At Nature Supply Co., supporting our local farmers is something that is near and dear to our hearts. From cultivating a more sustainable future, to meeting the faces behind the food that nourish our families, we hope to foster a community of connection and gratitude for the modern family farm. It is our hope that with this series, we can be an encouragement to their businesses and show our thanks for all that they give to their communities.
This week, we are honored to introduce you to Jill Ragan of Whispering Willow Farm! Check out her interview below!
Hi Jill! Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a little bit about Whispering Willow Farm?
Hey y’all, I’m Jill Ragan, married to my wonderful husband Nathan along with our two beautiful daughters, a dog Lily, a bunny rabbit and a boat load of chickens. Needless to say my husband feels out numbered more times than not. Our farm is located in central Arkansas and we consider ourselves “urban farmers” meaning, we farm on small space. We sit on just a little over a acre and house commercial high tunnel greenhouses, raised beds, chickens, and soon to be bees.
We'd love to know how you got started and your farming background!
Honestly most of my childhood memories consist of canning with my grandparents and helping my papaw tend to his garden. Back then, I dreaded the hard summer work, now I long for the summer harvest. As an adult I always had a garden and canned on a small scale, but my passion grew along with my outlandish dreams of one day farming full time. I’ve been gardening for at least 7 years now, farming on the other hand has been something I’ve tried to obtain within the last couple years. I currently still work a few days a week at our local hospital, but am hopeful my dreams are becoming a reality of farming full time.
Tell us why you have such a love for farming!
For me, it’s simple. I LOVE food! Okay okay seriously, I have a such a passion for food and how it’s grown and really following through with the process. I plant the seeds, then I get to see them sprout up into hopeful seedlings, that then, turn into beautiful plants that produce food for not only my family to enjoy but for others in our community as well. The family I’ve come to know in this community of fellow farmers is unreal. It’s rejuvenating, and fuels my soul for the long days work I know lay ahead.
What are some challenges you face as farmers?
More times than not the challenge for me is the what ifs? What if my seeds don’t sprout? What if the weather is horrible, producing horrible crops? What if... and so it goes on and on. You have to trust Mother Nature and know she will do her part if you do yours. Trust that the community will support you even in the bad seasons and know that this too shall pass.
What are the rewards you sow?
There has been SO many rewarding aspects of this lifestyle. The community like I said earlier is truly something I could never imagine being without. Linking arms with other farmers to give our families better knowledge of the food we grow and why we grow it. Teaching my children the importance of growing your own food and the hard work that goes into that. And honestly, just being sustainable is reward enough.
Tell us about what your future goals are!
My dreams are big, and that’s exactly how I like it. If I don’t dream big then I’ll never know if they are obtainable or not. My hopes are that within the next 3 years I will be farming full time on a commercial level, supplying food to our local restaurants that support farm to table. Inviting our community out to the farm to see how the process works, gain knowledge and maybe even ignite a dream of their own.
What advice can you share for those just starting out?
I say, go for it!! I encourage everyone to start somewhere. You may not have the space you had hoped for or even all the equipment but at least try and gain knowledge. We have so many new recourses someone could easily garden on their apartment balcony if they wanted. Or be like me and urban farm on a small acreage. Or better yet, maybe you’ll have thousands of acres and farm on such a large scale that I’ll be contacting you in the future for advice. My point being, don’t be afraid to start where you are and dream as big as you’d like.
What are your favorite resources?
Man, this list can get lengthy. I personally gain most of my knowledge on YouTube. Some of my best friends have YouTube channels and it’s fun to watch and knowledgeable. Curtis Stone is a wonderful resource for urban farming. The USDA also has a lot of wonderful information about farming.
Any extra information to share?
I just want to say thank you! Whether you are a farmer, garden enthusiast, or daydreamer waiting on your slice of heaven. Each of you are important. I would love for you guys to follow me on Instagram at @whisperingwillowfrm and I would love to hear about your journey! Best wishes!