Jessica Sowards and her husband Jeremiah live on a seven-acre farm in Central Arkansas with six children, 22,000 square feet of garden and a wide variety of furry and feathered creatures. Nearly every day, Jess and Miah produce videos of their Roots and Refuge Farm and its bounty, offering other first-time farmers tours and tips for growing their own food.
When the couple moved to their home seven years ago, they’d had little experience farming. “We were pretty green,” says Jess, and she doesn’t mean green as in green thumb. Jess, who grew up in the suburbs doing little gardening, calls herself a “reformed lazy girl” who didn’t understand how much work went into home farming. But she’d always had an interest in gardening, and with some space—and some young children to feed—she got to work. “I wanted to feed my family real food,” she says. “I started to learn to cook, supporting local farmers, and it just morphed from there to where we are now.”
Since then, Jess and Miah have not only grown enough food on their farm to cover 80 percent of what their big family eats, they have turned their video blogs, Instagram account and farm merchandise into a cottage industry. Jess just published a book, First-time Gardener’s Guide to Growing Veggies (Cool Springs Press).
In the Hormel Foods podcast, “Heart to Table,” Jess talks with Laurie March about everything from the smell of tomato seedlings (Jess grows 45 heirloom varieties) to how to nurse a sick baby goat. Jess wrote her book, she said, to help other first-timers understand the attention, dedication—and pleasures—involved in growing your own food.