Spring CSA 2015

Logo

A CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) is a program in which a customer buys a share of a farm at the beginning of the season. In this kind of program, the farmer benefits by sharing the risks of the growing season with his customers, while the customers benefit by receiving a convenient delivery of produce each week. At Arkansas Abundance, we’re seeking to create a CSA that gives our shareholders both convenience and choice. We’re also committed to giving our shareholders the very best of our crop, giving them their choice of the produce before farmer’s markets.

How it Will Work

 Unlike many CSA programs, in which the contents of each weekly share are determined by the farmer, our program allows shareholders to choose what they want and how much they get each week. A few days before harvest, we will lettuce mixshare a Google Doc that lists the produce we have available. Our shareholders will then mark on the Google Doc the produce that they would like for that week. After it is harvested, they can pick up their produce at one of three locations on three different days, listed below.

Pick Up Locations
Hillcrest Farmer’s Market
Saturday 8am-Noon
2200 Kavanaugh Blvd

Westover Hills Farmer’s Market*
Tuesday 4pm-7pm
6400 Kavanaugh Blvd

West Markham Farmer’s Market*
Thursday 4pm-7pm
9820 W Markham St.
*Pickup on Tuesday and Thursday will be at the farm until these markets open in May.

The CSA will run from Apr. 19-Jun. 13. Expected produce includes organically grown lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, swiss chard, cilantro, carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, and strawberries!

Share Options

Small ($100): For 1-2 people.  $100 of produce over8  weeks. $0-$20 value and up to 1 of each item each week.

 Medium ($200): For 3-4 people.  $200 of produce over 8 weeks. $0-$40 value and up to 2 of each item each week.

Large ($300): For 5 or more.  $300 of produce over 8 weeks. $0-$60 value and up to 3 of each item each week.

daniel melonsEach week, shareholders will be able to choose the produce they want up to a certain value that depends on share size. They can choose to get more produce on some weeks and less (or none) on others. The amount of each kind of produce they receive will also be dependent on share size. For example, a small shareholder will be limited to one bunch of carrots per week, while a large shareholder can choose up to three bunches of carrots per week. These limitations help ensure that the farm is able to provide everyone with the kinds of vegetables they want.
However, there may be occasions when there won’t be enough of a particular item for everyone. This is most likely to happen near the beginning and end of the season, when crops are still growing or when they’re winding down. It may also happen in the middle of the season if there is a partial crop failure. In these circumstances (and we will do everything we can to prevent them!), those who paid for their share earlier will receive first pick.

How to Sign Up

 If you would like to sign up for a share, you can either:

1. Mail us a filled-out form and a check to the address listed below. (Important: Checks must be written out to “Daniel Kiser.”) Forms may be obtained at our booth at the Hillcrest Farmer’s market, or may be requested via email.
2. Email us with the information listed below, and we will send you a PayPal invoice.

-Name
-Phone number
-Day on which you plan to pick up your produce (Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday)
-Share size
Note: The pick up day you select will be your normal pick up day. On any given week, you can pick up on a different day by contacting Daniel Kiser at least 48 hours before pick up for Hillcrest and 24 hours before pick up for Westover and West Markham.

Daniel Kiser
501-213-6450
10305 Johnson Rd.
Little Rock, AR 72206
arkansasabundance@gmail.com

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Real Health

 

This strawberry plant thinks spring will come.  I'm not convinced.

This strawberry plant thinks spring will come. I’m not convinced.

Sometimes I get so busy and stressed trying to make the farm work, that I forget what it is that I’m working for. I’ll be doing this and that, getting tired and frustrated, and I’ll think, “Why the heck am I doing this?” And because I hadn’t thought about it for so long, I can’t remember.

I realized that I needed to sit down and sort this all out, but though I thought about it for a long time, I still couldn’t remember. Then, as I was getting into the shower one evening, it came to me—randomly, like a spotlight from heaven (which I tend to think it was). What I was working for was health. But not primarily my own health, and not “health” according to the narrow terminology of the Affordable Care Act or related documents. Rather, the vision of health which motivated and inspired me to start a farm is of a scope that neither our government nor our hospitals can adequately address.

