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

Get Juiced

Give Us This Day Our Daily Juice

Westervin: Fresh Daily Juice Recipe

We’ve been making (or at least trying to make) juice every day for awhile now, and though we do like to experiment with what we juice every now and then, we also have a basic recipe for day-to-day juicing. It makes two pretty large glasses of juice that we usually drink around lunch time.

Everyday Juice

  • 2 Oranges
  • 2 Apples
  • 2 handfuls of green stuff! (e.g. spinach, kale, lettuce)
  • 1-2 celery stalks
  • 3-4 carrots

This is the barebones recipe that we play around with. Adding a ring or two of fresh pineapple is one of our favorite additions. Substituting sweet potato for carrots also turns out well.

Happy juicing!

Get Juiced

Sweet Potato Dreamsicle

picture of dreamsicle juice

Ever since getting a juicer and reading that you can juice sweet potatoes, we’ve been kind of curious how exactly that would turn out. For some reason, it took us until just a couple of weeks ago to actually juice one! I sure wish we would have tried it earlier, because these sweet taters are tasty.

If you add some sweet potato to one of your regular juice recipes, it will make the whole thing a little thicker. Not as thick as a smoothie, but thicker than plain old juice. Our favorite sweet potato juice so far we call the Dreamsicle Juice, because it’s sweet and kind of looks like a Dreamsicle.

Dreamsicle Juice

1 orange
3 carrots
1/2 a small sweet potato


Juice ’em! You’ll probably want to play around with the proportions since sweet potatoes (not to mention carrots and oranges) come in such different sizes. We’ve also added Mango to this which was great, too.

Sweet potatoes have nearly as much carotene as carrots, and the combination is supposed to be good for the skin!

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Blog News

2012: The Highlights

Yesterday was Brian’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Brian! As a result, I reflected, as one so often does on such occasions, on how quickly the past year seemed to fly by. He’s 27 years old? Already? Didn’t he just turn 26…? I guess the year flew by because it really was chock full of fun and fantastic-ness. We just hopped from one milestone to the next.

Brian turned 26

Please join me, if you will, on a look back at the past year with the Westervins, starting with Brian’s 26th birthday on January 31st, 2012. That joyous celebration saw a cookie cake—Brian’s favorite kind of cake, obviously—as well as a few choice presents and a relaxing break with the Wests outside of the city. We were all so happy that this sweet man was born just 26 years prior.

Grace Steinel Jones started guest blogging

Soon after, we welcomed one of our dearest and most talented besties, one Mrs. Grace Steinel Jones, as a guest blogger for Westervin. Cooking away in her hot Austin kitchen, Grace whipped up such delicioso creations as the above carrot cake with honey-ginger figs, homemade granola, and some super tacos!

Sarah West Ervin started working with Lillstreet

Later in February, I started working with the Lillstreet Art Center. For class credit, I offered my newly acquired marketing skills to Lillstreet to help spread the word about their many amazing services and products for the creatively inclined and curious. In exchange, I got some professional experience, an invitation to a screenprinting workshop, and an opportunity to work with them again on another fun marketing project.

Westervin got a makeover

In March, Brian exercised his creative muscles and unveiled a new look for He’s so talented. Note to self: keep him around.

Newby Treasury GIveaway

We celebrated the redesign with a very special giveaway from Newby Treasury. This giveaway had been in the works for a few months, since around the first time I met Sarah Newby. I latched on to that cool lady like white on rice, determined to make her my friend. BTW, it worked.

Brian West got a new Job

In April, Brian started working at Columbia College Chicago…one floor above my office! Now, we get to go to work together and get coffee together and eat lunch together and go on walks together and go home together and BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!!!!!

Debbie Carlos starts guest blogging

In other tremendously exciting April news, Debbie Carlos started guest blogging for Westervin with her series A Sunday Ritual. I don’t think I need to say much about this, other than: apricot pie, coconut corn fritters, ratatouille, sesame pea-shoot salad, cochinita pibil, and savory bread pudding, and 60-second gooey chocolate mug cake. Oh, and I should probably also say, “OMG! Thank you so much, Debbie! You are sooooooo awesome!!!!”

Celebrated World Party Day

Also that month, we were invited by BIG THINGS, Kitiya Palaskas, and The Adventure School to participate in the fun DIY-ness of World Party Day. We made some margarita jello shots for the festivities. I think they were appreciated…

Columbia College Chicago Manifest: Please Generate Art

As I wrapped up my first year of graduate school last May, we rounded out the semester with our interactive art installation, Sound Collective, which was part of PGA: Please Generate Art, the graduate Manifest project at Columbia. It was a disgusting amount of work coupled with some poor timing (damn you, finals!), but I think it was all worth it for the delirious giggles and slaphappy bonding among the Sound Collective team: Caitlin O’Meara, Laura Bock, me, and (unofficially) Brian.

