When we began this journey to come back to a more intentional life we were simply not caring alot about where we did our weekly shopping. We loved our local farmer’s market, we believed in knowing the farmers, but we hadn’t committed to a farm to table kind of life. It was more a beautiful experience to escape to on Saturday mornings. We have always rambled on Saturday mornings, our time away from business, from the busy-ness of the week. A time to get outside, drink in local flavors and learn new folks.
We load up with hot coffee and head to town, often doing breakfast at our local diners.
Leaving our Decatur, Alabama’s farmers Market was hard. We had spent eleven years getting to know families like the Champion Farms, and so many others who not only provided our pumpkins and summer vegetables but a joy in our week as we greeted and heard of what was going on in their lives.
Moving to Grove, a touristy summer town on Grand Lake of the Cherokees, the farmers market had a different feel. It felt produced and less populated. We had a hard time transitioning and found ourselves going to neighboring small towns to find the folks who were serious about growing their food, sharing community with others and bringing their wares to town. Just seeing the peppers and preparations made one aware it is always worth the trip to buy from the grower who cares about your food.
We made it about 2 years in the city before both of us admitted to the other we were ready to go for our own dream of a mini farm in the Ozarks. We’re living that transition right now, it’s not a pretty story, but it’s happening and we’re figuring it out as we go.
A few weekends ago we were graciously invited to capture the experience of the first event for three of Norwest Arkansas’s legendary chefs and flavor masters.
Jules Carney pulled the event together with the support of Will Hanna of Hanna Ranch Family, a local lambing operation. We knew Jules lightly from work with Brightwater, a culinary community college program light in the Ozarks.
We had heard of Joe Wilson of the National Squirrel Championship, which he founded. He’s also the founder of Steaks 4 Sheepdogs, a charity that supports first responders and honors our men and women in blue. Les is a retired police officer and so believes in that mission we knew we’d want to attend. Joe is one of those folks you know from day one will be someone you’ll admire forever. He lives his convictions and pays the price for his values. September 25th is this year’s championship and you can bet your boots we’ll be there to help and do whatever we can do to get others to do the same.
Chef Travis McConnell led us in the basics of butchery. New to the concept of raising our own, outside harvesting deer, fish and parent’s having harvested pigs and cows. Travis made the impossible seem doable for us. I had admired his work at The Capital Hotel in Little Rock and was already.a fangirl before I had the privilege of seeing him work in person.
Meanwhile Jules and Joe had the open flames ready to add flavor to what Travis was preparing for us to engage as a late afternoon event at the table. Have you ever been with a small group of adults that just made you not want to exit? Folks who are intelligently involved in making their homes and the world a better place? The kind of folks who think parenting is a privilege and don’t take shortcuts to their goals in life.
Will Hanna’s tour of his operation was filled with the truths of being in the lambing business. The hard things that rarely make the “Let’s be a farmer” magazines. The ruthlessness of presence required to maintain balance for your herd while increasing quality and finding time for balance in between.
As I walked around the farm, this farm created by two Californians who made a decision to change their location and life to the Ozarks in their life of service, I was only too aware that we are beginning a journey they have committed to a good while ago. We left our fancy home, we left the area of the country we knew, to come home to Oklahoma. A move many of our friends and family couldn’t understand, but we knew deeply had to be.
Jules brings the conversation of food sourcing to a level of understanding we are all part of a whole as inhabitants of this earth. His love of history and culture shows as he shares the journey of how food is prepared, how charcuterie came to be. Les and I had experienced the smoked products Jules so carefully curates several weeks before and we were already fans, but he owns us now after tasting his wares.
The weather could not have been better, a sixty-ish day and bright sun. It was as if the teaching, the weather, and the experience all coordinated to give each of us their best. The class was a first event for these three, but it was evident from moment one, it is something extraordinary…and attracted folks that you’d want to know long past one day’s class.
This, this is what it is about for us. Choosing to create community. To create time in our lives to fellowship, to learn, to share, to mentor and receive mentoring. It was a glorious day where not only intelligences were shared, but ideologies and faith shared that we are the change we seek…and that we must all be intentional about the world we want our families to participate in.
What a privilege….and I can’t wait for more.