In The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry says, “We lose our health—and create profitable diseases and dependences—by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving.” Due to our failure to see these connections, our lives have a tendency to become a dissociated jumble of activities: we have our “diet,” our “exercise,” our “job,” our “entertainment,” and our “faith.” Oftentimes, as a result of these separations, our diet bores us, our exercise wears us out, our jobs stress us out, our entertainment either corrupts or distracts us, and our faith becomes irrelevant. What Wendell Berry argues for is a health in which our diet fuels our exercise and our exercise builds our diet, in which our jobs require exercise and our entertainment is our jobs. And although he doesn’t say so, I think it is implied that all of these activities are to be an enactment of our faith.

Wendell Berry uses gardening as an example of this unified health. In gardening, the body is used to produce food and food is used to feed the body. But gardening is not just practical and enjoyable, but also spiritual. It is “a sacrament, as eating is also, by which we enact and understand our oneness with Creation, the conviviality of one body with all bodies.”

While I think Wendell Berry is primarily referring to our unity with nature, the act of eating bonds us not only with what we are eating, but who we are eating with. The dominant picture in my mind of health and wholeness is a meal shared with family and friends. For reasons that I don’t understand, sharing food seems to be the ultimate expression of mutual support and genuine interest in each other. It’s not by chance that no party is complete without food and beverage, that family get-togethers almost always revolve around food, and that dating typically involves going out to eat. Food is a lynchpin of our relationships.

The significance of eating is underscored by the Christian faith. The practice of communion, in which Christians share bread and wine that represents the body and blood of Christ, not only strengthens the relationships we have with each other, but our relationship with God. It is a spiritual meal in which God has not only provided the food, but is also sitting at the table as with us.

And so it was this realization of the power that food has in our lives that first motivated me to pursue farming as a career. While there are as many ways to work towards health as there are individuals, growing food (and subsequently eating it and sharing it with others) is a particularly powerful and beautiful way of building relationships. Sharing food is universally understood as a sign of friendship and love, no matter what faith is adhered to or what language is spoken.

Of course, there is nothing inherent in farming or food that builds relationships; the operative word here is “sharing.” The danger in our pursuit of health is that the means can replace the ends. This is true not only in farming but also in medicine or education. In medicine, the focus is often on treating a particular ailment while the deeper needs of the patient for love and attention are ignored. In education, the focus is often on standardized test scores, while the moral character of the student is ignored. In organic farming, the focus is often on production, income, and quality, while the needs of the customers to share with you and one another are ignored. If we fail to see the real need, then we have switched from a “ministry” to just another “job.”

For in the end, we cannot think about health without knowing that we are going to die. It doesn’t matter how well we eat, how much we exercise, how much we learn, or how often we go to the hospital—eventually our bodies will fail. But it isn’t unhealthy when our bodies or minds fail. Rather, it is unhealthy when we fail to care for our bodies, or when we fail to enjoy life on account of our imperfections. To put it bluntly (and this scares me), it is unhealthy when our happiness depends on being physically alive.

Rather, our real health and happiness depends on our connectedness. We should draw comfort from our connection with nature, from knowing that the ground from which we came is the ground to which we will return. We should draw comfort from loving and being loved by our neighbor. And most of all, we should draw comfort from the one who created both nature and neighbors. To extend the quote from Wendell Berry, we should “enact and understand our oneness with the Creation” and the Creator, “the conviviality of one body with all bodies.”

As you may have guessed from my failure to immediately remember what it is that I am working for on my farm, I have been guilty of pursuing the means rather than the ends. I have been guilty of forgetting that I am going to die, and I strongly suspect that I will forget it many more times before I do die. But the central hope of this kind of health, a health dependent on unity rather than luck or achievement, is that there is more to life than bread, water, and money; and that, just perhaps, this is a kind of health that is bigger than death.

Aside

Having only been working on my farm for three months—and not even during the growing season—I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what to expect over the course of the next year.  I don’t know yet when I will be able to plant certain crops, how well they will sell at market, or how much I will be able to grow without over-depleting my reserve of energy. And this is my first time for many of my projects. Though I’ve done all the researching, planning, and worrying that I can, I can only hope for the best.  Will the shiitake logs I’m inoculating last for three years, or will they never fruit?  Will the two tons of lime that Kevin and I spread raise the pH of the soil enough, or will I have to do it again next year?