Westervin Honeymoon

Brian and I soon recuperated on our Dollymoon. That is, we took our belated honeymoon at Dollywood! Best. Trip. Ever.

Sarah West Ervin made some videos for Lillstreet Art Center

When we returned, I began working with Lillstreet again on the Make It video series. I’m a producer, y’all! I’ve shared a few of the completed videos, and there’s a few more still to come…

Westervin gets juiced

In June, Brian and I started juicing! The good kind, guys. In an attempt to circumvent my general disinterest in most foods of the vegetable variety, Brian got us a juicer and started sneaking nutrient-rich vegetables into my diet, disguised by the sweet nectar of fruit juices. Let’s face it: everyone knows that vegetables are gross. Also fact: fruit is nature’s candy. So, if you mix fresh fruit juice with a little vegetable juice, like carrot, celery, spinach, etc., you can barely taste it! Since our juicing ways began, I’ve increased my vegetable tolerance and we’ve been drinking several servings of fresh juice every day. As a result, we generally have more energy, my hair and skin feel healthier, and I barely drink soda anymore. I’m serious. The power of juice has broken the hold that sweet, sweet soda had over me. Get juiced!

Sarah West Ervin learns to screenprint at Lillstreet Art Center

In other self-improvement news, I built up my crafting repertoire by learning how to screenprint! Laura Bock and I went to a screenprinting party at Lillstreet, wherein we sipped wine, ate fancy snacks, and got our crafty on with the help of instructor and textile artist Nora Renick-Rinehart. If only every month could include such craft parties…

Westervin was Published in Design: Paper

Perhaps the most exciting development in June, however, was being published! Our handmade save-the-dates were featured in the beautiful book Design: Paper. We loved making those little postcards, so we were overjoyed to see them in a book!

Sarah West Ervin blows up on Pinterest

In July, I got a lot of Pinterest followers, and we’ve had a lot of fun together since then…

Sarah West Ervin turns 26

And, in August, I finally caught up to Brian and turned 26 myself. I doubled the fun by joining forces with our local bestie Laura, who turned 24 a few days after my birthday. The fantastic festivities included a potluck brunch party and a trip to Six Flags. Brian also fulfilled one of my lifelong wishes by getting me an edible arrangement, delivered to me at work. All together, it was a dream of a birthday.

First Anniversary

That milestone was followed by an even better one in September: our first wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a delicious dinner, a nice walk, and a new set of handmade wedding rings! I gotta say, this marriage stuff is great.

Renegade Craft Fair Chicago

Later than month, we hit up the Renegade Craft Fair. As the highlight of my craftventures for the year, much fun and shopping was had by all in our party, both new friends and old.

Sarah West Ervin went back to school

And, to balance out the fun of September, my second year of graduate school began. Fitzgerald and I felt the same way about it: Meh.

Brian West is Famous

But soon, things were looking up again! In October, Brian was commissioned to create the signature cocktail for Poetry‘s centennial celebration. He expertly crafted the bubbly and well-balanced Hippocrene, inspired by a Keats poem. It was written about in the New York Times, guys. Note to self: seriously, keep this fella around.

Sarah West Ervin is Famous

Soon after, I saw my five minutes of fame as a guest pinner for Etsy, my other love.  Ok, famous is a strong word here…  but I’ll use it just the same! LOOK AT ME! I’M AN INTERNET CELEBRITY! Would you like my autograph?

Sarah West Ervin went crochet crazy

In November, to combat the stress of sudden stardom (but mostly that of homework and impending finals), I got into crocheting. REALLY into crocheting. I went a little crazy with hats there….

Going to Louisiana

For Thanksgiving, Brian and I took a roadtrip to Louisiana to visit my family. Highlights included: gramma’s twice-baked potatoes, playing with my little brother, cracking pecans, and stopping in Little Rock along the way for a quick catch-up with my forever-valentine, Megan.

Westervin turned 3

And then it snuck up on us—-Westervin turned three. We’re pretty proud.

Goodbye to Sarah Newby and Ryan Glenn

Then, in December, we were forced to say a tearful goodbye to our sweet, interesting friends, Ryan Glenn and Sarah Newby. We shared a brunch with these two, gave them a little going away gift, and shooed them on their way to L.A. Expect a visit this summer, guys. Sunshine, here we come!

We got a new kitchen

When we were away for Christmas break, our landlord updated our kitchen. I really feel like the beauty of our new wood floors and clean, white cabinets has changed my life. I actually enjoy being in the kitchen now! And, I’ve even been helping Brian out a little in there with this thing they call “cooking.” It’s not as terrible as it seems! We’ll share some photos soon—-of both the renovation and my delectable (not really) creations.

Rang in the New Year

And finally, Brian and I rang in 2013 with our sassy frands, Laura Bock and Jonathan Thomason. Never underestimate the enjoyableness of pie, boardgames, and an all-night slumber party.

