Tontitown’s Ranalli family keeps up tradition, quality.  Named Washington County’s 2006 Farm Family of the Year

Story by Susannah Patton, Pictures by Brooke McNeely – Northwest Arkansas Times

norbWhen Nazzareno Ranalli migrated from Italy to Tontitown in 1907, he brought with him the tradition of the family farm. Three generations later, the Ranalli farm is owned and operated by three brothers, Norbert, Paul and Chris Ranalli. By continuing the tradition of hard work and the values of farm life their grandfather started, the Ranallis have earned the title of 2006 Farm Family of the year for Washington County.

“Every year we honor an agricultural family that is well-respected in the community and committed to agriculture,” Washington COunty Extension Agent Johnny Gunsaulis said. Gunsaulis said the Ranallis exemplify the ideals of family farming. “This is a lot of family members all working together,” he said. “They’re a great asset to the community.”

The farm was started in 1907 primarily with vineyards. The brothers expanded the farm onto its current operation with a produce market, farm equipment sales and feed and tack sales. One of the reasons the farm stands out, according to Gunsaulis, is because it’s a diverse operation, with not only the production side of agriculture but also the business side.

The family operates a market on U.S. 412 where they sell the produce grown on the farm behind it, including melons, cucumbers, berries, paches, eggplants and other vegetables. They also sell ju8ice made from the grapes grown on the farm. Cobblers, breads, cookies and jams are also for sale at the market, made in the kitchen on-site by the Ranalli sister Agatha Penzo. Penzo also makes the homemade pasta. “We try to keep the best quality we can in the market,” Chris Ranalli said.

Between taking care of the crops and equipment and running the market and the family’s feed store, every family member has a job to do. “We enjoy what we’re doing and hope to continue on,” Ranalli said. “We hope our children and grandchildren will be able to have a good business.” The three brothers combined have six children and seven grandchildren. “We’re a family-oriented business,” Norbert Ranalli said.

The dedication of the family members over many years is what earned the farm recognition, and Ranalli said he’s proud that the farm was honored in its 100th year of operation. “It’s an honor to have this bestowed upon us, we appreciate it very much,” he said. The 80-acres of farmland contains 30 acres of crops of produce and grapes. The farm also produces greenhouse crops for sale to gardeners and several varieties of grape cuttings for sale to grow-out nurseries.

The Ranallis were recognized for their farm management practices aimed at maintaining or improving air and water quality and wildlife habitat. They harvest dead trees for firewood use and a windmill to aerate the pond for algae control and fish habitat.

They use trickle irrigation on vegetable and grape crops using well water and rotating field to field to conserve water. Ponds are used for water containment for cattle and erosion control.