Onions unfolding in the greenhouse.

Onions unfolding in the greenhouse.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if, instead of farming for only three months, I had been farming for a billion years.  What could a farmer learn in that amount of time?  What could he accomplish?

I imagine that the billion-year-old farmer wouldn’t farm in the way we typically think of farming.  I don’t think he would use very many tools or even put a shovel in the earth.  I imagine him, at the crack of dawn, leaving his hut to begin his workday with nothing but the clothes on his back.  His hut would be small, nothing but a room for sleeping, since every other bodily need would be satisfied in the expansive outdoors.  But the hut is not a hovel.  It is itself a work of art, beautifully carved and decorated, and the yard around it bursts with color, diversity, and abundance.  Perhaps the farmer sets forth from his hut with his wife, or with a group of his friends.  Or perhaps this is a day for him to be alone.

A cold day above the chicken coops.

A cold day above the chicken coops.

The billion-year-old farmer’s work consists primarily of nurturing, directing, correcting, and creating, for the destructive elements of farming—tilling, mowing, weeding, shoveling, chopping—have gradually been rendered unnecessary.  As he walks across his farm, he stops to train a vine, spreads the seeds of his favorite flower, and harvests enough grain before lunch to feed a small city.

He is able to accomplish this last feat because over the course of the last two million years he has developed a variety of grain unique to his farm, that is unfathomably rich in nutrients and that can be harvested simply by shaking the heads so the kernels fall off.  He doesn’t feel the need to patent it, because it only grows well in his soil.

Besides the quality of the grain itself, the other reason he was able to accomplish so much without tools or machinery was that he has a labor force that is a million strong.  Over the course of a billion years, his farm has not only adapted, but evolved.  Just as dogs develop human qualities when they are given human attention and care, so did other animals.  The descendants of squirrels and birds rushed hither and thither over the field, gathering the grain.  The descendant of the hawk waits patiently in a nearby tree, watching for the signal to catch meat for the farmer’s dinner.  The descendants of goats and cows don’t need any fences, because they have been bred to prefer the crops they are supposed to eat, and shun the crops that they aren’t.  The descendant of the dog guards a patch of crops that the descendants of the cows and goats haven’t learned to shun.

Chick hatch.

Chick hatch.

But the farmer’s work is no longer primarily about growing food.  He has become a sort of caretaker over a land in which the line between the wild and the domestic has been blurred.  The unworldly snowy peaks and the dark recesses of hidden caves are as much his responsibility as the garden on his doorsteps, and he feels as much kinship with a crack of lightning as he does with the sunshine that feeds his plants.  His fields—which includes the mountains, the forests, the ocean—are not so much his fields, as they are pieces of nature that he protects or corrects. And oftentimes he does so without reducing their wildness, like a cowboy riding a bucking bronco.

Of course, the farmer is thrown sometimes.  He’s still learning, and he’s always working to improve. And there are still uncertainties.  Over the course of his billion years, mountain ranges have risen and fallen, continents have drifted, and the climate has oscillated wildly.  New stars have even appeared in the sky, and old ones have blinked out.  Every year is still a new year.

Lettuce sprouts.

Lettuce sprouts.

I suppose my imaginings have strayed into the fantastic (understatement), but to me they seem somewhat plausible.  I do believe in a resurrection, as is testified to by every sprouting seed and hatching chick, and I would like nothing better than to spend eternity farming in the Divine Presence. Perhaps the billion-year-old farmer is not so much a descendant of the modern day farmer, as a transcendent.

I guess all of this is something to look forward to.  Meanwhile, I’ve got to go out and repair the goat shelter and greenhouse, gather eggs, inoculate shiitake logs, and try to save my garlic from bugs.  Maybe someday I’ll learn better ways of doing things.

Winter wonderland.

Winter wonderland.

