words: Jeanni Brosius
image: courtesy P. Allen Smith/Moss Mountain Farm
The name P. Allen Smith has become a well-recognized name, and it’s no wonder people would want to visit his farm that is featured on so many of his television segments.
In Roland, just a short drive from Little Rock, Moss Mountain Farm sits overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. Visitors are harkened by The Big Sister, a 300-year-old oak tree that stands majestically in front of the stately home that looks as old as the tree, but was built in 2010. Paying close attention to detail, Smith built and decorated his home as if it were done in the 1800s.
The Big Sister is a significant part of the farm and is located at the center of the property and is where the garden design begins. Visitors gather under the old oak tree at the beginning of the farm tours, which are open to the public.
Smith built the private organic farm because he wanted to demonstrate a life of growing food and farm living, which is very dear to him. He based it on the ancient concept of the Ferme Ornee, which means ornamented working farm and was a typical phrase used to describe eighteenth century English gardens. Moss Mountain Farm was designed to be a beautiful and productive retreat on a significant scale. As with his shows, the farm tour also exemplifies Smith’s goal of helping Americans live more healthful lives. He maintains that “Education without inspiration affects little change.”
Smith was raised in a family of farmers, artists, horticulturists, and nurserymen. His main occupation has always been a landscape designer, and he owns P. Allen Smith and Associates, a nationally recognized landscape design firm that focuses on residential and commercial projects.
“I had the good fortune to grow up on a farm and understand now more than ever before how meaningful that has been to me,” Smith said.
Smith is known for sharing his message of good conservation practices. He also teaches his skills for growing food, making crafts and improving lives. He said building the farm was an important step in sharing his passion. He began restoring the property in 2006.
Smith is an author, conservationist and television host. Many of his shows, Garden Home on PBS, and Garden Style in syndication, are filmed at his farm. When his fans visit his farm, they particularly enjoy visiting the one-acre vegetable garden, lavish rose garden and the 1840-style farmhouse, which are featured on his shows and in magazine articles.
“Many of these ardent fans had followed the construction of every aspect of the farm on our PBS television show P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home,” Smith said. “It’s amusing when we have groups to the farm, and these visitors can tell me exactly when certain aspects of the house or farm were featured on the show, and honestly, they can tell me more about details than I can now remember.”
Many of the animals featured on the TV shows live at the farm. Smith also has a large variety of heritage poultry breeds. He is passionate about protecting these threatened breeds from becoming extinct.
In fact, there’s an entire area of the farm designated to his poultry, and it’s appropriately called Poultryville. A golden chicken perched atop a ledge marks the entrance. He also created Heritage Poultry Conservancy to help preserve these breeds.
The conservancy has outreach programs to inspire and assist 4-H members and hosts biannual poultry workshops for backyard chicken keepers.
In addition to the heritage poultry, agriculture is also an integral part of the heritage of Arkansas. Farmers are beginning to realize how important agritourism is to Arkansas. Agriculture contributes just under $20 billion to the state’s economy, according to the Arkansas Agricultural Department. Smith also believes agritourism is good for Arkansas.
“Agritourism can showcase some of the best Arkansas has to offer to visitors from out of state, help reconnect people to our rich agricultural heritage and inform them on how and where their food comes from,” he said.
Moss Mountain Farm also serves as a laboratory for new flower, vegetable varieties, and experimentation with design in the garden.
On tour days, guests arrive at the farm at 10:30 in the morning and are taken on a guided tour of the house and gardens that include the terrace gardens, vegetable garden, 18,000-square-foot rose garden and the poultry house, aka Poultryville.
“They have lunch comprised of recipes from my cookbook, P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes. The buttermilk pecan pie is a favorite,” he said. “After lunch guests can wander about the property and visit the gift shop. If I am in town, I like to attend the tours to meet the guests and answer questions. Accessibility and hospitality are an important part of our brand. … I want everything served at the farm to support our message of the value of good food and a meal shared.”
Tickets are $96.75, and the tour includes lunch made from recipes in one of Smith’s cookbooks. To learn more about scheduling an event or to take a tour, call 501.519.5793, or visit the website at pallensmith.com.