Farming, on paper, is simple enough: You put the right things in the right ground and growth occurs and is consumed. Reasonable to assume if such a plan is undertaken correctly one would prosper.
But an all-encompassing growth in farming vision leads to Mayflower’s Tim and Judith Allen of SalScilla Farms, Inc. being the 2021 Faulkner County Farm Family of the year.
The Allen’s raise produce as a major part of their operation, along producing eggs for sale and even flowers. The goods are distributed in a number of ways, generally locally. They took over operations of the Downtown Conway Farmer’s Market last season – after having been a vendor there for years – as well as operating a “Farm to Fork” cafe’ at the farm out in Lollie Bottoms.
The cafe, Scilla’s Place Cafe, is named after Judith’s aunt Priscilla. The farm’s name, SalScilla, is from Aunt Priscilla and Tim’s mother’s Sally names. The naming convention, the lives coming together, is the first hint of all-encompassing farming.
At the cafe the formula – more than produce – becomes apparent. The farm and cafe are both out on Lollie Road, along a popular circuit for cyclists away from Conway traffic. Judith talks about having cyclists stop by and taking a break at the cafe before starting back on their ride. They have even encouraged riders to start the trip from there at the farm.
But then that’s the point, not the production of goods and produce in the farm’s High Tower open-air greenhouses, but the reaching out to people.
The COVID-19 pandemic lead to challenges for the operation, Judith said. Even now orders come from local customers and her or her husband drop off the fresh-off-the-vine goods, knock, and leave. But that’s, and this becomes more clear the longer they speak, what you do: You reach out to people. The tomatoes, the cucumbers, the lettuce, okra and so forth, that’s the reason for the initial contact, Judith speaks of people “wanting real food,” but the reaching out is where the reward comes from.
Sitting on the cafe’s patio and they share a story: A day at the farmers market and a woman comes by to purchase flowers. They help her with the selection and include tips on care. It turns out the flowers were being purchased because the woman’s mother had not been getting out much and the idea was having flowers to raise might correct that.
A few weeks go by and the woman is at the market again. How were the flowers doing? Tearful thanks. The flowers were a resounding success and Mom is getting out several times a day, being careful to manage and maintain the flowers as was recommended. A connection was made, something was raised, grown, something prospered.
Another, a college student, a regular at the booth at the market, brought her mother by when she was in town for a visit, to introduce Mom. Seeds are planted, an extended family grows and prospers. Another story, a woman comes by at the market asking about Lambs Lettuce, a favorite from her childhood. Some research, some digging (in every sense of the word) and Lambs Lettuce is produced and presented. An overjoyed customer has a memory from when she was a girl. Growth, sharing, prosperity.
Lambs Lettuce, also called “Corn Salad,” a cool season crop, is now part of the farm’s production.
And it does not end with farm production. The 2019 flood when everything in Lollie Bottoms that could move was being taken to higher ground and neighbors helped neighbors. The Allen’s tell of helping getting equipment moved, some home’s yards being turned into temporary parking lots. But then reaching out is what you do when you are a neighbor. The Allen’s have worked with Special Olympics since 2013 in a program which allows Olympians to become farmers, healthy food being important for developing athletes.
Plans continue, a third high tower, the open-air greenhouse which allows a 12 month production cycle, will son be added, as well as other plans to improve irrigation and similar matter, to improve production, but ultimately what is produced is something coming from Faulkner County soil and shared with the community, for which we all prosper.