Meeting the Chickens, an update on the McElroy House Garden Book Project

Image from Kristen Simmons. Later on in the week we’ll have photos from Saira Khan-Hendrix’s visit with Kristen and the chickens.

The Seed and the Story is a weekly column exploring folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. The column is published in the Post Dispatch and is syndicated in the Courier and here on the blog. 

In past columns I’ve discussed the work at the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action, a research and advocacy organization exploring and supporting living traditions in this area. Much of what appears in this column is connected to our central goal of working to support and strengthen community connections, especially across generations and cultures. We don’t have a building yet, but we are active in working in the community, both learning from people and helping to develop resources. Our first major project is in full swing and I’d like to share some of the amazing work that Marie Williams is doing with the project.

Williams is from Dover and a student at Arkansas Tech University. She’s working on the first phase of research and outreach in creating a regional resource book about the living tradition of gardening and small-scale food production in the region. We are trying to learn more about not only the past gardening traditions in the community, but also how we can help support and strengthen these traditions for future generations. She’s been meeting with growers both young and old, learning about their personal stories and why they choose to grow.

This past week Marie met with Kristen Simmons, a young homesteader and nursing student living outside of Dover.  Kristen recently began raising her own chickens for eggs and meat. Below is just a tiny snippet from William’s blog post about her recent meeting with Simmons:

“We [her husband James and her] got into homesteading because I am tired of hearing about all the nasty things that go on in the factories and all the chemicals that get put in our food. There’s a big increase in people getting sick and I think it’s partly because of that. We wanted to get back to the way things used to be and I can tell you that fresh eggs are incomparable to the eggs bought in the store. I think the best part about doing this is knowing that my food comes from a clean source and is chemical free. It’s also fun to just come out here and watch them, it’s really peaceful. I think it’s important to know where your meat comes from, and you know, meet your dinner.” 

Simmons is part of a growing generation of young people choosing to raise at least some of their own food, tapping into a tradition that was once the norm in this region. Marie Williams notes that Kristen Simmons wanted to make it clear that “you can do this and still live an ordinary life.”  Simmons spoke with Marie about how she learned, the mistakes she’s made along the way, and the rewards of perseverance.

As we move forward with this project we want to speak with more growers—young and old, experienced and those just beginning—about how and why they grow and their stories about living a life a bit closer to the land. We’re not interested in speaking with just the so-called experts. We want to hear the stories of everyday people in this Yell and Pope County area who choose to grow, whether it’s a few tomatoes in your backyard or an enormous garden with bumper crop.  Your story is important and something worth passing on to an upcoming generation.

So, do you raise some of your own food? Are you, or were you, a passionate flower gardener? Do you know someone who is/was? We’d love to hear from you. You can read Marie William’s write-up about visiting with Kristen Simmons here.  Later on this week we’ll also be posting some of the photos Saira Kahn-Hendrix took of Simmons’ beautiful garden and chickens, which you can find at both of the sites listed above.

And if you are interested in helping us with the ongoing work at the McElroy House Organization we’d love to hear from you! We are a volunteer organization and welcome any support! Thanks so much for reading!










  1. Chickens: An Interview with Kristen Simmons by Marie Williams « McElroy House says:

    […] If you’are a grower in the area we’d love to talk to you! You can email us at meredithmartin_moats (@) To read a bit more about the backstory of this project, read a recent Seed and the Story column in the Post Dispatch  and the Boiled Down Juice. […]