What’s Sprouting in the Greenhouse:

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Kale, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Onions, Parsley, Spinach, Swiss Chard

CSA 2014

Here at Arkansas Abundance, we are pleased to introduce our new CSA, which is short for “Community Supported Agriculture.”  All over the country, small farms are using CSA’s in order to obtain some much-needed money at the beginning of the growing season, and to provide customers with a convenient, regular supply of fresh, local produce.  Generally, the customer buys a “share” of the produce at the beginning of the year, which costs anywhere between $400 and $600, and the farmer delivers that share to the customers on a weekly basis.  The produce delivered on any given week varies according to what is in season, and usually consists of a variety of different fruits, vegetables, and animal products.  Delivery is often to a set drop-off point, such as a local farmer’s market.

The reason this system is called “Community Supported Agriculture” is because the customers are essentially investing in the farm.  They are assuming part of the risk of the growing season in which there may be droughts, storms, or severe pest infestations.  If it is a bad season, customers may not receive as much produce in their weekly share.  On the other hand, if it’s a good year the customers may sometimes receive more than they ever imagined.

One reason we are offering a CSA is so that we can offer our customers a large quantity of high-quality, ecologically grown produce at a good value.  It’s fine to sell a bundle of carrots to one customer and a dozen eggs to another, but what we really want to do is feed people.  We want to provide people with the raw, physical energy that they need to make it through their day, and it’s hard to do that if they’re only nibbling on a few of our carrot sticks.  So our CSA gives us the opportunity to make a dent in a few of our customers’ diets.  It is, after all, the goal of sustainable agriculture to sustain people.

The other reason we are offering a CSA is to pay for the equipment and materials that we will need to purchase in order for us to begin producing clean, healthy produce.  Equipment includes items such as a greenhouse, flats for starting seedlings, tools, and a tiller. Materials include seeds, grain for the animals, and compost. 

We are only offering a limited number of shares, the equivalent of 10 full shares or 20 half shares, because we feel that that is the maximum quantity we can produce without sacrificing quality, and because that is a sufficient number to cover our start-up expenses. Below is a list of produce you can expect to receive, as well as the different share options.  The list of produce is not complete, and other items may be added as the seasons progress.  It’s also possible that some crops might not be successful.

Expected Produce

Spring—organically grown kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, and strawberries; and eggs from pastured hens.

Summer—organically grown heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sunflowers, zinnias, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, onions, garlic, and basil; eggs from pastured hens; and pastured chicken.

Share Options

Both the full share and the half share will include 4 months of produce, from mid-April through mid-August.  The value of produce received over the course of those 4 months will be equivalent to or greater than the cost of the share at farmer’s market prices.  We expect the value to be greater.

Full Share for $450—In addition to fresh, ecologically grown produce, a dozen eggs will be included every other week, and beginning in the summer, a chicken will be provided every two months.  The amount of produce (including eggs and chickens) provided each week will be equivalent to or greater than $26 at farmers’ market prices.

Half Share for $225—In addition to fresh, ecologically grown produce, a dozen eggs will be included once a month.  The amount of produce (including eggs) will be roughly equivalent to or greater than $13 at farmers’ market prices.

Shares will be delivered to the farmer’s market (most likely the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, which is open on Saturdays from 7 AM to noon). Because we are offering only a small number of shares, we can be somewhat flexible about pick-up times or the contents of your share if we can make prior arrangements.  For example, if a group of customers live a long way from the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, we may be able to set up a more convenient delivery point.  Or, if you are a vegetarian, we can substitute something else of equivalent value for a chicken.

As you consider whether or not to buy a share of next season’s produce, we invite you to come out to our farm and see the projects we are working on and what we hope to accomplish.  You can also read our newsletters on our blog at arkansasabundance.wordpress.com, or see pictures of our farm on Facebook.  If you have questions or would like to purchase a share, you can contact us by emailing us at arkansasabundance@gmail.com, or by calling 501-213-6450.

December 2013

So this is our December newsletter being sent out at the beginning of January.  Perhaps I can exonerate our lack of timeliness by describing how busy we’ve been.  Since our last newsletter, we’ve built a chicken coop for raising broilers and a small greenhouse for propagating seeds.  We’ve also built a new shelter for the goats that provides better wind protection and is easier to move across the pasture.  We’re still calling their shelter a “coop” out of habit, since they lived in one for the first month.  We’ve also cleared six large piles of brush, split three pick-up truck loads of wood, mulched around the fruit trees, spread lime on the garden, processed my landowner’s geese and turkeys, and hatched baby chicks from our own eggs.

