Do you know your farmer? What might it look like to connect with the person who grows or raises your food? What characterizes the communities that care about regenerative agriculture and nourishing, local food? Today we gain insight from a community in Little Rock, Arkansas of farmers and those who rally around them. Our guests are Clint Ballard of Milk and Honey Hill Farm, Greg and Kinsey Bradford of Bradford Valley Farm, Barbara Hutchinson, a farm hand at The Farm at Barefoot Bend, and David and Micah Rice, the owners of The Bramble Market.
We discuss a number of topics including: why local food matters, what got these farmers farming in the first place, the highs and lows of farm life, the benefits and challenges of producing raw milk and the satisfaction that comes from connecting with your community, and, yes, knowing your farmer.
Listen to the episode here:
Know Your Farmer
We have seen bumper stickers and memes with a saying, “Know your farmer.” What does it look like in practice and real life? This is Episode 354. We have a panel of six guests who offer us insights on what it means to connect with your farmer, know the provenance of your food, and forge ties with your local community. I was on the 6 Million Download Wise Traditions Road Tour. When I stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas, I met some amazing folks there courtesy of the local Weston Price Chapter Leaders, Mara Parker, and Lizzy Sharp.
We gathered together at Bramble Market to meet with and interview some of their favorite farmers and the market owners themselves. You will read from Clint Ballard of Milk and Honey Hill Farm, Greg and Kinsey Bradford of Bradford Valley Farms, Barbara Hutchinson from The Farm at Barefoot Bend, and David and Micah Rice, the Owners of Bramble Market. Together, we discuss the importance of quality over quantity in terms of our food choices and farm practices. We also talk about what got these farmers into farming in the first place.
We discuss as well the issues that some farms are facing with the shortage of meat processing plants, for example. We hear about the benefits of raw milk and regenerative agriculture and the satisfaction that comes with knowing where your food comes from and with knowing your farmer. Before we dive into the conversation, I want to invite you to become a member of the Weston A Price Foundation. Honestly, this feels more important than ever. We need to stay connected. Once you join us, you become a part of this important mission of education, research, and activism.
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We are here at Bramble Market in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m here with a bunch of friends who are going to share with us the reason behind how we choose to live and eat. I’m going to start with Kinsey. Tell us about what got you into farming. I feel like a lot of people are getting back to the land. There’s a resurgence of interest in farming. What got you into it in the first place?
Enjoy the little things that happen every day. The learning, the life lessons, the things that help us grow our relationships.
Thanks for being here, first of all, and coming to Arkansas. I married a country boy. That was my first thing getting into farming. I’m from Portland, Oregon originally. We met in college. He has always farmed and lived out in the country. We bounced around. Somehow, we ended up back in Damascus, which he said he would never end up back in Damascus, right by his folks and with a bunch of lands. We had the opportunity to buy some land.
We had homesteaded a few years before that, having raised broilers, chickens, pigs, and all that stuff. We had a huge garden and the opportunity to buy some land. Our thoughts on talking about it, we are believers that we should be good stewards of everything that we have. In buying up all this land, we were like, “We love to hunt,” but you can’t hunt at all. A lot of it is pasture. We thought, “Let’s farm and raise meat the right way.”
By then, we have been having pigs, chickens, and stuff like that, rotating them and trying to get into the Salitan way, pasturing, regenerative agriculture, and all that thing without knowing that we were doing that. After we bought that land, we did a lot of research on, “What’s the best way to raise animals? Why is this the best way to raise animals?” You get to thinking and reading about it. You are like, “You don’t need to be keeping 50 cows on 1 piece of land for a whole year and raising them that way.” They need the natural things that God gave us to use.
That’s how we’ve got started in it. When we were homesteading, it built up because I’m like that chicken lady. We had started with 10 chickens and then I brought home 25 more. He’s like, “There are 35 chickens.” I would be like, “How about 100?” Our friends would be like, “Can I buy a dozen eggs from you? Can I buy half a pig from you?” We would share meat with people. They were like, “This is fantastic.” I’m like, “I know.” Being from the city, I never had homegrown foods.
