I was born and raised in Arkansas, and one of the things I knew with absolute certainty as I moved through my teenage years was that as soon as I could, I was getting out. Out of this hick town, out of this hayseed state, out of this place that people had either never heard of or simply poked fun at.
I had no idea what a wonderful place I lived in. It didn’t help that on my travels out of state with family or church or school, people tended to make fun of my accent or make jokes about hogs or a state full of people who were barefoot and / or pregnant. And yes, I do realize, now that I have teenagers of my own, that I probably took these comments way more seriously than they were intended. Oh the ANGST of the teenage years…
Still, it wasn’t until I was in college and Bill Clinton was running for president that my fellow Baylor students began to take a real interest in my state. Somehow the combination of that race and the fact that many Baylor students worked summers at camps in Arkansas made me begin to take a new look at the place I came from.
I liked what I saw then, and I have loved it ever since.
P. Allen Smith loves Arkansas too, and he has done amazing things in and for our state. I got to see that firsthand a couple of weeks ago when I went to visit Moss Mountain, his 500 acre farm, home, and formal gardens. Eighteen bloggers went to learn about Moss Mountain, farming, heritage poultry, and Arkansas soybeans – and it was a wonderful day.
Just in case you missed that? Eighteen bloggers. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the type, so for clarification: eighteen nosy, mouthy women, outfitted in Pinterest-worthy boots / gingham shirts / aprons, cameras in one hand and iPhones in the other as they attempted to document every part of the day. We held chickens. We planted soybeans. The staff tried hard to keep us under control without actually kicking us in the shins. They deserve an award.
Here’s a few things from the day I’d love to share with you:
Moss Mountain: get yourself there
Seriously, it’s so beautiful. The tour is absolutely packed with history and wonderful stories and tons of practical information – P. Allen is an incredibly gracious & funny host, and he loves to teach. You will learn about gardening, food, farming, eco-building and home decor, among other things. It’s a fabulous experience – one I highly recommend.
Anyone who creates knows that it takes a mix of passion for what you are doing, the vision to know what you want, and the simple hard work of executing it. In every part of Moss Mountain, it’s evident that P. Allen and his team are doing this. Moss Mountain is a marvel, and a wonderful addition to Arkansas.
Arkansas soybeans: make friends with a farmer
We learned a lot about Arkansas farmers and soybeans, and I came away with a much better picture of just how much soybeans are a part of our economy. One of the best parts of the day was hearing from a West Higginbotham, a soybean farmer, about what his life is like, and why he farms they way he does (non-organic, GMO). Now, just mentioning those terms has sent some of you into a tizzy – and I certainly am no expert – but hearing his story made a difference for me (I find that this is usually true).
I was completely surprised to find out all of the ways soybeans are used, both in food and in lots of other places. I was also surprised to hear how much of Arkansas farmland is growing soybeans: at one point West told us that his neighbor would be letting 2 half-million dollar cotton pickers (yes, that’s the name of the big machines, and yes, it made me giggle too) sit idle this summer. His fields are all soybeans instead.
So, since soybeans are such a big part of the place that I live, I’m ready to learn more.
Community: love your people and your place
I was grateful all day long for community: the shared identity of Arkansas, the love of living in an agricultural state. I walked through the day with people who are strange like me: who love to put their lives out on the internet. Some of them I’ve known first and best in ‘face-to-face’ life, some of them were brand new to me, some of them I’ve come to love through Arkansas Women Bloggers. I hung out asking questions of the crew carrying cameras. With nearly everyone I met, a few rounds of “Where are you from? Oh, now, do you know so and so?” made us enough connections that we were practically extended family.
I know, now, what a wonderful place I live in.
Want to read more about Bean 2 Blog? There’s a roundup of posts at Arkansas Women Bloggers, or you can get to know each gal individually (I’d recommend it!)
Angie – A Growing Season
Debbie – Dining with Debbie
Stephanie – The Park Wife
Alison – Alison Chino
Heather – Heather’s Dish
Lyndi – NWA Foodie
Jerusalem – Jolly Goode Gal
Lauren – In Arkansas
Sarabeth – The Dramatic
Gina – Desperately Seeking Gina
Julie – Eggs and Herbs
JoBeth – Boots McBlog
Blair – In Arkansas
Paige – Approaching Joy
Anita – Aunt Nubby’s Kitchen
Beth – The Food Adventuress
Melissa – A Familiar Path
Karen – Ting’s Mom
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