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The Williams family is a hardy, down-to-earth lot.
They take pride in their homesteading abilities and their skills as farmers. When Sidney and Holly Williams and their children decided to leave Texas and forge a new life in a different part of the world, the Ozarks came calling.
After traveling the area in an RV in 2017, they found what they were looking for – a small local farm filled with berries and endless possibilities. The temptation was irresistible, and its owners were looking to sell.
With a quick handshake and the signing of a pen, Mountain Home Berry Farm had found its new owners. But all was not well on the farm. They soon found that the soil had not been maintained, and the berry bushes that made the farm so popular to the Mountain Home area had been mismanaged for years.
The Williams’ excitement turned to dread as they faced the challenge of rebuilding a farm on the brink of collapse. It would be their defining moment as a family and one of the most significant challenges they had ever encountered.
“We didn’t make the place. We just made it better,” said Sidney Williams. “It was going downhill as far as just the caliber, the quality, the character. And the community was seeing it. So people were not inclined to come out here.”
The Williams first got into farming after deciding to start a homestead in Lufkin, Texas. There they raised chickens and ducks while Sidney worked part-time as an accountant. They also bought and sold used cars to help bring extra cash to their tiny farm.
Eventually, Sidney said they felt the need to expand their farm and move to a more remote location. They looked into purchasing property in South America before deciding to remain in Texas for a bit longer.
“We were thinking we were going to move to a South American country for about four years,” Sidney Williams said. “Then God kind of let the door close, and so then we just preserved that we were going to stick it out in Texas. So we bought another place and continued to homestead, and then God said he wanted us to move. We’re like, OK, well, you have to show us where to go.”
Over time the family honed in on the Ozarks where Holly Williams had visited as a small child. Packing their things, the family purchased their RV and took a road trip through the area, looking for a place to call home.
They landed in Mountain Home and immediately fell in love with the area.
“We went up in southern Missouri and then went back down to eastern Oklahoma,” Sidney Williams said. “And we just felt that God was saying Mountain Home is where you’re supposed to be. When we got here, we thought, this is pretty impressive. The people were nice, and the town was so clean.”
Their destination was set. Sidney Williams said he began looking at job opportunities in their area and went back and forth between accounting and real estate. At one point, he even considered getting his car dealership license.
Ultimately, he said he felt compelled to buy a business in the area and began looking at what was for sale.
“I was thinking, I could get my real estate license in Arkansas, or I could get my car dealership license,” Sidney Williams said. “But I felt that God was telling me to buy a business. We went to the Bull Shoals visitor center, and they had some of the jellies from the farm there. And so when I saw that, I was like ‘Oh man.’ And when I was looking for businesses for sale in the area, I found Mountain Home Berry Farm for sale, and that was it.”
The family went to work and began to sell their various properties in Texas to move to Mountain Home and their new farm.
Mountain Home Berry Farm has been a community staple since its creation in the 1980s. Originally called Smitty’s U-Pick, the 21-acre farm worked through several owners before finally receiving its current name.
With business wrapped up in Texas, the family officially moved to Mountain Home in 2018.
After arriving, Sidney and Holly took stock of the farm and were “shocked and overwhelmed” by what they found.
“We had issues with equipment. We had issues with structures. We had to tear down multiple structures that were just junk,” said Sidney as he motioned to the farm out back of his quaint home.
Worse yet, the couple discovered that industrial fertilizers and chemicals had been used on the farm, despite marketing that stated everything was organic. They also found that the very jelly that attracted customers to the farm was produced by a Mennonite family in the area and not from the farm itself.
To make matters even worse, a specialist from the University of Arkansas told them that the farm’s various berry bushes were all but destroyed, forcing the family to replace about 928 bushes on the property.
“We had to replace the plants that had died, and they had not been replaced. So, we replanted,” said Holly Williams while speaking on the struggles of rebuilding her farm. “We improved the soil. We remodeled the house. We implemented fully organic practices.”
Other changes to the business include an expanded social media presence, Fall and Christmas festivals, and new restrooms and buildings for guests to use. The farm’s gift shop was also redone, and new vendors were allowed to come in and sell the crafts, art, soaps, and other goods.
The Williams family also expanded the farm to include elderberries and its crops of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Asparagus, potatoes, peas, and other table-ready produce were planted to expand the farm’s repertoire.
They even added a petting zoo with chickens, goats, pigs, and rabbits for visiting families.
“People have noticed,” Holly Williams said. “They come out, and they’re like, wow, this place looks great.”
Their hard work paid off, drawing as many as 10,000 visitors from all over the world to the farm each year.
“We did better,” Holly Williams said. “Twenty-twenty was a really good year for us and the farm.”
Sadly, disaster struck again with the big winter freeze of 2021. The harsh winter and deep snow killed many of the farm’s plants and bushes, leaving the Williams family with over 300 plants to replace.
“We probably have over 1,000 plants,” Sidney Williams said. “We planted 928, and out of those, we had 30% of them die in the first year. It was a really wet year, and the plants had a fungus. So, it just killed all of these plants, and we had to turn right back around the next year and plant like 300 more. We were really just getting hammered.”
After putting their entire life’s savings into the farm and working to make it stable, Sidney Williams began to look toward the future again and wondering if running the farm was what he truly wanted to do.
His answer, he said, was no. As the spring season of 2021 approached, he put Mountain Home Berry Farm back on the market.
“It was more of a surrendering,” said Sidney Williams about his decision to put the farm up for sale. “I didn’t want to do this anymore. But then it became that we felt that God brought us into this area, and it was for relationships, and this farm allowed us to make those relationships while making this place. And we feel that we were the right people to redeem or rehab this place to bring it up.”
While the Williams’ wish to sell the popular farm to a new owner, they said they weren’t done with Mountain Home and are still willing to help work the farm after it is under new management.
They also reflected that their time as a family working on the farm has been beneficial to their sons.
“One of the reasons why we wanted to do something like this is to teach our children how to work,” Sidney Williams said. “We didn’t want our children to feel like their life was only about school. That there’s more to life than that.”
Mountain Home Berry Farm is currently listed for sale at $525,000. The 21-acre property includes a fully remodeled home, refurbished buildings and market spaces, working farm equipment, and multiple springs, including two functioning wells.
The farm features three primary sources of income: (1) sales of fresh berries, produce, honey, eggs, etc.; (2) private label retail/wholesale jam and salsa sales; (3) revenue from agritainment, including Fall Festival / Pumpkin Patch and Lighted Christmas Hayride events as well as photographic sessions and wedding venue.
Please contact Mountain Home Berry Farm for more information at (870) 425-7028.