All of this really started with my grandmother.
My grandmother, when I was little, we'd get up really early and go strawberry picking.
And then on her way home, we would stop at her friend's house who had a milk cow, and we would get a pint of cream to go take home and have oatmeal and strawberries.
And it was just like, oh, there's just nothing better than that, you know?
We are originally from New Jersey, a rural area, so we had chickens and a couple goats.
So my sister showed in our local 4H club and of course cuz you know you always want to do what big sister does.
So I wanted to show chickens.
We came to Arkansas in 2007 with my husband's job, not here on the farm.
Originally he had taken a job in Harriet, so.
We found this after a while, and where we're standing now was all in the middle of the woods.
There was just a tiny little driveway coming down and the house at the end.
We're in very rural Arkansas, right?
And a lot of people have extended family in the area and they have Sunday dinner.
That's just the thing.
Some people's extended families just further away.
Well, the first potluck we had, this was all studs.
There was no paneling on the walls or anything like that.
So we just had this all set up in here and everybody brought dishes and we gathered from all over the place.
Some people I had met at the hardware store, some people at the feed store, Oh my gosh, the topics that we've covered, the drought last year, people shifting jobs, people losing everything in a crop or.
Of wild animals or you know just the cost of feed going through the roof.
There's a lot of things that it affect our small farming community and you know you never know what somebody's experienced that week.
Having a place to go and people to get together that become like extended family has been really, really great.
I think it's good for everybody.
You know I think that's why they come.
I mean it could be simple things.
They just know you know that that you're.
That you're there, you're that extra person that they can count on when they need something.
That was kind of how this all started with the first potluck, and it's just kind of kept going and going.
And, you know, we do Easter dinner, Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas every year, just kind of an open table.
And if people don't have a place to go, they know to just call us and say, hey, you got room.
You have to build that community that produce what you need.
And we've kind of just functioned that way for the last 15 years and it's really working out well.
And when we moved to Arkansas, I had more land, more space.
So it went from chickens to goats.
Meet goats 1st.
And then because I didn't want to eat my goats, I got dairy goats.
And then I got a fiber sheep.
And then I had a beef cow and then I got a dairy cow, which then eventually landed us into the dairy that I have now, July and dairy.
And then the guest room has been here for.
Oh, golly, since 2012 is when we poured the concrete for the barn and opened it up originally as a pastor's retreat.
So they had a place to go with their families.
So we wanted a place where they could just kind of unplug it out of the fishbowl and just be themselves and relax.
And then it kind of went from there to how do we have people participate on the farm?
You know, we had just this little homestead and then networked with a whole bunch of farmers across the country to find out what they liked, what they didn't like.
What they wish they had done and what they'd never do again.
We have a guest house across the Haller that the guests can stay in.
Typically it's family.
So we'll have grandparents, parents, grandchildren all coming together, different people coming from all over the country and even internationally.
Because these grandparents, you know, did it back when they were kids and they want to show the grandkids how they did it.
So they'll come down in the mornings, they'll milk the cows with us, set up very much for.
Guests first for safety, for visual effects, and then, you know, they're milking.
You know, it's it's hard at first.
You know, they're always like, oh, I don't know if I can do this.
And then they, they get that first squirt and they're very, very excited.
And then they discover that the milk is warm because it's, you know, it's body temperature because in your mind you think it's going to be cold.
It was really homesteading and it's kind of grown in that.
It's never really left homesteading.
It's just been a little bit bigger, included a lot more people.
People being educated about farm life and about just being able to do stuff.
And then typically we'll go up for a farmer table breakfast, we'll do yogurt that we made here.
They'll get a bread of some kind, whether it's a muffin or an Irish soda bread, and then they'll get omelets with our fresh eggs, sometimes the cheese or if we have vegetables coming out of the garden or locally sourced, you know, farmers market or one of our neighbors that has it.
If you've noticed up in our kitchen, there's cookbooks.
There's lots and lots of cookbooks.
Mom did a lot of restaurant work and stuff.
She's worked in, you know, in New York and New Jersey a lot.
She had a catering business.
I love to cook, I love to feed people and I can't make all this fancy food and.
Lots of pastry and stuff like that, and the three of us be the only ones eating it.
That would be terrible.
In the afternoons we'll do classes like the pasta class or a pizza class, so we do a hand rolled ricotta gnocchi.
So we've got two really fabulous products.
We've got a full fat ricotta cheese and buttermilk.
And they make our baked goods so much better that there's.
I don't even have to worry.
It's like not a competition thing.
This is like we have something really special here.
And what else is special about it is that we grow the fodder for the cows and we feed the cows this incredible diet every day that makes our buttermilk and our ricotta cheese so special based off of where we are geographically.
I do not have a lot of pasture, so I'm very limited.
So the hydroponic system that I have is an 8 day process from dry seed to harvest.
So the barley actually increases the cream content by about 2% in your cows, which was awesome because you know everybody loves cream, as well as the fact that this way I know exactly what my cows are eating.
They're getting a consistent food and if you're not enjoying what you're doing on the farm.
It's not going to last.
I mean, you have to, you have to enjoy it.
I mean, I know farming is really, really hard work and there's a lot of days you just like drag to the bed at night.
You're like okay, that was a day.
Let's just put that one on the shelf.
But you know, you really, there has to be something about it that you love, otherwise you're not going to keep doing it.
This program is funded through a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant.
Provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.