Honestly, when you tie all those things that you were saying, it’s perfect. That is the core of what we believe. That’s how we’ve got into farming. The biggest thing that we’ve got out of it so far is how it makes us feel. As far as eating the food goes, when we eat it, we feel good. It doesn’t make us sluggish, tired or anything like that. That’s why we have continued and why these guys are doing so well. They sell our chicken here. People like it and buy it because you eat it and feel good about it.
Are you glad you did it, Greg?
It’s random how it all comes about. We were out traveling the world before we started having kids. I was teaching at the time and she was in her career also with the Fire Department. We had a chance to relocate out to Alaska, so we go out to Alaska. She’s correct. She came from Portland, Oregon. I came from Damascus, Arkansas, which is a very rural community in the middle of nowhere. When we were out in Alaska, we decided we were going to come back at a certain point. She came back with my daughter and she’s living on the farm where I grew up.
It was a couple of hundred acres at the time before we’ve got connected with some land. I’m out there in Alaska. We are talking on the phone. She’s like, “I’ve got all these ideas about this new way of life, farming and raising animals and chickens.” I’m sitting there like, “I have been doing that for years. I don’t want to do that anymore but it’s not new to me. Let’s get started.” We enjoy it and love it. We love raising our kids about it, having our kids on the farm, and the things they learn about it.
Some of the things that I have learned on the farm or love about it are enjoying the little things that happen every day, the learning, the life lessons, and the things that help us, our relationship, and kids grow. I’m raising three daughters in a world where it was stressful for a dad. Some of the skills that we want our kids to know that we have learned by farming and the way that I grew up farming was problem-solving. That’s something we try to teach them every day. As they move forward, they will always be able to use that for farming.
If they are doctors, plumbers, welders or dieticians, they will be able to use those skills that we have to do on the farm every day. There are many emotional states. It’s wonderful seeing them out there playing and having fun. We are going to go home and catch 800 chickens after this show. We will pay all my daughters $40 and they will love it. It’s not child abuse. They will remember it and love it. We love the family atmosphere and the joy that it brings to feel the success of earning something. That’s where we strive in our farming. It’s teaching our kids to earn something. We appreciate that.
It sounds beautiful but I know at the same time, it can be challenging. One thing I have heard, and I want to pose this question to you, Barb is that there is a backup in the processing plants. Farmers have a lot of livestock, pigs, and cows that they can’t get slaughtered. Can you explain why that’s happening and what it means to the consumer?
When COVID came about, the way we used to do things is we would call our processor and say, “We need to get an appointment to get our animals in.” They could usually get us in within a few months anyway. When COVID happened, we called and said, “We need to bring five animals in the process.” They were like, “We can’t get you until 2021.” They had all these smaller people. Everybody started putting cows in their backyards. They are taking them to process because we have this horrible meat shortage. Processors are full because there are so many more people trying to do what we do but on a smaller scale. We’ve got shut out.
That’s when Damon decided that he was going to get the mobile harvesting unit going. We would take our animals to the processor. You’ve got to load your animals up, stress them out and drive them. We ended up taking hours. I don’t know about you all. It was four hours by the time you get them loaded and up there. If they can’t process them right away, they might have to sit there for a day or two before they can get to your animal to process it. Extra stress on the animals affects the way the meat turns out. It’s an ongoing process that affects everything.
Thanks for sharing that. I’m glad that he’s doing that mobile processing plant to change that situation around. Clint, I wanted to ask you about raw milk because, in the Weston A Price Foundation, we love our raw milk. Not everybody wants to get into making that available for their community. What got you into it?
Farming is problem-solving.
The raw milk for us was a way to serve our community. We saw the health benefits with our kids in having that raw milk and how much of a hardship and stress it can be to find that. When I’ve got out of the Army and started going to college up in Salem Springs, we were buying raw milk from a local farmer. It was a hardship to go week to week and not know if it was going to be available or have the prices fluctuating.