If you twisted my arm, I’d have to say that the last year was a pretty good one. Here’s to the next!

Get Juiced

Granny Dew

a glass of fresh juice (honeydew, apples, cabbage, lime)

In case you’ve been wondering, we’re still juicing. Sarah is still partial to fruit juice, which is understandable. Fruit juice is really good. Here’s a fruit juice with just a touch of vegetable. You could even add some more if you’re feeling adventurous. I think the bonus lime juice makes this a great summer sipper.

Granny Dew

1/2 honeydew melon

2 granny smith apples

1 cabbage leaf

juice from 1/4 of a lime

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Get Juiced

Apples & Neeps

The Big Book of Juices

One thing that has helped us get started with juicing is having a couple of books that explain how to prepare fruits & vegetables and what to expect nutritionally, as well as offer some good recipes. The Big Book of Juices, which we bought because it was big…and has both straight juice recipes and a smoothie section, is one such book.

apple & parsnip juice recipe from The Big Book of Juices

One of the first recipes we tried was a fruit/vegetable hybrid with apples and parsnips.

fresh apples, parsnips, and mint

Sarah and I don’t normally eat parsnips often, but we really liked this juice. It’ll definitely be a good way to use up some extra parsnips from our CSA box.

washed and cut apples & parsnips

Apples and Neeps

3 parsnips

3 apples

1/2 lime

3 sprigs of fresh mint

Step 1: Wash the apples and parsnips.

Step 2: Cut them into pieces that fit into your juicer. (Don’t worry about coring your apple. That can go straight into your juicer, too!)

Step 3: Um…juice it!

fresh juice: apples & parsnips with mint

The resulting juice is light, refreshing, and quite good for you. Needless to say, we were very pleased with our juicer investment.

fresh juice: the result

Get Juiced

True Blood (aka Berry Beet Juice)

True Blood! (aka fresh berry & beet juice)

To celebrate the return of our favorite summer show, we used our new juicer to whip up a chilled glass of “true blood” (aka berry & beet juice). While these servings of fresh fruit and vegetable juice won’t give you the superhero strength of vampire blood, I’m sure sure they’re pretty packed with nutrients nonetheless.

One of the nice things about juicing is you can really experiment and try different things you’ve got on hand. For this particular libation, we used half a small beet and a few handfuls each of blueberries, grapes, and cherries. You can use more or less of the beet depending on your appreciation for this earthy veggie. Garnish with a lemon wheel and a few cherries, and enjoy!

True Blood! (aka fresh berry & beet juice)

Also, if you’re not watching True Blood…. I don’t even know what to do with you.

Featured, Get Juiced

Get Juiced

freshly washed apples and parsnips

OK, it’s time to come clean. Sarah and I aren’t very good at eating vegetables. Despite the CSA box and good intentions, it’s just really hard to get excited about vegetables, unless there is quite a bit of cheese and/or ranch dressing involved. And even then, it can be a stretch. But we know how important it is to eat fruits and vegetables, so it was with that in mind that we decided to take the plunge into juicing. We’re only a few weeks in, but it really has changed things around here. It’s easy, it’s fun, you feel good about yourself, and you probably should! Look at me, I just drank 5 handfuls of spinach. Spinach!

Omega Juicer making apple & parsnip juice

Look at it go! Chewing up those apples and spitting ’em out.

We had thought about buying a juicer for some time, but we were hesitant to make the investment. Juicers can be pretty pricey. Two things helped sway us. First, we tried some pretty vegetable-y juice at Kramer’s (a health food store near where we work) and discovered that vegetable juice isn’t totally disgusting. Hey, maybe we could start juicing! Second, I happened to read a pretty excellent review/essay on juicing on, which pointed out a good, mid-priced juicer. This was an immense help as the options out there can be overwhelming, with a large range of prices and juicer types. For a juice novice, it’s pretty hard to make any sense of it.

Omega 8003 Juicer

So we ended up buying the Omega 8003 for around $200. This is a mid-range juicer, but it comes with a 10-year warranty and feels like it’s built to last. It’s basically a big motor with an augur attached to it that crushes whatever you put into it, extracting the juice and expelling all the fibrous bits. It makes short work of any kind of leafy green you give it, but is a little bit hesitant around some fruits and more watery vegetables like cucumbers. Overall, however, we’ve been pretty impressed with it’s performance. It’s also quiter than I was expecting. It’s a slow methodical crushing — not like a blender or some centrifugal juicers. This is ideal, because it will keep nutrients intact and not allow too much oxidzation to occur, allowing your juice to stay fresher longer.

fresh apply & parsnip juice with the leftover fiber

Fresh juice on left, fibrous remains on right.

So thats a bit about what we’ve been up to — getting juiced! Later we’ll share the first juices we’ve been making and how we’re feeling about our investment.

fresh fruit & vegetable juice

Fresh juice! Recipes coming soon…