Owners: Ginger and James O. Hanna
Location: Fort Smith, Ark.
History: James O. Hanna has run Flat Belly Farms, a produce store, since 2014, with his wife Ginger and grandchildren. Though he grows and sells vegetables, James had not always been a gardener. He grew up on his family’s farm in Scott County, but they predominantly dealt with livestock, and are in the cattle and chicken business to this day.
“It’s hard to grow vegetables in Scott County. That’s why there’s cattle and chickens down there; there’s too many rocks,” James explained with a laugh.
Initially, James had no interest in farming. “I grew up on a farm. And I left the farm because I didn’t like the farm.” He went on to have a 34-year career with the Arkansas River Valley Electric Co-Op, beginning in 1979 and ending with his retirement in 2013.
Around 20 years ago, James’ brother became ill with colon cancer, and after researching the topic, James learned how beneficial a diet with vegetables could be not only for his brother’s health but his own as well. This motivated him to start gardening, and after he retired he dedicated more time to his garden. People began to take notice, and James was approached by a man who lived nearby asking if he could buy some of the okra he had grown.
“No,” was James reply. “But you can go out there and pick all you want.”
Afterward, the idea to sell his okra began to appeal to him, and a sign advertising okra for sale was placed by him outside. Flat Belly Farms is located beside Highway 45, the route people most frequently take on their way to and from Fort Smith and Hackett. After the sign was placed outside, people dropping in for fresh okra soon followed.
Services: Since 2014, James has expanded his goods to vegetables beyond okra, and sells different crops year-round. In February, they plant cabbage and onions, and those are the first crops they will offer until the end of May.
In June, they sell cucumber, squash, and zucchini, and about mid-June they will have tomatoes.
Those crops will last about 20 or 30 days. Then in August, they sell okra. If the weather permits, they will attempt to plant greens such as kale, collard greens, and cabbage. “If it doesn’t rain, we don’t waste the irrigation on it,” James said.
Future plans: Currently, James is satisfied with what Flat Belly Farms offers, and doesn’t plan to expand their catalog.
“I don’t fool with fruit; if I have to bend over to pick it, I’m not gonna plant it,” he said. Flat Belly Farms gets quite a bit of business as it is, with James having to direct traffic outside his house.
James prefers being able to work within such a short distance to his home, and with Flat Belly Farms sitting beside his house, he has no plans to move elsewhere.