When we’ve got to the season of life where it was our turn to have our farm, that was important to us to be able to provide that for ourselves. Once we had that resource, our neighbors slowly but surely began to be able to be blessed by that, too. Anything extra that we had, we would sell. One of Salitan’s sayings that we took to heart early on was, “Don’t go into business. Grow into business.” We little by little increased our herd and learned as we went.
David, you were telling me about the start of this market. It came out of meeting a need. Tell us a little bit about the mission of Bramble Market.
I’ve got a cheat sheet that hangs right behind us every day to bring people together, inspire, foster community, and cultivate local growth. That’s a little bit of a 40,000-foot view but we are here to bring people together. It’s surface level. That didn’t sound deep. My wife and I grew up here and we saw the value in the opportunity to build a local market. At first, we were not set on food so much. We were thinking about hosting farmer’s markets.
The community drove the idea behind us that they would rather sell us their backyard produce, baked goods or whatever it was as opposed to coming and setting up a tent. On a Saturday or a Wednesday and being a farmer’s marketeer, they would rather do their life. The farmers that we met early on were Damon at Barefoot Bend and Kinsey at Bradford Valley. They wanted to do what they are good at on the tractor, pulling chicken tractors or whatever it is.
They wanted a farm and to find a good place to sell it. We went from the idea of hosting farmer’s markets to turning it into a brick and mortar, day-to-day, and more traditional grocer where we get to know our farmers and let the shoppers get to know the farmers as well as much as possible. If they can’t meet him, then we can tell their story, tell them where their food is coming from and answer why the chicken tastes so good and all that. That’s what it is.
We love to bring people together. My wife and I grew up out here. There are a lot of 3rd and 4th generation county folks up here that still shop on the regular in the big-box stores. I love to be that place that can build that bridge between folks who have no idea outside of the big-box stores to their farms. Maybe they grow some stuff. Connecting the bridges between the farmers, the makers, and the consumers is what we love to do.
Micah, can you tell me why is it important for us to have those bridges? Why do you think it’s important to know where our food comes from?
A big part of why it’s important to know where your food comes from is knowing the conditions that your food is grown in and also knowing that your food is coming from local. It’s going to be more nutritious if it’s got a shorter way to travel to get to you. That’s part of it as well. I can say from experience, I have seen the cows, chickens, and pigs from both of these farms. They are very happy. They have lots of sunshine. They are in ideal conditions to grow well.
That’s a big deal for having good quality and nutritious food. Also, when you go to the store and see things that say pasture-raised or organic, you may wonder, “Are there loopholes that these people can jump through to make it organic or pasture?” You don’t have the farmer there to ask what their ways of farming have been like. That’s important to have the people close by that say, “Come to visit our farm and see our animals. We will answer all your questions.” That’s important.
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I want to go back to Greg and Kinsey because you are getting your hands dirty every day with those kids. You said one of the lessons your girls are learning is problem-solving. Can you tell us a little bit of some lessons that you and Kinsey have learned along the way?
Anything of value takes hard work and intentionality.
Some of the farming lessons we have learned are to be steady, don’t get too hard on yourselves and be patient. I bought 30 sheep one day. Three months later, we sold them because they were running up our porch and knocking down our door. We bought some goats one time when we were living in a farmhouse. We didn’t have the fencing for goats. I remember sitting in the living room and a goat came up, hit our door, and walked around our house. We have a new house. Those are some things we have learned. Be patient with learning, growing, and each other in our marriage.
Being that you are working with this processing plant, some people say we shouldn’t be eating meat at all. They say, “It’s not good for our health or the planet.” Do you and Damon talk about that at all?
Animals have been here forever. Our grandparents slaughtered their hogs, raised beef, and ate their chickens and eggs. They lived to be 100 years old without going to the doctor. To say that we are not supposed to eat meat or that it’s not healthy for us, our grandparents proved that theory wrong. At the farm, Damon has a saying that says, “It’s all about knowing your food and farmer.” He also says that you have a choice. You can either pay your doctor or pay your farmer.
