July 12, 2017 Edition

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Local families engage in
'beyond organic' farming

Dabney Tarkington, age 2, enjoys helping out on the family farm. Dabney is the son of Friedric and Rachel Tarkington and the grandson of Bobby and Karen Shackelford.
Submitted Photo ~ Karen Shackelford

Aubree Hughart
TD Intern

More than 20 years ago, Bobby Shackelford's wife, Karen, began making her own bread at home. A confused Bobby asked his wife why she felt the need to take all the time and effort to make homemade bread when it was simple and cheap to run to the grocery store for a loaf.

Karen told her husband that this bread would be better for them, and it would taste better, too. Bobby shrugged his shoulders and moved on with the day.

After the initial bread-making began, Karen and Bobby both began to see the need to provide healthier, more organic food for their large family. Although she did not know it at the time, Mrs. Shackelford set the early foundation for what would later become Smithville-based business, Praiseworthy Foods.

Two decades down the road, the Shackelford family is engaged in a practice they have coined 'beyond organic' farming. "Organic farming as labeled by the government can still include certain pesticides and chemicals," said Bobby Shackelford. "We use none of that, so our method is what we call 'beyond organic.'"

'Beyond organic' farming involves in-depth research about farm practices from generations past. Not only does the family farm without the use of pesticides and chemicals, but they also ensure that every aspect of the farm is interconnected.

The entire Shackelford family works together on the farm, where they raise grass-fed beef and lamb as well as pasture-fed pork. The family also grows vegetables in a garden and makes dairy products such as yogurt and butter. Bobby Shackelford is a local chiropractor, but thoroughly enjoys his side business on the farm.

"We began this venture as an effort to provide nutrient-dense, chemical-free food for our family," said Bobby. Now, Praiseworthy Foods has numerous loyal customers.

"Many of the people we sell the meat to are local families like us who just want to become more health conscious," said Bobby. They also sell their products at area famers' markets.

The Shackelford family began the intense process of 'beyond organic' farming about five years ago. Two years later, Bobby's friend, Adam Weeks, a district judge, stepped onto the organic farming scene, as well.

Adam and his wife, Tasha, own Powhatan Farms. Their primary focus is raising chickens, as well as garden-grown vegetables.

"I really began this process in part to be a good steward of what I have been given. The way we farm leaves us healthier, the animals healthier and the land healthier," said Weeks.

Although one may not realize the demand for organic poultry, meat and vegetables, both men say their businesses can grow as large as they want. "I'll have 3,000 chickens this year," Adam said. "That won't be enough for my demand."

Adam and Tasha Weeks together put in about 40 hours a week on the farm. Primarily, their chickens sell to wholesale customers such as Trolley Market Stop in Memphis, as well as local customers at farmers' markets.

Not only is organic food healthier for the human, the animal and the land: Bobby Shackelford also sees the process as beyond beneficial for his family. "My children all have their own chores. This has built their character and taught them to respect the land, family, health and their neighbor," said Bobby.

Both families encourage others to get involved in being more health-conscious by shopping organically. Adam Weeks' mantra of advice is, "Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Weeks explained that shopping organically for a healthier lifestyle does not have to be as hard as people often make it out to be.

"It becomes a lifestyle... Begin shopping on the edges of the grocery store, buying the fresh foods and cooking at home rather than eating out or buying processed foods," Adam explained. "Eventually, you will taste a difference in the food and feel a difference in your health. One will begin to buy higher quality ingredients and wonder where your food comes from, leading to an interest in organic foods and health."

Both men believe in shopping local and supporting the businesses in the area. "You can get everything you need locally," said Adam, who frequents area farms, as well as places like The Truck Patch, an all-natural market in Jonesboro.

"Everything comes back to wanting to provide for our family," said Bobby Shackelford, "and we believe other families will catch on and begin wanting to do the same."

For those interested, the Shackelford and Weeks families will be hosting a grower/gardener potluck meal at the Smithville Community Center on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Adam and Tasha Weeks will be providing chicken and Bobby and Karen Shackelford will be providing pastured ham. Guests are asked to bring a dish and join in a time of learning about organic farming practices.

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