Jim Potts and grandchildrenPhoto Provided

Will and Stockton Potts, along with their grandfather, Jim Potts, work in the garden in Arkansas.

Potts preserves heirloom crops thanks to passion for healthy living

By Christian Toews
August 1, 2023

Despite being successful in many fields, 77-year-old Jim Potts is more driven than ever to impact the world around him.

He is passionate about helping people live healthier lives, from getting them on bicycles to growing their food in gardens.

Potts hopes to preserve heirloom seeds, including seeds from his Choctaw heritage, while promoting a healthy diet.

He is doing this partly through his family-owned company, Heartsgood Farms.

Potts grew up near Ada, Oklahoma, then lived in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where he said his Native American heritage heavily influenced him.

After getting married, he moved to Arkansas, where he still resides.

Potts has been successful in several businesses, including consulting and retail.

In 1999 he saw the need to help people live a healthy lifestyle, and he opened Lewis and Clark Outfitters, which according to Potts, became one of the largest bicycle retailers in northwest Arkansas.

After he grew his stores locally, he partnered with Wal-Mart and began developing the outdoor department of Sam’s Club.

His company was involved with their outdoor department for about ten years, and according to Potts, Lewis and Clark Outfitters remains one of the largest bicycle retailers in northwest Arkansas.

About six years ago, Potts was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

His doctor knew Potts and knew that his wife had a garden.

“My doctor told me to eat what she grows,” he remembered.

Potts began eating primarily fresh produce grown from the garden, and his health had drastically improved within a year.

This was a significant turning point in his life that inspired him to want to help others have similar success with their health.

Jim and Beth Potts
Photo Provided

Jim Potts and his wife of 57 years, Beth Potts, pose for a photo in their backyard.

Around the same time, he picked up a copy of the Biskinik and read a story about the Choctaw Nation’s Growing Hope program.

The Growing Hope seed bank allows tribal members to participate in the revitalization of heirloom seeds from the Choctaw Nation.

The term “heirloom” refers to traditional, non-genetically modified seeds with a documented history passed down from generation to generation. The Choctaw Nation’s Historical Preservation team curates the Growing Hope program. It even offers workshops to learn more about the history of these plants and prepare the food once harvested.

Potts said the Growing Hope program inspired him further to preserve his cultural heritage, so he immediately contacted Jacqueline Putman.

“She told me, ‘We really have a need for people to grow and preserve our seeds,’ and she sent me some seeds,” said Potts.

He now uses traditional methods to grow these Choctaw heirloom seeds and has even begun working on getting these seeds into the hands of the 4-H clubs across the country.

Potts said that as a Choctaw who has suffered from Type 2 diabetes, his goal is to help others understand the importance of diet to their overall health.

“You know we suffer more from this thing called diabetes, five times more or five times higher, depending on your source, than other people in the nation. There are probably many causes for that but diet, mostly likely, is one of the biggest contributors. I can’t change people’s lifestyle. I can’t go out there and get them to start growing their own vegetables,” said Potts. “What we can do is give them the tools and inspiration to do that.”

According to Potts, much of this mission is expressed in its name.

“Heartsgood” came from a getaway he took with his wife many years ago, where they stayed at a bed and breakfast by that name.

It always stuck with him, and when he developed his heirloom seeds company, he wanted to incorporate the name somehow.

“What we want to do is do good for our hearts physically, spiritually and emotionally,” he said.

Another reason Potts feels compelled to give back is the example set by the Choctaw Nation when they helped the people of Ireland by sending 170 dollars during the great famine.

Potts discovered that he is both Choctaw and Irish. The story of the Choctaws’ generosity despite their own need has inspired him.

“The moment I learned about the Kindred Spirit Sculpture, I got the vision of what’s possible by carrying the universal message of the story that even in the face of adversity, the lasting impact of the extension of compassion, kindness, empathy and aid to those perhaps less fortunate than ourselves,” Potts said. “It is a great example that I believe serves as an example of being ‘light and salt’ to the world and in keeping with the spirit and heart of our Creator.”

Even though he now lives in Arkansas, Potts said Oklahoma has shaped him.

“I’ll always be an Okie. I think we are resilient. I think we are overcomers and going through the toughest times of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression,” said Potts. “We learned so many great lessons from our ancestors and those generations before us that we might do well to think about today,”

To find out more about Heartsgood Farms, visit heartsgoodfarms.com.

For more information, visit the webpage on the Choctaw Nation’s Growing Hope program.