BY MELANIE BUCK –
Leaving the corporate world behind wasn’t an easy decision for Luke and Deedee Alston, but after a couple of years getting their hands dirty on their homestead, they are sure thankful that they did. Holly Springs Homestead is a family business that has brought them together both in work and at the dinner table. “Some companies reorganize, our family reprioritized,” said Deedee.
Luke, with a degree in agriculture from UA, worked as an insurance adjuster for Farm Bureau for a decade, while Deedee, with an MBA from UALR, worked as the Chief of Operations Officer for Healthy Connections, Inc., for thirteen years. The pair has two sons, Ryan Ozanich, a senior this fall at Mena High School, and Drey Ozanich, who will be a 7th grader at Mena Middle School.
Life was quite hectic for the family preceding the transition. Between their jobs and the boys’ activities, the family ate on the run, had little time together, and as they assessed their lives, felt a change needed to come. They decided to take a risk and leave their jobs to become homesteaders. “So much of life’s skills get lost when you’re so busy,” Deedee said. “It was a huge leap of faith for sure,” said Luke.
Managing 300 acres, they have cattle and chicken houses and haul hay like many farmers. They grew their own vegetables, canning them at harvest, giving extras to neighbors and friends, and getting back to their roots, as they say. Both Luke and Deedee grew up on a farm. In fact, the land they manage connects both of their roots including Luke’s great-great grandfather’s land, creating a ‘century farm,’ and the very land his father was born on.
They incorporated three years ago, and Deedee explained that out of their abundance of fresh veggies, an idea came last summer and the family reserved 20 acres to create Holly Springs Homestead. There, customers will be able to purchase much more than just fresh veggies. They sell Heirloom seeds, Watkins products, pure raw honey, garden supplies, Joy dog food, beeswax, hunting and fishing license, and much, much more. “We are certified by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture as an Arkansas Grown business, meaning what we sell is Arkansas Grown and Arkansas Made,” said Deedee. And they aren’t done adding to the list of products that will be available. The family plans to add an orchard in the fall. Also now, ‘out of the bag’ as they put it, is the addition of a Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in the fall. “We’ve held that one close to the chest but we’re excited about it,” said Luke.
Beyond the farm, the family is involved in the Polk County Cattlemen’s Association where Luke serves on the Board and is currently attending a Young Cattlemen’s Leadership class. “Only 2% of the population in the United States are involved in agriculture and we’re feeding the other 98%,” said Luke. Deedee is chair of the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and Drey is a member of the Arkansas Junior Cattlemen’s Association.
Holly Springs Homestead also serves as an official recruitment station for the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association. New members can sign up, current members can pay their dues, and with their membership, they will receive a discount on future purchases at the farm.
This Saturday, May 21st, the Alstons will celebrate their ‘huge leap of faith,’ with the public as they host their Grand Opening and Farm Tour from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. There will be a chicken cook-off with lunch being served at 12:30 p.m. and prizes awarded by Polk County Farm Bureau. Live gospel and country music, Pa Mac’s Old Time Farm Tools demonstration, samples, give-a-ways, and a lot of family fun. There will also be an Arkansas chocolate company on site with their specialty chocolates, including chocolate truffles. Everyone is invited to the farm at 217 Polk Road 184, or 5.5 miles down Polk 74. While there, you will be able to visit their Market Store as well.
“We were both fortunate to grow up with parents and grandparents who believed in hard work and self-sustainability and it’s our goal to pass along the old traditions and retain the wonderful and simple ways of life back in the olden days,” said Deedee. And although homesteading is not for everyone, Luke explained, “For us, now we’re together and we get to live as a family. We divide and conquer daily. I have no regrets.”
For more information on Holly Springs Homestead, visit their Facebook page or give them a call at 479-243-6525. EBT and SNAP benefits, along with major credit cards will also be accepted. “We love our roots. There’s a lot of value and wisdom in what we do and we want to share it.”