It’s exciting (and a bit of a relief) to see the pieces of the farm beginning to fall together and form a coherent whole.  The chicken coops and goat coop are now moving slowly over the pasture that will eventually become our garden next fall, and we are intensively browsing our goats in a pen made from four cattle panels hooked together by carabiners.  Every couple of days we move the pen to a new spot and watch them eat everything they can reach. 

Of course, in order to get the goats from their “coop” to their pen, we use Faye, our ever-improving herding dog.  We now take our goats for long walks around the farm, and only occasionally does one get away.  I should probably give the goats some of the credit, since when we first got them we couldn’t get close enough to touch them, but now we often trip over them.  They’ve also developed a strong desire to nibble on our fingers.

However, what’s most exciting is that it’s almost time to begin starting seeds in the greenhouse.  Now that I’ve started looking through seed catalogs, I have trouble falling asleep at night because I can’t stop thinking about the garden.  I think about tilling the green cover crop into the soil so that it will decompose.  I think about where I will plant certain crops and how I will prepare the beds.  I think about how all that colorful, fresh, tasty produce will look when it’s carefully arranged at my stand at the farmer’s market.  Then, when I wake up in the morning, I’m still thinking about those things.

Of course, I also expect for things not to go exactly as I plan, and I mentally prepare myself to persevere when certain crops don’t turn out as I hope.  It’s a stressful time for me, but in a good way.  I’m learning a lot and I can feel myself growing.  I only hope that the plants and animals grow half as much as I do.

The sad news is that Kevin is returning to Wyoming next week to attend school.  Which means, of course, that our manpower will be cut in half just before things begin to heat up (in the greenhouse, at least).  It will also be a little lonely without him—there’s a severely limited number of topics that you can discuss with goats. They really only seem to be interested in your clothing and the subtle flavors of your fingers.  Kevin, on the other hand, is also interested in macaroni, eggnog, and gummy bears.  But seriously, it will be less fun around here.

The good news is that we finally hammered out our CSA program for this season.  We are only able to offer a limited number of shares—10 full shares or 20 half shares—so please sign up quickly if you are interested.  You can find the sign-up form on our blog or Facebook page, and you can email us or call if you have questions.  Shares will include fresh produce and eggs, and full shares will include chicken.  More details are included with the sign-up form.  We’d love to have you be one of our first customers!

Although it will be cold, January will still be a busy month.  We will be propagating seeds, inoculating logs with shiitake mushroom spawn, hatching chicks to expand our laying flock, and introducing some rabbits to our already varied population of manure producers.  If you would like to visit, you can come by almost any time.  Contact us if you would like to make sure that we’ll be there.

What we’re propagating this month

Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, Parsley, Cilantro, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Onions

Contact:

Daniel Kiser

cell: 501-213-6450

email: arkansasabundance@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/arkansasabundance

https://arkansasabundance.wordpress.com/

10305 Johnson Rd.

Little Rock, AR 72206

November 2013


We’re so excited to have you reading our very first newsletter!  I began my lease on my 8-acre property at the beginning of this month, but even before my lease began, my cousin Kevin and I were working the soil and planting the first seeds.  Kevin will be helping me get the farm started until he returns to Wyoming in January to start school.  When he’s not farming, Kevin’s primary occupation is “Nomadic Bagpiper.” Things would be crazy if he hadn’t decided to settle down for a bit to help me out.  Kudos for Kevin!

We inherited a flock of chickens with the land, and now we have several goats and a herding-dog-in-training.  Our dog, Faye, is a Blue Heeler, and we got her from the Little Rock Animal Village. She had apparently never seen farm animals before, so of course, it was an exciting time for her when we moved on the farm (picture chickens everywhere, and me running after her).  But she’s learning, and now she’s even helpful sometimes.

