AS WARM summer days linger, thoughts and plans for returning fall traditions cool us, if only in our minds. We plan decorative porches with corn stalk bundles, pumpkin piles, and mums. We dream of lawns with skittering leaves of gold, red, and orange. We long for smores and hayrides bundled in flannel and hoodies. We can practically smell the woodsmoke and feel the firepit’s warming flames as they light the faces of friends and family gathered around it.
These moments and memories are possible thanks to local producers like Pea Ridge Farm (PRF).
Blake Bassham and Garrett Monks partnered in 2019 and began their operations on 10 acres. Those 10 acres expanded to nearly 50 and are planted three or four times a year with farm-fresh produce nourishing the Lincoln County community.
Bassham said, “We started with farmers markets and had about five we would go to through the week. In 2021, we opened the market in Fayetteville.”
PRF always offered delivery, but the pandemic created a demand for deliveries that nearly exceeded the staffing available. Deliveries skyrocketed from 50 per week to 600 and sustained the business when the farmers markets could not open. In 2021, PRF opened a pavilion market, and they enclosed it later to create an indoor farmers market shopping experience.
“In spring of ‘23, we were given an opportunity to join forces with Ayers Farm Farmers Market in Huntsville, which has a very large clientele and has been open for [more than] 50 years, so we’ve rapidly grown over the past five years,” said Bassham.
Their growth and availability of labor influence the availability of home deliveries, but the market is open about nine months out of the year for walk-in shopping. The goods offered change with the seasons, and each season is filled with the things that define the rhythm of our days. Spring brings hope on petals of fresh blooms and in the strawberries’ sweetness. Summer’s tomatoes, corn, squash, onions, and watermelon add freshness and nutrition to our meals. Fall’s sweet potatoes will find their way into our holiday celebrations. And then Christmas opens an evergreen-wreathed door to winter.
Bassham said, “Finally, you get to fall, and the weather starts calming down. You notice that it seems like everything calms down. You’re not as pressed for everything, and we both really enjoy the fall time. We sell a lot of mums and sweet potatoes. Last year we did about six acres of sweet potatoes, and this year we cut it back to about 3 1/2. We’ll grow about eight acres of pumpkins, and there will be a huge pumpkin display this year with pumpkins from the size of a golf ball to 200 pounds for purchase.”
Our plans ease from fall into Christmas like slipping on a favorite sweater. Again, PRF is ready to supply us with everything we need for our traditional decorations and celebrations. Live Christmas trees, evergreen wreaths, and greenery bring an aroma home that is absent at all other times of the year. And both fall and winter at PRF offer great photo ops — another tradition that documents our lives.
“A lot of families come in year after year to get a Christmas tree. They do it because their parents took them to get a Christmas tree, so now their little children are experiencing the tradition of coming to pick out their Christmas tree to put in the house every year. So that’s neat. We’ve done that for five years, so we’ve seen these kids grow older. That’s what we hoped — to build a tradition that would stick for generations,” said Bassham.
Bassham and Monks, and their staff work year-round to stock our pantries and provide our seasonal decorations.
“It’s a very difficult lifestyle,” said Bassham. ”We work 80- hour weeks a lot of times, especially during the middle of the year. It’s a challenge sometimes.”
The market is closed in January, February, and most of March, but they’re still hard at work preparing for spring. They love what they do, and they love the Lincoln County community.
“We love Fayetteville. Fayetteville is just an awesome little place.”
PRF serves as a thread, connecting the seasons and fostering a sense of community. These cherished traditions remind us of the simple pleasures found in the changing seasons and the joy that comes from coming together. PRF is more than just a place to buy produce; it’s a symbol of resilience, unity, and the enduring spirit that makes Lincoln County home. G