At Sacred Hollow Farm, customers pick wildflowers, find peace

At Sacred Hollow Farm, customers pick wildflowers, find peace
LARA JO HIGHTOWER
lhightower@nwadg.com

In theory, Sacred Hollow Farm’s concept of a “u-pick’ wildflower farm is simple: Grab a pair of nips and a biodegradable paper cup with a splash of water in it and choose from flowers of every hue. The crop is constantly rotating but, at different times of the season, you can expect to find dahlias, zinnias, sunflowers, snapdragons and gladiolas, just to name a few. Each stem costs between $1 and $4, depending on the variety, and if you’re clever about choosing a stem with bountiful blooms, you can easily craft a beautiful bouquet with oodles of country charm for around $10 to $12.

The covid-19 pandemic made Caleb Schoeppe and Sydney Sloan reconsider what was important to them in life — so they opened Sacred Hollow Farm, a “u-pick” wildflower farm, on the five acres on which their 1940s-era farmhouse house sits. (The Free Weekly/Charlie Kaijo)

In practice, however, the value of Sacred Hollow Farm in Lowell seems a bit more complex. At 4 p.m. on a recent hot August afternoon, the world feels steamy and stressful, but pulling into the farm’s grassy parking lot feels a lot like turning off the spigot of troubling world news, rising covid-19 statistics and general wear and tear of the average working day. The bustling intersection of U.S. 71B and Arkansas 64 is less than six miles away, but the only noise that carries out here are the friendly greetings of the vendors across the street at the popular Vanzant’s Market. The air is thick with butterflies and plump, slow-moving bumblebees — owners Caleb Schoeppe and Sydney Sloan have taken care to make sure their farm produces bee- and butterfly-friendly plants — and the colorful flowers sway gently in the hot, early evening breeze.

In short, it’s exactly what Schoeppe and Sloan dreamed of when the couple left their previous careers, searching for lives that carried a little bit more meaning and fulfillment. Schoeppe had clocked 18 years in the corporate world, while Sloan was a 20-year veteran hair stylist. Like many, the global pandemic made them reconsider the choices they were making in their everyday lives.

“I was working from home that entire time,” explains Schoeppe, while Sloan was at home as well since the beauty industry was one of the first to experience mandatory shutdowns. “We had a lot of time to spend here on our land and together in our house. And we said, ‘We’re not happy doing this anymore. We need to change.’”

“For me, personally, I think [it was] the mortality facing you,” says Sloan. “Caleb’s grandma passed away from covid. It was one of those things where, ‘Life is short. And if you’re unhappy…’.”

“It made us realize really what we were passionate about, and we weren’t doing that,” finishes Schoeppe. “And we were like, ‘We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to at least try.’ And now we’re happy. We’re living our dream.”

In addition to the wildflowers, Sacred Hollow Farm includes a small retail shop where Schoeppe and Sloan can sell their honey and herbal medicine, as well as their original art pieces. Schoeppe is a photographer, and Sloan is an artist, whose driftwood sculptures have been selling out.

Caleb Schoeppe and his partner Sydney Sloan stand for a portrait at Sacred Hollow Farm. (The Free Weekly/Charlie Kaijo)

The couple have been living on the Sacred Hollow Farm property for about two years now. At the time, they had just started talking about finding a house in the country when they saw an ad for something that seemed to check off all the boxes Sloan was looking for: five acres, a pond and a weathered farmhouse with a lot of charm. The house, in fact, has a fascinating history; it was built in approximately 1940 on Johnson Avenue in Springdale and was moved to its current location, making room for the Shiloh Museum in the early 1990s.

“It’s solid as a rock,” says Sloan.

Though structurally sound, the house needed significant cosmetic repairs, and the couple handled most of the rehab work themselves. Sloan’s dream was always to take in rescue animals, and she has already made that a reality: Sacred Hollow Farm is home to three rescue pigs, three rescue dogs and a handful of rescue chickens.

Still, when they first moved in, it never occurred to them to try and farm any of the acreage they had just purchased. Though Schoeppe — an Arkansas native — was raised on a farm, he says his knowledge of agriculture was relatively rudimentary.

