Tra­di­tional Heir­loom Farm­ing at Bloom­ing Wands

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Front Page -

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.”

“ 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.

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