Maker's Remarks

Running a Business that Sustains Your Heart, Body, and Community

Q&A with Jessica & Brandon of Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc.

I wish I’d known Jessica Parker, née Robinson, better in high school. We graduated the same year from Southside in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her husband Brandon graduated one year earlier. Though we sat next to each other in Ms. Rush’s physics class, Jessica and I mostly kept to ourselves. Shy, introverted teenage Sarah didn’t like to invite much conversation, and I suspect Jessica was the quiet type, too. 

When I moved back to Fort Smith last summer with Brian, I was amazed at how much my hometown had changed. One welcome addition to the area was Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc., the city’s first organic juice bar, which opened its doors not long before we got here. While reading a local magazine, I flipped to an article about the exciting new store and its owners. I instantly recognized Jessica and Brandon. Though I hadn’t gotten to know them well when we were younger, I remembered Jessica as sweet and Brandon as friendly (I’d met hime once or twice). I was proud to see two classmates improving my hometown with their healthy business and happy to see these two deserving people succeeding. 

Jessica and Brandon Parker, owners of Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc. in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Image above: Jessica and Brandon Parker, owners of Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc. in Fort Smith, Arkansas

In their interview with Do South, Jessica and Brandon explained how Carrot Dirt began. After they married, Jessica’s mother was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Huntington’s Chorea and Brandon was diagnosed with Miyoshi Myopathy, a type of muscular dystrophy, both in the same year. Their lifestyles had to change — getting and staying healthy became their focus. They became more active and began eating more organic, whole foods. They discovered juicing. It wasn’t long before they started feeling better, their love for juice became a passion, and Carrot Dirt (which was Brandon’s nickname for carrot juice) opened its doors. 

“Carrot Dirt,” explains the couple on their website, “developed from the idea that people not only desire but also deserve to live an energized and well-balanced lifestyle.” Jessica and Brandon managed to turn lemons into lemonade, transforming their lives and community through their passion for juice and healthy living.  

colorful sandwich board at Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc., Fort Smith, Arkansas' first organic juice bar

Image above: colorful sandwich board at Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc., Fort Smith, Arkansas’ first organic juice bar

Oh, and the juice is downright delicious! I put down that article and made Brian drive straight to Carrot Dirt to sample their “lemonade.” The Autumn Harvest (squash, apple, and cinnamon) and Sweet Roots (carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, and ginger) blends we tried put our own homemade juices to shame. Since then, we’ve tried to up our juice game at home, have sampled a few more of Carrot Dirt’s juice creations, and decided to share their story with you and all our Westervin readers. Jessica and Brandon kindly obliged to answer a few questions about overcoming challenges, sustaining their community, and being creative in running their business. 

First of all, can you tell me how long you’ve been married and a little about how you met?

We just celebrated our 8-year wedding anniversary and have been together for 11 years. We met through friends who are brother and sister — it was a matter of proximity and time. We became best friends, fell in love, and the rest is history.

fresh, rainbow salad from Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc.

Image above: Carrot Dirt also sells fresh salads, as well as smoothies, nut milks, and healthy desserts and snacks

What prompted you to open Carrot Dirt?

Health. Around the time that we were married, my Mother was diagnosed with a neurological disease, Huntington’s Chorea, then Brandon was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy called Miyoshi Myopathy. From those events it became clear that we all need to do the best for our bodies in order to live well and also for our bodies to be prepared for what may come. We wanted our community to have availability to this as well. After all, our health is the best investment we can make.

What personal skills and/or talents have you and Brandon relied on most heavily (or had to develop) to run your business?

We have a wonderful time together and we feel that reflects in Carrot Dirt. Personally, I love preparing food and decorating, so I’m able to combine the two with the salads, desserts, and snacks we offer. Both of us are very time-oriented and detail-oriented but not in overlapping ways. This allows us keep on schedule with both day-to-day operational stuff and long term planning.

healthy energy bites from Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc.

Image above: Carrot Dirt’s energy bites

What has been the biggest challenge of working for yourself and how have you overcome it?

The lack of a guidebook, it’s freeing and frustrating at the same time. It can be a challenge when trying to get answers for regulations and codes, but the freedom of creating and offering our product to the community makes it all worth it. We absolutely love what we do.

What have you found to be the best tools and/or exercises you’ve relied on in opening and running your business?

Our patrons love social media, Instagram followed by Facebook. It allows us to share, back and forth, the fun things we’re creating in real time. We also really like Square. It’s easy to use and update, allows us to be mobile, and offers tons of great information about sales and item trends.

The atmosphere at Carrot Dirt is very laid back. When we are making juice and nut milks every morning and throughout the day, we listen to some good tunes and just go with the flow. Running your own business can be stressful, but we do our very best to keep stress at bay. After all, stress is very detrimental to health.

