words: Marcus Coker
Images: courtesy Carrot Dirt Organics
In May of this year, Brandon and Jessica Parker, who are twenty-nine and twenty-eight years old respectively, opened Carrot Dirt Organics in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Within a month, their products — organic juices, smoothies, and salads — were selling out. Brandon says, “This is a silver lining for us. This is how we decided to make the best of a difficult situation.”
Both Brandon and Jessica grew up in Fort Smith and were married in 2007. Brandon had graduated with a degree in business administration and was working at a bank. Jessica was majoring in biology and planning to go to medical school. Jessica says, “After we were married, my mom was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Huntington’s Chorea. It’s like Parkinson’s and dementia put together. It causes uncontrolled movement, affects memory, and is not curable. We became fulltime caregivers for my mom, and I eventually decided to not go back to school. That’s what really got us changing our lifestyles and being proactive about our health. Huntington’s is genetic, so there’s a fifty percent chance I could have it. If that’s the case, I want to put good stuff in my body, not things like chemicals.”
The same year, Brandon was diagnosed with Miyoshi Myopathy, a type of muscular dystrophy that causes muscle weakness and atrophy in his forearms, hands, and calves. Brandon says, “It started in college. I was having trouble going up and down stairs. Now I generally walk with a crutch or cane. I need to keep as lean as possible because it’s less stress on my joints.”
The couple began eating organic foods, cut down dramatically on red meat and gave up processed and refined sugar. They also started juicing. Jessica says, “Juicing is beneficial for the body because it gives the body time to rest. It doesn’t have to spend energy digesting.”
The formula worked. Jessica lost (and has kept off) seventy-five pounds, and her mom lost forty. Brandon lost thirty, which he did without exercising. He says, “Since losing the weight, it’s easier for me to move around. I have more energy, I sleep better, and I don’t get as tired. You really don’t know what feeling good is until you do something different, and we’re the result of doing something different.”
As Brandon and Jessica juiced and experienced positive results, their friends began to take notice. And after receiving good feedback from friends who were “willing and eager” to try their juices, Brandon and Jessica decided to take a leap of faith by opening their own organic juice shop.
“My favorite juice is carrot. It has more of an earthy taste, and I don’t mind it, but I’d try to get Brandon to drink it, and he’d say, ‘I don’t want that carrot dirt!’ So that’s where the name for the store came from, that’s what stuck.”
The juices you’ll find at Carrot Dirt Organics are different than those you might make at home. Jessica says, “Juicing is not the same as blending. Juicing gets rid of fiber, so your body doesn’t have to start digestion. Blending doesn’t do that. With juicing, the nutrients are delivered directly into the bloodstream.” Additionally, they use a cold press juicer, which uses extreme pressure to squeeze the juice from the fruits and vegetables. This method differs from most home juicers (called centrifugal ejection juicers) that generate a lot of heat by masticating (cutting up) fruits and vegetables. “The heat kills nutrients and vitamins that you want to take in.”
Each juice has it’s own unique name and flavor. There’s Cardinal Carrot, Beet Box, Kale “Bro,” and even Morning Sunshine. Brandon says, “Sometimes people make a face at first if they try an all green juice (no fruit added), then they start to warm up to it. One woman said that her body had started to crave greens for the first time in her life.”
The ingredients of each drink have potential benefits. Kale and collard greens are good for iron. Ginger and bromelain (found in pineapple) are good anti-inflammatories. Dandelion (yes, like the kind found in your front yard) is high in magnesium, which helps rebuild muscles.
Jessica says, “Whatever is on the label is all that’s there. There’s nothing else added, and all the ingredients are one hundred percent organic.”
The juices at Carrot Dirt have a shelf life of three days, come in sixteen-ounce, recyclable, plastic bottles, and cost $8.50 each.
In addition to juices, Carrot Dirt also makes nut milks and smoothies. Jessica says, “Nut milks can be almond or cashew. We sweeten them with dates, cinnamon, and vanilla. Some of them have cacao (nature’s chocolate before man processes it), strawberries, and blueberries.” Nut milks are $9.50.
The smoothies use frozen fruit instead of ice and often include almond milk (made in house), almond butter, and even hemp seeds and chia seeds. Brandon says, “Hemp seeds are good for protein, and chia seeds are good for fiber and healthy omegas.” Smoothies cost between $7.50 and $8.50.
At Carrot Dirt, they don’t count calories, they count chemicals, or lack thereof. Brandon says, “We get the purest ingredients we can find and just recommend letting fullness be your guide.”
For those who are new to juicing, Brandon and Jessica are willing resources. Jessica says, “A lot of people know the benefits of organic. They’ve done cleanses and know the power of it. But for those who aren’t familiar, we love sharing our experiences and research. If someone is doing a juice fast, we recommend five juices a day and one nut milk. That’d be eighteen drinks for a three day fast. We have a friend who just completed that, and she lost nine pounds and saw improvement in her energy levels.”
Brandon says, “As cliché as it sounds, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For Brandon, it’s worked. Although he still has muscular dystrophy, he feels better. “The worst case scenario is that I fall and break my ankle and end up in a wheelchair, which I may end up in anyway when I’m fifty or sixty. It’s just a constant, gradual decline. The disease is going to do what it’s going to do, but the way I feel in my body, I attribute to the juice. We realized — something’s got to change, and we’ve benefitted so much that we wanted other people to see the benefits of choosing a healthier lifestyle.”
Carrot Dirt Organics is located at 8901 Jenny Lind,