Traditional Heirloom Farming at Blooming Wands
Tucked away in Bismarck is a little farm with big aspirations and behind the whole operation is Dayna Carter-Smith — a third generation farmer of the Carter's Dairy family — practicing sustainable, naturally grown farming that benefits local restaurants. “I'm a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a degree in journalism and I had dreams of being a copy writer in New York,” she said, sitting in the open, eclectic living room of her dogtrot home. “After graduation, I flew to Philadelphia because I didn't have the courage to go to New York. But I got an interview with a PR firm and my first job was on Madison Avenue where I spent five years in advertising.
“At one point I was a publisher for 12 national magazines, and I came home to Hot Springs for about a year before I went to Dallas where I did styling for the Dallas Morning News and attended the Art Institute of Dallas. I had dreams of being a screenwriter and going to Hollywood. I didn't want to be home on a farm.”
While at the Dallas Morning News, Carter-Smith said one of her roles was to produce do-it-yourself projects that “looked good on film, but were something anyone could do,” but after a health scare and months of recovery, she said she was assigned to make garden markers as one of her crafts.
“And I was told to make them whimsical, so I used mesh and bells, beads and fairies,” she said. “But when I brought in the finished product, the Home and Garden editor told me it was way too complicated, and that no one could make these on their own.
“But because I had spent the time on them and done a good job, she paid me as if they had run in the paper, bought them for herself — $500 for five markers — and took them home to put in her yard.”
“...like the liar on `Saturday Night Live' I said ` They're Blooming Wands!' and with that, Blooming Wands was born.”
While at lunch with a friend a few days later, the artist was convinced to take her work to The Impeccable Pig — an upscale gift shop in Dallas which she said has since become a clothing boutique — to sell her creations. She walked in to talk to the owners, one of which opened the first Williams-Sonoma in the city, but was bombarded by customers asking how much she wanted for her garden markers.
“I told them I was actually there to talk to the owner and that I wasn't able to help them right then,” she said. “And when I met with the owner, she said `I'm not saying we're going to sell them or carry them, but how about you leave them here over the weekend?'
“But she wanted to know what to call them should they sell any, and like the liar on `Saturday Night Live' I said `They're Blooming Wands!' and with that, Blooming Wands was born.”
Since then, Carter-Smith's art has branched out into copper crosses seen at various boutiques and she said if she had been asked 11 years ago if she would be back on the family farm in Bismarck, she would have thought they were crazy. But after meeting her husband, the two moved onto 10 acres of the original farm, built their home and started by raising chickens.
“And of course we added goats, a few pigs and collected some dogs along the way, as these things tend to go,” she said. “We started up a garden as well. The farming thing is just in my DNA and I've never been happier than I am here. If I never went into town again, I'd be OK with that.”
Her latest venture in farming is an effort to grow and harvest her produce year-round with the help of a hoop house. While similar to a greenhouse in its structure, a hoop house allows for growing produce in the ground.
“The Department of Agriculture had developed a program to help new farmers with anything that they needed, but my husband didn't think they were going to build a hoop house for me and I was going to show him,” she said with a laugh.
“So I shared with them the dimensions of the house I needed and I made sure my husband was there when they said `We want to make it bigger so we can give you the biggest hoop house you could need.'
“And I said `Hear that? They're going to give me the biggest hoop house they can.'”
Carter-Smith said after her discussions with the Department of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas research department, she would still need about $2,000 for irrigation and labor to complete the project, and with that she created a Kickstarter campaign online.
“On Kickstarter, I shared a video of my goats and chickens, and within a month, we surpassed my goal with donations coming from all over the country,” she said. “I heard from a lot of people how much they loved the goats, but I think when they saw what we're planning to do by being able to plant in January and continue to grow and harvest my heirloom tomatoes through December, they were happy to give. I got donations from people I've never laid eyes on.”
The purpose of her hoop house garden is to grow the produce that local restaurants need and so far she has Cafe 1217 and Jahna's on board for the endeavor.
“They give me a list of the heirloom vegetables they need and I'll order them from Seed Savers (Exchange), which carries only heirloom garden seeds,” she said. “And to be an heirloom, consider it like this — your grandmother grows a tomato and she saves those seeds. Then when your mother grows up, your grandmother gifts her with those seeds which she plants and saves the seeds from those tomatoes. Those seeds are then passed to you. It's a beautiful thing.”
As she continues to grow in her efforts to provide produce locally, Carter-Smith won't be slowing down her farm's production any time soon.
“Some day, we'll add cows,” she said. “Beef cows, but cows nonetheless,” adding that some traditions are to be kept alive.