Running has been a passion of mine for the past several years. I always make sure I make time for my run. Since we have opened, the time I run daily varies, but I make it a priority. This is my time for me, to reflect on my day, pray, and breathe in some fresh air.

bottles of freshly made, cold-press juice from Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc.

Image above: bottles of freshly made, cold-press juice in the Carrot Dirt fridge

What role does community play for Carrot Dirt?

Carrot Dirt stems from a desire to do better for ourselves and the community. The community has embraced us, and they are our biggest champions. We see new faces every day who heard about us from the regulars. The community is showing us that Carrot Dirt is a great healthy alternative that needs to be here. The desire for healthy organic options is here. We are just so happy to be able to provide them to our wonderful community.

Does running Carrot Dirt require you to be creative? If so, in what ways and how often?

Yes! It’s allowed us to use parts of ourselves that get minimized in the day-to-day school/work routine. It’s freeing to have a juice recipe in your mind and have it taste like you envisioned. From creating and naming the juices to engaging the community to growing the business — it requires creativity to take Carrot Dirt from an idea and actually execute it. Our creativity juices are flowing on a daily basis.

Cordial Carrot and Pink Dragon - organic, cold-press juices from Carrot Dirt Organics, Inc.

Image above: Cordial Carrot and Pink Dragon – organic, cold-press juices made fresh at Carrot Dirt

What does the future hold for Carrot Dirt?

As Carrot Dirt approaches the 1st anniversary, we’ve been listening to our patrons. In the short term we’ll be offering sandwiches and creating new juices. In the longer term? Well, that is just a surprise!

If you’re in the area, get down to Carrot Dirt NOW and grab a bottle of their sweet, energizing juice or other healthy foods. Otherwise, follow Carrot Dirt on Instagram for gorgeous shots of whole foods to inspire your healthy lifestyle. You can also follow along with Brian and I as we share a few of our homemade juice recipes here on the Westervin blog with our series Get Juiced

Maker's Remarks

Arlie Trowbridge of Urban Revisions

Oh man. I’m excited. Why? Because I’m about to share my mini interview with Arlie Trowbridge, the stupidly talented woman behind Urban Revisions. I’ve loved her work for ages now! Arlie was sweet enough to answer a few questions — some silly, some serious — for the latest installment of my Maker’s Remarks series. And the timing couldn’t be better, because she’s just released her Spring/Summer 2012 collection. Oh how these sherbet colored pieces make me wanna run outside and chase an ice cream truck!

handmade glass and leather purses by Urban Revisions

How did Urban Revisions start? Did you have a “quit your day job to start an Etsy shop” sort of moment?

Urban Revisions started in early 2009 by accident. I had just started getting into reading fashion blogs and the DIY shredded t-shirt craze was in full effect. I gave it a try and was immediately addicted to the process of “revising” the most basic article of clothing – a tee. My friend started modeling them in “urban” settings around Richmond, and the Etsy shop was born. Shortly after my first couple of sales, I was awarded a fellowship by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Couldn’t have been better timing. This allowed me to “quit my day job” and really pursue selling my work.

Arlie Trowbridge of Urban Revisions

Your shredded T-shirts are so unique, and it seems like your beautiful glass jewelry requires a lot of skill to create. What’s the inspiration for your pieces and the process for making them?

There’s no doubt that I love things with an organic feel to them. Almost anything that I’ve ever created and really loved came about by accident… there’s something really special about working with glass and distressed fiber. You can melt and shred forever until something amazing comes about. In the end, everything always has this delicate look but in actuality, cotton and glass have really strong qualities.

shredded cotton scarf in orange sherbet

Would you say you’re more of an urbanite or a nature-lover? Or a perfect mixture of both?

Both! I’ve lived in or very close to a city the majority of my life. I need to be near the sound of people’s hustle and bustle but I also need our long camping trips in the middle of no where and our afternoons hanging down by the James River.

shredded cotton t-shirt from Urban Revisions

What’s a typical day in the life of Arlie Trowbridge? Take us through a brief snapshot of your day, from morning to night?

Wake up, stumble to the coffee pot, fill the largest mug available, stumble to the studio and slowly open my eyes over emails and blogs.
Thats the first step, and then it’s either …

a. start shredding
b. start torch working
c. start dyeing
< or >
d. start day dreaming

I’m really all over the place, and it feels awesome.

handmade glass cluster rings from Urban Revisions

Would you rather have the ability to breathe underwater or the ability to fly? Explain.

Breathe underwater!!! In fact, this is something I’ve dreamt about many times. I spent many days at our local pool pretending to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid when I was little. Some people have commented on my cluster rings and leaf earrings, saying they remind them of coral. I love that. Marine life is fascinating.

handmade shredded t-shirt from Urban Revisions

What’s your favorite part of creating & selling your handicrafts?

