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While hitting up a couple of restaurants in Conway with my friend, she mentioned that I should also check out Bell Urban Farm. The name was familiar. Turns out it’s a certified naturally-grown farm that covers less than 1 acre close to downtown. Started in 2017 by the husband-and-wife team of Zack McCannon and Kim Doughty-McCannon, Bell Urban Farm now consists of a small grocery store (known as The Farmstand) stocked with various local goods from vendors all over Arkansas. There’s also a garden in the front and back where flowers, along with a few other vegetables, are grown.
Bell Urban Farm is a family affair. Along with Kim and Zack, there’s Kim’s mom, Pam, and their two boys, Win (age 4) and Leo (age 2). Pam works part-time at the store and the boys help collect eggs and pick flowers. In the summer months, a staff of eight helps run the store and maintain the grounds. This time of year, you’ll find flowers like zinnias, sunflowers, lisianthus, celosia, marigolds and gomphrena. There’s even a greenhouse filled with microgreens and pea shoots.
Once you get out of your car and look around, one thing becomes immediately clear: the place is pristine. On this Wednesday afternoon, I found nothing out of place, which is no small feat. Frankly, Bell Urban Farm wowed me, so much so that I was chomping at the bit to write this article. So, I reached out to Kim.
“My background is in biology, although I first took the more medical route–working in the ADH Public Health Lab for several years after college. I was feeling the pull to do more work outdoors, so I eventually left the lab and started working and volunteering at local farms. I eventually discovered Little Rock Urban Farming, which I did an apprenticeship at and then served as an Arkansas GardenCorps service member at the Faulkner County Urban Farm Project in Conway. After completing my GardenCorps service term, I wanted to give farming on my own a go,” says Doughty-McCannon.
She continues, “Conway seemed to be a good fit for it because I felt like it was just on the edge of the local food scene. There aren’t a lot of urban farms in this area. We started with growing vegetables, but over the past several years switched mainly to cut flowers since it is a niche in this area that we saw needed filling. Our location in Conway is perfect because we are close to downtown, three colleges, and the local library which we partner with for events throughout the year. The land that we farm on was originally purchased by my mother-in-law as a potential rental property, but we saw the potential for a farm here, so we kind of took it over.”
The look of Bell Urban Farm was Doughty-McCannon’s vision, but she’s quick to point out there was lots of help.
“We had an interior designer friend that helped all my dreams come to life and some crafty family that helped us build all the displays and shelving. The store is located in an old farmhouse, so I really wanted to keep that vibe going.”
And that she did. The shelves are filled with all sorts of local products, from honey to fruits to cookies to coffee. There’s a chilled case along the far wall with local meats and vegetables, along with various pints of Loblolly Ice Cream. A green chalkboard lists the 90 vendors who sell products inside Bell Urban Farm. Walk a few steps and you’ll notice a bar area where you can partake in ice cream, kombucha, or coffee. All and all, it’s a little slice of heaven, and one folks have embraced.
“We are so thankful for our surrounding community. Since starting the farm, we have felt very supported by both the citizens and the city of Conway. We had to go through a long process to be re-zoned to a commercial/agricultural zone that would allow us to both farm and open a commercial retail store here. Through that process, we had lots of neighborhood and city meetings that allowed us to share our vision. Our model is pretty unique to this area and folks have been very open to it. We have some great farmers’ markets in Conway, but they are only open seasonally and one day per week. It was our goal to be able to offer locally grown food and products to our community year-round,” says Doughty-McCannon.
I’d say mission accomplished.
2011 Tyler St. (Conway)
Hours: Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
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