The Legacy of a Simple Life

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

There is something nostalgic and pure about the idea of picking blackberries, gathering eggs and enjoying birds chirping in the morning breeze from your oversized front porch. It evokes feelings of a quiet and uncomplicated life, untainted by the bustle of busy streets. It is country living at its best. Nestled in the very center of Bowie County, down a long and winding red dirt road, sits a small and unassuming bit of the good ole days. Country living is not for everyone, but for Faith and William Ellis, that long dirt road represents more than the route to their home. It is a passageway to a simpler life. Long Walk Spring Farm in New Boston, Texas, has given the Ellis family precisely what they were looking for and a few surprises they were not expecting.

In 2012, after a long battle with her health, Faith was diagnosed with Lupus. A few years later, illness struck another blow with a diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Three different autoimmune diseases stole her health and mobility and tried to steal her life. Faith learned that reducing stress and maintaining a healthy diet was the key to managing and taking back her health as she struggled with the debilitating condition.

While living in Fort Worth, Texas, William and Faith both had careers they enjoyed. William worked at the DFW Airport as a senior procurement analyst. Faith was the Congressional Outreach Director for Congressman Michael Burgess. “I loved my job,” Faith explained, “but there was a tremendous amount of stress that triggered the autoimmune diseases.” The couple recognized that everything about living in the city added to their stress and took away from their precious time together. So, in November 2016, they made plans to move back to William’s hometown and, more importantly, back to their roots. William retired, and the couple embarked on their new journey with little hesitation. “We called our adult children and said, ‘if it’s in the attic and it’s yours, and if you want it, come and get it.’” They were out of their home within 30 days and packing themselves and their 15-year-old son into the small cabin located at their new address.

William grew up in New Boston. He and his eight siblings own the small 80-acre farm along the bank of the Red River that has been in the family for more than 150 years. Faith had lived in Fort Worth her entire life. “Years ago, you could not have gotten me to move here [to New Boston] for anything in the world,” she said. “But things change when you’re looking at your health.” She soon realized, “Healthy food is so expensive.” So, she told her husband it would be better if “we could just grow the food ourselves.”

The couple had both experienced farm life separately as children. Faith spent summers helping her grandparents on their farm in Karnack, Texas. William had spent his youth working with his grandfather on the farm in New Boston. Still, there was quite a learning curve for the pair. That first year, “William just wanted to get stuff in the ground,” Faith said, “but he ended up with so much squash that he began to look for ways to sell it.”

Faith initially knew nothing about methods for preserving what they grew but now considers herself a “pressure canning guru” and notes that she is proud of what she has accomplished. She has learned so much about making the most of their little family business. The Ellis family enjoys the fruits of their labor, from selling eggs, growing and drying herbs, harvesting and canning the spoils from the garden and even raising chickens to eat. They have most recently added dairy goats to their farm and are planning to sell milk, butter and gourmet cheeses in the near future.

In the past several years, there has been an incredible increase in the demand for healthier foods. Organically grown whole foods are being sought after more and more, and health food has become a booming industry. Now, William and Faith Ellis are doing their part for their health, family and community to provide those healthier, organically grown options. What started as a plan to retire to a simple country life has now morphed into a full-blown business. Long Walk Spring Farm is in partnership with Prairie View A&M University. Extension Agent Brandon Hawkins helps support and guide them in their growing business. The farm yields jelly, relishes, salsa, herbs, farm fresh eggs, fresh produce and even hibiscus tea that Faith ships all over the United States.

The farm will be open to the public on Saturdays beginning this month. Customers can expect cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, squash, watermelons, potatoes, onions and wild blackberries this year. Faith says they “are expecting a bumper crop.” They also sell at local farmers’ markets, including CEP Ark-La-Tex Cluster Farmers’ Co-op. Additionally, while they cannot sell off-farm, Texas Cottage Laws allow them to sell their free-range chickens processed for meat. Faith recalls that she thought all chicken was the same, “but these are not chickens like you get in the store. They are big and so tender, and you can taste the difference,” she said.

It has been five years since William and Faith made that journey to their new home. They have since built a house and a new life here in Bowie County. They travel back to the Metroplex from time to time and recognize that familiar tension surrounding city life. Faith said, “when I cross the Sulphur River on the way home, it feels like everything melts away.” With fresh air, good food and exercise, Faith’s health has improved, and every year, they are “picking up the pieces from the damage the disease has done.”

William and Faith have been married for 23 years and have six children and thirteen grandchildren, with one more on the way! Their family was supportive of their decision to relocate and reinvent themselves. Their children even come in to help when it is harvest time. In addition to Faith’s improved health, she says that this simple life “provides a sense of stability for my family. Our kids know this farm has been here for 150 years, and they know it will still be here. Someday, they can pick up where we left off.” Faith and William recognize the importance of families staying together and weathering storms together. They encourage others who are able to “go back to living a simple life with traditional skills. We need that right now.” As they ponder the benefits of their hard work and what it will mean for future generations, this couple enjoys thinking about what they are building for their children and grandchildren. As Faith says quite simply, “It’s a legacy.”

Find more information about the Ellis family and their farm-fresh products at LongWalkSpring.com or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.


 

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