Farm for whatever reason, you’re in luck: we’ve got a pretty fantastic website where you can explore all the goodies from the print edition no matter where you are.
What will you find inside? Here’s a brief primer on what’s in the magazine, along with some links that will take you right to the story you’d like to read.
*Why we farm: Our publisher, Alan Leveritt, is more than just the man behind the Arkansas Times publishing group, he’s also a farmer. This gives him some unique insight when it comes to a publication like Farm and Food, because he can see the magazine from all sides. This letter from the publisher establishes the mission of Food and Farm, all while offering an insider’s view of the growing artisan food movement in the state.
*Eating through the seasons: When it comes to being an advocate of the things grown from Arkansas soil, there’s no bigger name than P. Allen Smith. Smith is recognized world-wide as an expert on gardening, food, and design, and his years of experience and love for the Natural State shine through with everything he does.
*A farm-to-table first: When deciding on what to include in the magazine, we wanted to do our best to give a complete picture of what locally-sourced food is all about. Coincidentally, a new farm-to-table restaurant called The Farmer’s Table Cafe was getting ready to open in Fayetteville right as we went to print, which provided us with a perfect example of just what it means to create a menu based on the seasonal crops available around one location.
*Original organic: Some people think that organic farming is a relatively new concept in Arkansas agriculture, but the folks at Dripping Springs Garden in Northwest Arkansas have been doing it for decades. Farming is more than just crops in the ground, it’s also paperwork, business plans, and marketing — all things that take time and perseverance to achieve. Dripping Springs is a great example of a small, yet diverse farm that has stood the test of time to become a true success story.
*Farmville: Central Arkansas is home to many urban gardens, and many of them seek to involve students from area schools in their work. Educating kids about nutrition, growing techniques, and types of produce not only serves as a fun, out-of-the-classroom educational experience, it also makes food more “real” by showing that vegetables aren’t just something that appear on a grocery store shelf. The North Little Rock Community Farm is a great example of this, and I learned a lot from this interview. Connecting people with the food they eat is very important, and the younger we start doing so, the better.
*Farmer with a plan: I’ve known Josh Hardin’s wife Anna since we were in college, but in the past few years I’ve also become well-acquainted with the high quality produce that Josh has a hand in both at Laughingstock Farm in Sheridan and Hardin Farms in Grady. You won’t meet many growers as excited about what they do, or as in tune with the slow, steady process required to build a successful farm. The Hardins took a plot of land full of sweet gum trees and turned it into one of the best farms in the state, and you’ll see Laughingstock produce on many Little Rock menus.
If you’re reading all of this and thinking that you should have been a part of Food and Farm but weren’t, we’d love to get you into the second issue. Sign up at Arkansas Grown, or contact Rebekah Hardin with the Times, and we’ll be sure to include you next time around. This project has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve done as a food writer, so I hope you all enjoyed reading the magazine as much as we did putting it together.