If you pay your farmer, you know what you are getting. You know you are getting the good meats and what’s in them. You don’t have to go to the doctor to get all these medicines for being sick from eating things that you don’t know what’s in it. You get stuff at the grocery store and you don’t know what’s in those foods. If you are eating meats that you know where they are locally grown, raised and how they are fed, it’s way healthier than the stuff that you get at the grocery store.
Kinsey, you were telling me that the taste of the first chicken that you had that was raised in the sunshine and so happy. It was a game-changer for you.
That was when we had moved back from Alaska and we were homesteading. We had raised 50 broiler chickens and ended up butchering 25. We have a lot of hard lessons that we have learned. The first time I ever cooked it, I was like, “This is unbelievable.” It’s crazy when you put 2 chicken breasts side by side, 1 from a store and 1 that has been raised on our farm or a farm like ours, and cut into them if they have been cooked. First of all, when you cook ours, ours are going to stay the same size. It isn’t going to shrink as theirs will.
If you slice it open, it looks like chicken as opposed to the ones that are grown in six weeks and fed with who knows what. There are holes in them. It looks like a sponge almost. When you taste our chicken or chickens that are grown on farms like ours, it tastes like chicken and how it should. I feel like my great-grandparents and his great-grandparents would get stuff from the store and spit it out like, “We are not doing this. This is gross.” That was it for me. I love to eat like everybody else. We all love to eat and we want good food.
The taste gives a clue about the nutrient density. Micah was saying it’s about the freshness. They say that a carrot that is shipped from California to the East Coast, along the way, it’s losing some of its essences. That fresh chicken, there’s nothing like it. That reminds me about raw milk because raw milk is a whole different product than pasteurized. Can you talk to us a little bit about the difference between the two, Clint?
We were talking about the difference between commercial chicken versus sustainably-raised chicken. The same is true with milk. The reason that the growing practices are so different is that it’s a lot easier to have a factory farm because your customers don’t see that difference in quality when they are not buying it from you. When your focus shifts from quantity to quality, it makes a difference. We see that with the raw milk because if you are milking 1,000 cows in a day, you are not going to be able to know that cow because it’s a 24/7 milking operation. It never stops.
There’s not a relationship where you know that cow is sick or there’s an issue that you can identify before you end up passing bad milk onto your customer. With raw milk, the focus is on the quality because if it’s not, your customer knows it immediately. Pasteurization, I believe, was brought about so that it could cover up a lot of those bad management practices and allow milk that was substandard to be sold at a price that would still get farmers an artificial profit.
It’s like so many other things. Helping farmers jump from the commercial factory farm to the sustainable local food farm is mostly about economics. They are going to get $0.10 to a gallon and I’m going to get a whole lot more but there’s this guarantee. They don’t have to focus on quality. I truly believe most farmers would rather produce quality food. Those economic pull factors are so hard to overcome. The higher prices that good people who are willing to pay for good food can bridge that gap.
When you are talking about quality over quantity, I think about eating out at a fast-food restaurant or Applebee’s. They bring these huge plates out. The nacho is sky high and you are like, “All this is for $10. This is amazing.” If you go to a fancy restaurant, you get the smallest portions. The difference is quality over quantity. People look at it, get fooled and think, “I need more bang for my buck. I need all that big amount of food.” It’s not going to satisfy or nourish as much as the quality food. Micah, that brings me to a question for you. Why is it important for us to make eating real nourishing food a priority? Why is it important here for Bramble Market to be so dedicated to local foods, for example?
It’s important for health purposes. Individually, having the choice to consume what you know is going to make your body healthier is important. I also think that part of what’s important is to be able to support the local farmers. If we are not intentional about focusing on our food and what we are consuming, we won’t necessarily be supporting the local people who also need the support to continue and carry on making the good food that they are making.
I do fear that if we don’t become more intentional with the foods that we choose to eat, then we may continue to lose some of that control of what foods we do have available to us. Supporting the local people is going to help continue that availability and help them to grow and provide even more food that’s good. What we want to do here at Bramble is make that more accessible for more people to have that.