In addition to wild flowers, Schoeppe and Sloan sell artwork, medicinal herbs and honey in a small retail space on their property. (The Free Weekly/Charlie Kaijo)

“I knew the basics,” says Schoeppe. “Some old, Farmer’s Almanac tips, but that’s it.”

“I always killed houseplants,” says Sloan. “I’m surprised anything is growing.”

So the couple started researching and reaching out to others who might be able to help.

“I followed every flower farmer I could find [on social media ],” says Sloan. “I’m really close with a girl in Idaho. We talk back and forth, getting pros and cons.”

A lot of the help has been more local. Schoeppe says that when Steve Vanzant, owner of the fruit and vegetable market across the street, saw them tilling the field with a small tractor, he showed up to lend a hand.

“He came over with his big one,” says Sloan.

“We’ve even had customers come through, a generation older than us, who have done this before, who have offered their wisdom, some plants, some seeds — a lot of blessings that way, as well,” says Schoeppe. “They say, ‘We don’t want anything in return, we just want to see you guys keep doing awesome.’”

“It makes me cry,” says Sloan.

Sloan says a big selling point of the five acres she and Schoeppe purchased was that they would have room for rescue animals. The couple have three pigs — like Corky, pictured here — that share the land with a trio of dogs and a handful of chickens. (The Free Weekly/Charlie Kaijo)

After the research, says the couple, came a period of trial and error. The abundant rainfall of the early summer made it clear which areas of the field held on to the water in shallow pools. The dry period the area is experiencing now means learning how to best utilize a drip irrigation system. They’re learning which flowers thrive best, which are most abundant and most hardy. But their first growing season has been overwhelmingly successful, and they’re utilizing clever marketing partnerships and events to spread the word about the farm. They were popular with photographers from the beginning — professional photographers can book sessions on the farm for a small fee — and now they’ve started hosting yoga classes on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. with instruction by Yoga Gypsy Studios. In the past, they have held a Dads and Daughters night, and this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. will mark their first date night event: $35 per couple buys a flower bouquet of your choosing and complimentary wine, juice, water and appetizers. Schoeppe says plans for a singles night are in the works. They’ve recently become part of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks participating membership partnership, which means BGO members can save 20 percent on their bouquets. They have scavenger hunts every week on their social media.

And word is spreading. During this interview, a woman stopped by to help her nephew pick out a bouquet of sunflowers for his mom — her second stop at the farm.

“I like their flowers — they’re all amazing,” says Mariza, who, along with her nephew Angel Jr., is roaming the sunflower aisle. She passes by the farm daily on the way into town and predicts she’ll be back often. “My mom loved the flowers I brought her from here, and I actually caught my sister totally off guard when I brought hers to her. And you can bring a picnic and bring kids.”

Mariza feels it, too — it’s a special place. And that’s just what Schoeppe and Sloan had hoped to create.

“We’re not here to get rich,” says Schoeppe. “You’re never going to get rich running a flower farm.”

“I just want to be able to take care of the animals and pay the mortgage,” agrees Sloan.

“And be happy,” adds Schoeppe. “And create someplace where people can come and be happy with us.”

Caleb Schoeppe (center) and partner Sydney Sloan (left) walk past their stalks of sunflowers, Friday, August 27, 2021 at Sacred Hollow Farm in Lowell. The pandemic forced Caleb Schoeppe and his partner Sydney Sloan to take a hard look at their lives and they decided they didn’t really like what they saw – so Caleb quit his corporate job, Sydney stopped styling hair, and they opened up a u-pick wildflowers business on their acreage. Check out nwaonline.com/210830Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

FYI

Caleb Schoeppe and Sydney Sloan have a knack for hosting events that use the peaceful surroundings of Sacred Hollow Farm (3830 E. Arkansas 264, Lowell) as a backdrop for fun activities. Here are a couple that are coming up this week.

Yoga and Flowers

All levels are welcome to attend a class with instructors from Yoga Gypsy Studio.

WHEN — 6:30 p.m. Thursdays

COST — $10

Date Night Among the Flowers

Participants will enjoy light appetizers and wine as they roam the flower beds, choosing the perfect blooms for their bouquet.

WHEN — 5:30-8 p.m. Sept. 4

COST — $35

Follow the farm’s Instagram account (@Sacred_Hollow_Farm) to find out more about upcoming events.

Categories: Cover Story