Herb Culver founded Bean Mtn. Farms as a greenhouse nursery business 12 years ago and has been CNG for nearly 10 of those. At his nursery, located in a remote area within the Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas, Herb focuses on open-pollinated and heirloom varieties, growing a mix of vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
Below, Herb talks about everything from callused knees to the miracle of seeds.
What is unique or unusual about your farm? Our operation is a full-time bedding plant greenhouse nursery. The greenhouse is unheated and seeds are germinated on gravel topped tables heated with gas space heaters underneath. Transplants are set on the floor and covered with low tunnels at night.
What do you grow? Do you have a specialty? We grow about 25 varieties of tomatoes, 20 peppers, many spring and summer vegetables, about 50 varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs, and a total of about 125 varieties.
What are your markets? We travel throughout the Ozarks region and sell directly to gardeners at public garden festivals in the spring season, such as Herbal Affair in Sand Springs OK, Jenks Garden Festival in Jenks OK. and Baker Creek Garden Festival in Mansfield MO. We also sell at Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville AR and Eggshells Kitchen Co. in Little Rock AR.
Is farming your main livelihood? Who farms with you, if anyone? It is a full time business, although we only have a spring sale season of about eight weeks. Summers are spent growing extensive trial and seed stock gardens. In the fall I offer workshops on seedsaving, extending the growing season and nursery production.
We have been in operation for 12 years and have a couple of part-time helpers in the greenhouse. My business partner, Karyn Zaremba has also recently started an urban garden and educational center in Fayetteville AR. (just recently Certified Naturally Grown). It is called Herbal Simplicity.
How did you get into farming? Have you wished you hadn’t become a farmer? I first started farming at eight when my duck farming father put a shovel in my hand. That is also when I first regretted becoming a farmer.
Why did you get involved with CNG? We got involved with CNG early on because we believe in organic living and prefer to belong in a grassroots program with peer involvement. We really enjoy networking with other CNG farmers and have developed rewarding personal friendships and professional relationships.
What was your most positive farming experience? Our best experience followed in the same day as our biggest challenge. A freak windstorm collapsed our 10' x 20' sale canopy full of plants an hour before a big Saturday sale. We found all of the racks dumped on the pavement under a mangled mess of canopy. I thought it was a total loss. The first customers to arrive helped us to remove the canopy and start recovering plants. Within an hour there was a whole crew of help and they even created a potting table and some customers worked most of the day. In the end we had a good sale and many new friends.
Who is your mentor or hero in the farming world? My first mentor was an old Kentucky hillbilly everyone knew as Possum. Forty years later I enjoy playing his role with the new young farmers. My partner Karyn and I enjoy offering workshops on gardening, seedsaving, garden season extension, food preservation, herbal cooking and production of herbal medicines and personal care products. Other heroes include Wendell Berry and Masanobu Fukuoka.
What’s your most useful piece of clothing for working on the farm? My most vexing problem is having the knees wore out in all my workpants. Do other farmers have calluses on their knees?
What’s your favorite season? Why? Autumn is my favorite season when the pantry is full and I am busy saving seeds from the gardens. It is so amazing how plants multiply through the miracle of a seed.