Let’s bring it on home, David, with this question. How can I, as an individual, apart from shopping at Bramble Market, be more intentional about prioritizing and making sure I’m going for that quality over quantity when it comes to my food?
Anything of value takes hard work or intentionality. That’s the one thing my dad always told me. People would talk about his marriage and how good it was. It does take a little bit of hard work wherever you are across the country or world about finding the right thing or finding the good quality food, the good whole food, and the good real food. At times, it can seem daunting. A lot of times it’s because of these megaphones of multibillion-dollar marketing ads and all that stuff telling us how, when, and where to get it at your beck and call. It’s ready and quick.
It does take a little bit of intentionality but it’s a lot closer to you than one would assume. There are a lot of folks in your neighborhood that are having the awareness and the eyes and ears open to where to plug in and find raw milk. How to be intentional is being intentional. We’ve got to expand our timeframe, maybe spend a little bit more money upfront or prioritize. It does take intentionality and prioritizing. Know that it is around no matter where you are at. There are farms all over the country and the state.
Markets like this are growing in quantity and quality. Since we have been open, we have seen many more markets like this open up even in Central Arkansas. In a 45-minute drive, there’s a good chance there’s 1 within 10 or 15 minutes of you something like us. We are all about supporting and cooperating with other markets. We don’t see them as competitors but as partners in our mission to bring good quality products and local things to the folks. It’s taking a little bit of time and risk but also being confident that it’s there. It’s a lot closer than you think, I believe.
I’m so glad you said that because the Weston A Price Foundation has chapter leaders all around the world. The only thing they sign up to help with is giving people a resource list of local foods in their area, farmer’s markets, drop-off points, CSAs, and all this. I want to encourage the readers to connect with your local chapter leader to find the real food that we are talking about. I always ask at the end this one question. This is free for all. If the reader could do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
Eat food that God has made. If it came from the Lord, that would be it.
In a day, drink a lot of water and get a lot of sunshine.
Listen to your body. A lot of times, what you are craving is what your body is crying for. Be a little more receptive to your body’s needs.
Thanks to each of you. Thank you all for coming.
Our guests were Clint Ballard, the Owner of Milk and Honey Hill Farm, Greg, and Kinsey Bradford, the Owners and Operators of Bradford Valley Farms, Barbara Hutchinson, representing The Farm at Barefoot Bend, and David and Micah Rice of Bramble Market. Their websites are in order, MilkAndHoneyHillFarm.com, BradfordValleyFarms.com, BarefootBend.com, and TheBrambleMarket.com. You can find me at HolisticHilda.com.
For a letter to the editor from a journal published in the winter of 2022, “When I first joined the Weston A Price Foundation, I appreciated your wide range of views on a variety of topics, much of which seemed a bit controversial but most, I already knew to be accurate. As the years have gone by, I find even the controversial bits to be true. What I thought to be a bit radical is timely and rational. It has been a good growing experience with you folks for me. I look forward to each new issue of the journal.”
This is a letter from Tom from Panama City, Florida. Tom, thank you for writing to us. You too are welcome to write a letter to the editor to be published in an upcoming journal and perhaps read on this show. Write to Info@WestonAPrice.org and put Letter to the Editor in the Subject line. It can be about your observations about these times, our show, our information or a personal story about how your life has been changed. Thanks to the show. We are so grateful to you. Thank you for reading. Stay well. Hasta pronto.
About Clint Ballard
Milk & Honey Hill Farm is a small sustainable family run fresh milk dairy, and apiary where nutrient dense, traditionally raised foods are our passion.
About Greg and Kinsey Bradford
Animals should be animals, nature should be natural, and we should farm for the future generations.
About Damon and Jana Helton
The Heltons believe you should know your farmer to know your food and take that seriously as they raise all-natural farm raised meats, eggs, and organic produce.
About David and Micah Rice
David and Micah are deeply rooted in the community of Little Rock and live the Bramble motto of gathering, inspiring, cultivating, and growing. The Bramble Market was birthed to create a hub of all things local from grass fed beef, mushrooms, and local honey to pottery, soaps, and crafted pastas.
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