Not far from Damascus sits Rabbit Ridge Farms. Just how rural is this place? Alan Mahan, who runs the farm with his wife, says it is seven miles away from a traffic signal, and getting a jug of milk is a 30-minute journey.
Farming is in Mahan’s blood. His grandfather arrived near Rabbit Ridge in the late 1800s, and his father bought land from Mahan’s grandfather in the 1950s. Mahan bought a portion of that land from his father in 2000. By 2001, Mahan says he’d started a commercial cattle herd in Rabbit Ridge and surrounding counties.
“It grew from there,” he says. “We got to the point that we decided we wanted to concentrate all our efforts and rethink how we were growing animals.”
Mahan says his farm offers grass-fed beef, pastured and forested pork and pastured chicken.
“We made a family commitment about six years ago that we were no longer going to buy any more grocery store, commercially produced meat,” Mahan says.
He started working on different ways to raise his animals. For example, when most people think of pigs, they probably imagine them in a very muddy fenced in area, he suggests. But they don’t have to be that way.
Mahan’s pigs forage, eat acorns and enjoy a vegetarian diet. They get to graze and eat, Mahan says.
He raises his chickens in much the same way, on grass. They feed on crickets, grasshoppers and worms. His cows get moved often from pasture to pasture. Mahan says he doesn’t want the cows in one spot for long. Moving them often breaks the chain of flies and disrupts parasite chains. Plus, the grass rebounds faster and grows magnificently, he says.
And customers notice this difference when they taste meat that comes from Rabbit Ridge Farms, Mahan says.
“It creates a meat that is just incredible,” he says.
It might take a little longer to get the animals to market size, but the end result is worth it, Mahan says.
“Our chicken is clean. You take it out of the package; it’s not slimy. It has a different texture and taste,” Mahan says.
And according to the farmer, when customers get that taste, they stay loyal.
Mahan says the biggest challenge might be that Arkansas is a little behind the times when it comes to the farm to table movement. But his company is looking to change that.
“We’re right on the front leading edge here,” he says. “We’re excited to be on the front edge of it.”
When it comes to advantages, Mahan says his rural location works great for them because they don’t just sell meat, they have a 15,000-square-foot venue on the farm where people can eat and stay.
People can leave city traffic behind and stay the night under a starry sky.
“It gives people a chance to be hands-on with a farm and their food,” he says.
People come from all over the state to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on the farm when it’s offered. Ralston says 100 people show up for breakfast. Around 300 show up for lunch. And when the farm hosts their steak night, the event sells out.
“That tells me people yearn for the farm. We take for granted what other people yearn for,” Mahan says. “We try to make everyone feel like they’re family when they come.”
The farm is also a destination for weddings (which also includes catering), according to Mahan.
In the future, he hopes to host more weddings. The farm will also be raising turkeys for Thanksgiving this year, he says.
“We’ve got a lot of new products.”
New products will include things like chicken breakfast sausage and smoked polish sausage.
Mahan also says he wants to continue hosting schools, church groups and gardening clubs out on the farm.
For more information, be sure to look up Rabbit Ridge Farms on Facebook.