The people I have had the pleasure to “meet”! The internet is such a powerful tool. Knowing that there are ladies all over the world wearing Urban Revisions is incredible to me.

handmade glass cluster ring from Urban Revisions

BTDubs, if you’ve read through this interview, you’ve got a special treat coming. You can enter Arlie’s giveaway on Facebook to win the spectacular glass cluster ring pictured above. Get on over there and enter!

Maker's Remarks

Maker’s Remarks: Sarah Newby

Nail & Thread necklace by Sarah Newby

I’m positively thrilled to share our latest Maker’s Remarks interview. This time, I get to share the beautiful work of my super talented new friend and classmate, Sarah Newby. Sarah is debuting her new shop Newby Treasury with a line of jewelry made from wrapped jute rope and old nails. Separately, you might not think these items would make for a beautiful necklace, but combined using Sarah’s skilled hand and eye, the end result is a work of quiet elegance.

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Maker's Remarks

Maker’s Remarks: Debbie Carlos

{ Black Mountain }

While looking for a new photo print for our bedroom that was both large and affordable, I came across this crazy cool Mountains poster by one Debbie Carlos. I just had to have it, and how (!), so I messaged Debbie to make sure I could get it quickly. I’m about as patient as a spoiled kid on Christmas Eve. I also wanted it as part of a mini apartment facelift before our first wedding guest arrived. But mostly, I just wanted it now! Debbie turned out to be very accommodating. So sweet, in fact, that I thought, “Gee. I bet she’s a lovely, interesting person, and I sure would love to learn more about her and feature her gorgeous work on our blog.” So that’s what I did! Debbie kindly agreed to participate in our Maker’s Remarks series and has answered a few questions about her work, her life, and her inner crab.

{ Lake }

Your photos seem to express a love of nature. How do you find things to shoot despite living in a big city?

I don’t often take pictures of the city itself, choosing to focus more on the home and the quiet surprising/beautiful moments that happen sometimes. But Chicago is great in terms of greenery. There are tons of parks and  preserves within the city limits that I often shoot in. I also tend to take the most photographs when I’m traveling.

{ Woods }

Do you have any current or upcoming creative projects that you’re excited about?

I’m collaborating on a project with my brother, who is an amazing graphic designer based out of Minneapolis. He designed the award winning catalog for Yves Klein’s traveling exhibition and is senior designer at the Walker Art Center so you know this is going to be good! We are finalizing the design and about to go into production. It should be making its debut at this year’s Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago!

What’s your spirit animal?

The Dancing Crab

{ Blue Egg }

You also have a food blog! Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?

Since it is summer, I feel like I must share with you the recipe for Watermelon Shake! Its a take on a Mexican Agua Fresca but its name is a shout out to my Filipino background (we call our blended fruit drinks shakes even though there is no dairy in them).

Watermelon Shake

Watermelon, cubed
Cold Water
Lime juice
Sweetener (Sugar, Agave Syrup, Honey, Splenda etc)

Use about a  4:1 ratio of watermelon to water. Pulse in a blender and taste. If its too watery, add more watermelon or add water if mixture seems too stiff. Add a small pinch of salt and season with lime juice and sweetener to taste.

* to make this a little boozy add some tequila

{ Gradient / Jade }

And you make jewelry? How do you balance all of your creative drives?

I feel like I always need to have a project going on. I think if I sit still for too long or if nothing is on the horizon, I get really anxious. I also think its really great and healthy to change it up a bit every once in awhile. If I get tired of working on photos, I know I can go and work on some jewelry.  If I get tired of both, maybe I can go into the kitchen and have a cooking project. There are a lot of things that I’d like to be able to do that just don’t happen and thats ok and sometimes it does get overwhelming but I kind of wing it based on mood. Its always good to have something going on.

Maker's Remarks

Maker’s Remarks: Behida Dolić

{ Little Gray Hat }

Last week’s Millinery class was fun and fruitful, but I’m afraid my freshly blocked hat isn’t quite ready for sharing. Luckily, I have something even better! A chat with one of my favorite contemporary milliners, Behida Dolić. Behida, who has been crafting exquisite hats for close to a decade, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for our second Maker’s Remarks feature. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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Maker's Remarks

Maker’s Remarks:Teresa Robinson & Lynn Russell

Earth & Sky necklace

As promised,we’ve got a new series to debut, and I must say I’m as pleased as punch with what we have to show. Maker’s Remarks will be a recurring post, wherein we feature the work of artists, crafters, illustrators, designers, and all around makers, along with a hint of insight into their colorful characters. With a few interview questions, some serious and some less so, we’ll add a little bit of context to a lot of great work.

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