A hub for local farmers and artisans, Bell Urban Farm in Conway is the place to go for homegrown botanicals and produce. Starting out as a garden in a front yard, Bell Urban Farm has quite literally grown to encompass almost an entire plot of land with the recent addition of a local foods grocery store, the Farmstand.
Kim Doughty-McCannon, farmer and Farmstand manager, started gardening with her husband, Zack, around 10 years ago as a hobby. From there, it blossomed. “In 2014, I did an apprenticeship at Little Rock Urban Farming, a little organic farm in Little Rock. That’s when I started getting serious about gardening and organic farming in particular,” Doughty-McCannon says.
Bell Urban Farm opened in Conway with a focus on seasonal flowers. After extensive community interest and a need for more local representation, the Farmstand was opened in November 2020. “I love working with all of the local farmers and giving them a place to sell their products,” she says. “A lot of farmer’s markets are closed during the winter, so the Farmstand gives farmers the chance to keep going through all seasons.”
The Farmstand sells products from all over Arkansas. “Everything we sell is either grown, made, or comes from an Arkansas company. Meat, eggs and other produce mainly come from the Central Arkansas area for fresh purposes, but we carry items from all over the state,” Doughty-McCannon explains. “Most of our local artisans and locally roasted coffee comes from Northwest Arkansas and all over the state.”
Continuing to expand its local treasure box, the Farmstand has hired a chef. “She’s going to turn all of our local produce into grab-n-go style meals. She’s going to do dressings, chips, and different things with our meat, eggs and other produce. The Farmstand will be stocked with these meals,” Doughty-McCannon says. For future months, the McCannons are looking to create an outdoor seating area for guests to hang out and enjoy the local-inspired goods.
The seasonal flowers can also be enjoyed by guests relaxing outside. The “hobby” that started it all is a popular attraction for its vibrant colors and variety. Most recently, the farm’s harvest of tulip variations was a popular batch. “Tulips are super fast and they all come at once. They’re around for two or three weeks and need to be harvested two to three times a day, and then they’re gone until next spring,” Doughty-McCannon says. “We’re growing a lot more spring flowers. Our whole backyard is about to start blooming with snapdragons and canterbury bells. The summer will have a lot of variety.”
The flowers are sold as bundles at the Farmstand. “Sometimes we’ll just bundle up one variety. We would pack up a half dozen tulips wrapped in paper and sell them quickly. In the summer, when we have more varieties growing at the same time, we’ll do mixed bouquets with some greenery. We also get some flowers from other local flower farms like Heifer Ranch in Perryville and Blue Mountain Vegetable Farm, and we’ll mix their flowers in with our bouquets,” she says. Bell Urban Farm is currently sitting on less than an acre, so Doughty-McCannon says that sometimes the demand for flowers can be too much for what their garden can provide, so the collaboration with other flower gardens is beneficial for all.
April 17 will be the fourth Plant Sale hosted by Bell Urban Farm, along with other local gardeners and businesses. “Last year, we had to hold the Plant Sale online, but this year we will safely hold the event across the street from us at the Faulkner County Library. They have a big parking lot and their own garden, the Faulkner County Urban Farm Project. We’ll be able to spread out with a lot of space,” Doughty-McCannon says. “There will be lots of vegetable and flower plants for your home garden, and everything is locally grown and unique varieties that you wouldn’t be able to find at Lowe’s or Home Depot.” There will be around 10 local farmers participating and bringing various plants for guests to choose from. “It’s going to be really fun this year; fingers crossed for good weather!”
Heifer Ranch will bring its signature lettuce bowls that are currently available at the Farmstand. “These bowls are really cool because they’re all certified organic lettuce plants in a big bowl. You can harvest your own salad every week by cutting off lettuce at the base. The best part is that it grows back three or four times so you can keep harvesting for a whole month,” Doughty-McCannon says.
Next to the annual Plant Sale, Bell Urban Farm periodically hosts weekend events for the community to learn more about gardening, farming and hobbies they can do at home. “We kicked off the year with a bone broth making workshop, we’ve had a bee-keeping seminar, we’re planning a healthy eating for kids workshop, bouquet making, fermentation. There’s really a lot of stuff we cover, and there’s something for everyone. We have at least one or two each month,” Doughty-McCannon says.
Bell Urban Farm is grateful for the continued support and participation of the local community that keeps the farm going. “This time last year, we had a Kickstarter fundraiser and we raised enough money to make the Farmstand happen,” Doughty-McCannon says. “Without the local community members that contributed to our project, we would not be here today.”
The McCannons are hoping to continue growing their farm and finding more land to garden on and reaching out to more farmers to sell their goods at the Farmstand. “We’re really focusing on the Farmstand this year,” she says. “More land, more help, and encourage our local neighbors to come see us. You can walk here, ride your bike, and just hang out with us.”
Learn more about Bell Urban Farm on its website.