In the early 1900's, Leona Wells Forrester, Keith's great Grandmother, a widow with four children, settled in Whitton, Arkansas. Leona came to Whitton to seek life as a sharecropper in order to support her family. For many years, Leona and her 4 sons tended the land from dusk til dawn. Keith stated that his Grandfather Jess would talk about how he could see chickens running under the house through the slates of wood in the floor. It was from those humble beginnings that the Forrester Family farming legacy was born.
Jess Forrester (son of Leona) and wife Helen, took on the responsibility of expanding the farm. Over the next several years Jess spent many days behind a mule plowing the land. He took great pride in raising and showing horses. Over time, he was able increase the family's acreage tenfold. Jess and Helen were blessed with 5 children, which were all birthed in their loving home in Whitton. Helen had many talents, but most notably cooking and playing the piano at church. After several decades of raising cotton, Jess was able to retire from farming. Eventually the land was passed on their children, Doug, Willis, Bob, and Phillip. Peggy, their daughter, passed away many years earlier at the tender age of 3.
Phillip Forrester, (Keith's Dad), married a lovely lady by the name of Mary Virginia, and together they spent the next several decades raising cotton, and soybeans. Phillip and Mary Virginia had 3 children: Mary Helen, Paul, and Keith. While Phillip tended to the farm, Mary taught school, and kept her children active in a wide variety of hobbies such as sports, music, hunting, farm chores, and church. In 1974, the Forrester Family was named Farm Bureau's Mississippi County Farm Family of the Year. In addition, Phillip served on the local bank board, and was President of the Wilson Arkansas School Board for nearly 20 years. In 1996, Phillip retired from farming, and passed away shortly thereafter due to ALS. A scholarship at Arkansas State University was established in his honor by family and friends. Mary has since remarried, and resides in Osceola, Arkansas. She spends her free time traveling, and loving her children and grandchildren alike.
In 2001, Keith and Jill got married in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Both were looking for a different way of life. Keith reached out to his mother about the possibility of living in house is grandfather Jess built many years ago. In no time, Keith and Jill received word they were welcomed to liven the simple farm house in Whitton. The newlyweds packed up and headed to their new home. For the next year, both taught public school. Keith taught P.E. and coached, and Jill was an algebra teacher.
In the spring of 2003, Keith asked Jill what she wanted for her birthday. Jill mentioned she'd love a large flower garden right by the road for all to see.
Keith immediately got to work. He ordered a pound of zinnia seed, and purchased a 50 lb sack of sunflower seed. He tilled up a quarter acre, and together they scattered the zinnia and sunflower seeds. Neither of them had any idea how this small garden would change their lives. Each day, they both enjoyed watching the seeds germinate, and eventually grow into something quite magical.
By July, The Forresters had more flowers than they knew what to do with! At one point Keith remarked that with so many flowers in the house, it looked like a funeral parlor. A sweet neighbor down the road, Mr. Lindsay Chandler, suggested we take his booth one weekend at Agri-center Farmers Market in Memphis to sell buckets of flowers. (Mr. Chandler had been flower farming for decades. He was an established and well respected flower farmer in the region, and offered loads of encouragement to us throughout the years to come.)
Keith and Jill took Mr. Chandler up on his offer, and decided to give selling flowers at the farmers market a try. That Saturday, they loaded 3 cars with buckets of zinnias and sunflowers, and headed to market. That Saturday Keith and Jill sold every stem they took to market, and ultimately generated revenue that surpassed their collective weekly teaching salaries. The simple gift of a flower garden kick started a new career path for The Forresters.
After attending a few more markets, Keith would begin to farm full time. Jill continued to teach for two more years. Both made many sacrifices over the next few years and felt profoundly blessed to have family members from days gone by, lay the true foundation of the family farm.
In 2010, the Forresters opened the farm to table restaurant, Trolley Stop Market, in Memphis, Tennessee. Trolley Stop was an award winning restaurant that served hand tossed pizzas, farm burgers, salads, and lunch plate specials 6 days a week. Jill and Keith owned and operated the restaurant for 10 years and sold the property one month prior to the COVID outbreak.
Fox was born in November of 2011, and continues to be Jill and Keith's greatest joy. Now 11 years old, Fox enjoys playing baseball and is an avid speedcuber.
In 2014, Keith and Jill were named Farm Bureau's Mississippi County, and Northeast Arkansas Farm Family of the year, exactly forty years after Phillip and Mary represented the county.
Now, in their 19th year of farming specialty crops, The Forresters grow everything from asparagus to zucchini, cut flowers, garden transplants, herbs, house plants, and native plants.
"It's 2023, and we're anticipating an amazing year! Many changes have happened on the farm and we cannot wait to share all we have in store with you! We're launching a new farm stand, have an acre of purple passion asparagus ready to harvest this spring, over 3000 peony bushes coming into bloom, and this we've added a wide selection of peas and beans to our market offerings. Jill will be expanding our floral operation, and Fox will assist in the corn patch and lend a hand at market. We're ready to work!
Farm life is the life for us. We learn from the daily challenges, and respect the fact we're at the mercy of Mother Nature. We have ample fun, and our fair share of failures, yet we grow and eat what we grow. We spend the days scouting the land, and dreaming of ways in which to leave it better than we found it. We're grateful to God, and our family for all we've been able and hope to accomplish. Thank you for taking time to learn a little more about us! We're eager to grow just for you!"
The Forrester Family
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