Working Toward Self-Sufficiency
The Ballard Family Homestead
By Lacey Thacker Photography by Katie Childs
Clint poses in front of the farm’s two-story barn. Facing page: The farm is home to several friendly cows. A young Jersey cow poses for the camera.
Pulling up the drive to Milk & Honey Hill Farm in New Blaine, Arkansas is like pulling up to a little spot of farm paradise. At the end of the dead-end dirt road is a lovely home set on the edge of a bluff, and alongside that home is 40 acres, on which the family of seven—yes, seven—raises multiple specialty crops. Clint Ballard says of their homestead, “I think we always wanted to farm. We lived on a quarter acre in Siloam Springs, where I was probably doing illegal things—backyard chickens and bees.” Joy Ballard, Clint’s wife and the child of missionaries, grew up in Papua New Guinea, and says of finding their home, “When I was in the tribe [in Papua New Guinea], we lived by mountains and water. When we were looking at this spot, I heard a boat come through the narrows and I was instantly transported.”
Clint and Joy moved to New Blaine in August of 2016, after Clint completed college at John Brown University with a degree in construction management and a minor in business. But that wasn’t his first career move—he spent ten years on active duty in the United States Army and then worked as a paramedic while attending John Brown University fulltime. Today, he’s still a member of the National Guard. It’s partly for that reason, the couple says, that they’re hoping to develop their farm as a retreat for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
While Clint was in college, Joy, a registered nurse, went to a class on essential oils and eventually became a distributor. Due to her hard work, by the time Clint graduated, the couple did not have to seek outside employment. Clint says, “A lot of the folks who are interested in farming are also interested in natural health,” and so the dual roles of farmer and essential oils educator fit the couple perfectly.
Roaming the shady yard are guineas, of which Joy says, “They eat ticks and they eat snakes—or at least pitch a fit when they find one.” Near where the guineas roam is a stand of beehives, from which the couple collects honey to sell and beeswax to use in crafty endeavors. Across an electric line is a large pasture with four Jersey cows, two of which are in milk, along with a newly planted orchard of fruit trees and a lovely garden spot, though Clint says, “We tell people we’re rock farmers.” When the family first began preparing the spot, he and the kids hauled away rocks for a full day—yet they still find rocks! Of the children’s help, he says, “I try to pay them well. Seems like people don’t want to do agriculture today because it doesn’t pay well.”
Also present on their farm are chickens, which are penned next to pigs that will be butchered in the fall. The chickens, ideally, rotate through the pasture behind the cattle, but heavy losses to predators their first year have led to temporary redesigns of their poultry grazing system.
Though the two oldest children, Aidan, 13, and Lily, 11, are in school, the younger kids—Grace, 8; Gabe, 6; and Serenity, 3; spend their days homeschooling and helping on the farm, where they are able to roam relatively freely. When the mood strikes, which is often, Clint says, Grace can be found hopping into the saddle of the family’s horse, which she sits like a natural. Inside the barn are stalls and a loft, most of which Clint built upon moving in. “There was a lot of wood piled up in a stall that I was able to use to build out stalls,” and that wood was cut from the woods on their property. Joy continues, saying, “My husband is a rockstar when it comes to building things, so he built these amazing bunk beds in the basement. We can sleep 25.”
Next on the family’s farm list is to better establish their garden, though Clint also says, “We want to get the whole 40 acres in silvopasture—high-value timber and pecan, black gum and other stuff that’s good for the bees.” That’s a recurring theme to Clint’s plans—what can they do to best provide for their bees—and, indeed, how can they, in general, be the best conservationists possible?
Also on their list is teaching others how to grow their own food, raise their own animals and be mindful of their own health. After all, the couple explains, it’s fine to purchase needed items, but it’s empowering to know how to make or grow that item yourself.
To purchase raw milk, tour the farm or just keep in touch, find Milk and Honey Hill Farm on Facebook @clintandjoy