I feel that the best way to introduce the farm is to describe how we chose our name.  Choosing a name for our farm was a long and stressful process for me, because I wanted it to be a clear description of my vision for what the farm would be. And I wanted the farm to be so many things:  I wanted it to be both a home and a business, both a place to work and a place to party, both a place where large quantities of food are grown and a place enveloped in the wildness and mystery of nature.  There is no word that I know of that encapsulates so many extremes (other than “life”), so I eventually settled on “abundance,” hoping that it would convey the idea not only of an abundance of food, but also of an abundance of the spirit, of joy and sharing.  Perhaps I’m stretching my idealism too far, but I’m grasping for a piece of heaven, and my vision of heaven is an overflowing table surrounded by overflowing hearts.

The reason I included “Arkansas” in the name was that I couldn’t imagine starting a farm anywhere else.  My passion for farming is almost synonymous with my passion for Arkansas.  It is, after all, the land that matters when you’re working the soil.  I’ve worked on farms as far east as Massachusetts and as far west as Hawaii, but always my intention was to return to Arkansas and apply my knowledge here.  Few activities would satisfy me more than helping to make this place healthier and more beautiful. Or, to look at it another way, to make this place a little more like heaven.

The subtitle, “An Ecological Farm,” is also a result of my passion for this place.  The word “ecology” is derived from the Greek, oikos, which means “home,” and logos, which means “study.”  Thus, “ecology” literally means “the study of home.”  So while I am using it in the manner in which it is commonly used in farming, to refer to a biological system of growing food which mimics the diversity of nature, I’m also using it in a more literal sense.  The farm is a study of my home.  The farm is a grand, complex experiment in which I hope to learn all I can about Arkansas and the world immediately around me—its botany, economy, and demography; its zoology, sociology, and geology; its history, culture, and politics; and, most importantly, its people.  I expect that, in the daily business of planting, weeding, feeding, fixing, building, cooking, eating, and marketing, I’ll learn something new every hour.  Which is good, because I have a lot to learn.

However, I’m not the only student who will be learning from the farm.  Every customer who tastes a little of our produce will also be participating in the “study of home.”  A major part of the appeal of local food is that when we taste the sweetness of a perfectly ripe strawberry or smell the powerful aroma of freshly crushed garlic, we are aware that those sensations come from a place that we care about, that we consider to be our own.  We like an Arkansas tomato better than a Florida tomato, not because Arkansas tomatoes are inherently better, and not only because a locally grown tomato has better flavor, but mostly because it comes from our home. There’s a certain peace that comes from being sustained by the place in which you live.  You become more connected to the seasons, to the people, and to the very ground beneath your feet.  And so, by eating food that comes from our home we are, in a certain sense, studying our home and growing to know it better.

Of course, it’s one thing to know that your food comes from your home; it’s another thing to see it being grown.  Our farm is located just outside of Little Rock, off of Dixon Rd.  We don’t have much right now: just a gaggle of chickens; three shy goats; a sweet, rambunctious herding dog, a beautiful green cover crop, and a small garden (Oh, and we’re taking care of a bunch of turkeys and geese for our landlord.  The geese are noisy and dramatic.  Most of the turkeys will be gone soon, for an obvious reason.).  We’re at the farm almost all the time, so visitors are welcome almost all the time.  You can contact us beforehand if you want to make sure that we’ll be there when you are.

So now you know the reasoning behind the name for our farm.  We hope you like it.  We plan to begin attending farmer’s markets in the spring, but if you’re interested in buying some eggs now, let us know and we will be happy to accommodate.  In the spring we plan to expand our garden to about a half acre, and we will be growing a variety of vegetables using organic methods.  We will also be raising broiler chickens (for meat), and will continue to sell eggs.  Though we expect our goats to be producing milk by midsummer, we probably won’t have enough milk to sell until we expand our herd.  We will have a small CSA, so if you are interested in that, please contact us.

We regularly post photos and updates on Facebook, so check out our Facebook page for a glimpse of what we’re doing.

What we’re growing now

Spinach, Kale, Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, Strawberries (harvest in spring), Garlic (harvest in spring)

Contact:

Daniel Kiser

cell: 501-213-6450

email: dkiser@harding.edu

http://www.facebook.com/arkansasabundance

10305 Johnson Rd.

Little Rock, AR 72206