Featured in 501 Life Magazine
Photos by Makenzie Evans
There is a moment late in the season, after you have given in to the Arkansas summer swelter, that you feel it. That first trickle of crisp autumn air. It’s not just a cool breeze. Its dry and still and it has a certain smell that invokes ideas of sweaters and football games and backyard campfires. You know it’s early, and there are certainly more sweaty days to come, but it is a reminder that summer is winding down fall is on its way.
I was walking through the garden with Jessica Sowards of Roots and Refuge Farm, between rows of towering trellised late season tomatoes when I felt that first hint of fall. A late summer rain had fallen earlier in the day and behind the rain was a little blast of crisp fall air. It seemed appropriate as we were harvesting a basket full of some of the season’s last tomatoes, a kaleidoscope of reds, greens, yellows and purples.
Lucy peeks through the fence. All the red chickens are named Lucy!
Jessica and her husband Jeremiah are modern-day homesteaders. They moved out to their little patch of land in the hills just outside of Vilonia a few years ago and set out to create a place where the land would provide for their family and their kids could have a connection to the land. Jessica has the giant, happy smile and unbridled giggle of someone who is exactly where she wants to be.
Ben loves chicken hugs. The chicken is not so sure about Benjamin hugs!
As we stroll past a bushy branch leaning out over the edge of a raised bed, Jessica leans down and grabs a handful of tiny yellowish fruits. “Ground cherries”, she says. I pop one in my mouth, expecting a tiny burst of tomato but instead there is an explosion of fruity sweetness like I have never tasted. She gives me a handful of the tiny fruits along with instructions for collecting and planting the seeds for myself, but I never made it out of the garden with them.
She stops at a tomato plant that has been stripped down to its sticks, plucks a fat green tomato worm and squishes it. We walk beneath a trellised vine full of little melons that are just turning ripe, and past a row of tomato plants, some green and filled with fruit and others starting to yellow and wither, having given their all. Jessica points out that gardening is full of victories and defeats. A gardener can do their best to nurture and grow, but ultimately nature has its way.
Jessica and Jeremiah have developed quite a wealth of gardening and farming knowledge and they share their experience on their YouTube Channel Roots and Refuge Farm. Jessica chronicles the whole experience from seed to harvest, with lots of helpful hints, weekly garden tours and lots and lots of tomato talk. Her fallible and happy, infectious nature make for great viewing whether you care about aphids or not, and with over 12 million views, her YouTube channel has catapulted her into celebrity homesteader status. “I honestly think it comes down to passion and authenticity.” Says Jessica when I asked about her success on the web. “We are just regular people doing what a lot of people dream about and we love it. We love sharing it, and decided that in the process of doing so, we would be honest about it. That means sharing our faith, showing our failures and being transparent with our dreams.”
Thanks a million Makenzie Evans for capturing the love and energy of this amazing family
and the life and beauty of Roots and Refuge Farm with your amazing photographs. You
can check out more of Makenzie's work on her website HERE!