How Ozark Akerz Farm Got Its Name
The journey to naming Ozark Akerz started in late 2006 with a mugshot and fingerprints at the Welwyn Garden City Constabulary. I was applying for a green card to the United States. Part of the requirement was checking for criminal records in every country I had lived in since the age of 16. This included 3 countries, Canada, Denmark and my residence at the time, United Kingdom.
My mugshot and fingerprints were sent to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), MI5 and MI6 (yes, James Bond’s MI6) and Interpol. Once they had been submitted, there was nothing to do but sit back and wait for criminal records to arrive in the mail, which took 9.5 months, the same as a Pineywoods Cattle gestation period. The US Embassy in London contacted me and said I had been cleared for the next stage: more paperwork and a medical exam followed an interview with Embassy staff.
The day of interview at the US Embassy, my wife Sue and I were nervous. Let me explain why.
Nine years earlier we had eloped from Denmark to Egypt to get married. Our ‘ceremony’ was a civil service witnessed by our taxi driver Omar and two random men that had been pulled into the room by Omar including a dude from Saudi Television. During the service, I was told I had to pay Sue’s dad 100 Egyptian Pounds as a dowry. “This is tradition in Egypt,” Omar whispered, “but you get special foreigner price, only 100 Egyptian Pounds!” he said with a smile. By the look on the faces of the other couples in the office, they thought this was an absurdly low dowry.
Earlier in the week we had learned from our friend Abdul that he had paid his bride’s father 10,000 Egyptian Pounds in cash and 3,000 Egyptian Pounds in gold. He had also bought a house and jewelry for his wife. The jewelry was insurance. If the couple ever got in an economic pinch, his wife would give him the jewelry to sell.
Following the ceremony, we walked to a Wimpy Burger fast food restaurant in downtown Cairo for our wedding dinner while 5 copies of our marriage certificate were prepared. When we returned a few hours later, the details on the certificate were read out loud to confirm them. They had my paternal grandfathers name wrong. Handwritten, the only way to change it was to scratch out his name with a razorblade and correct it on all 5 copies. Omar stopped at a florist on the way back to the hotel to buy us a big bouquet of flowers, he was beaming with happiness for us.
All this happened without the knowledge of friends and family. Our friends Yvonne and Kim picked us up at Copenhagen airport upon our return, they were the first to learn of our marriage.
At this point Sue’s parents, Richard and Louise knew Sue was living with a boyfriend in Copenhagen. Sue wanted to share the news of our marriage with them in person. It would be 10 months later before she would get the chance.
Sue grew up on a farm just outside the small town of California, Missouri. We flew into St. Louis and drove 3 hours to Sue’s childhood home. Arriving at 1 AM, Sue was certain that her parents would be asleep, but Louise and Richard were both standing on the porch when we pulled up. After saying a quick hello, Louise and Sue walked through the kitchen into the living room, catching up. I was left in the kitchen with Richard. He took out a bottle of Bookers 130 proof bourbon from the kitchen cabinet and asked “You drink whiskey?”. He didn’t wait for my response before pouring us both a generous shot. I watched him closely, and when he took the shot straight back, I followed his lead. He looked at me with one eye squinted and said, “That’s not how you drink Bookers.”. He was testing me. He poured another shot and I followed his lead again, sipping it slowly.
A few hours later and after much imbibing around the kitchen table, Sue blurted out that we were married. Lou screamed with delight and Richard smiled and looked at me with one eye squinted (I learned with time that his squint was his way of questioning everything, Sue inherited that squint as did her sister Janis). We told them about getting married in Egypt and I handed Richard the 100 Egyptian Pound dowry. He didn’t skip a beat and responded, “How much change do you want?!”.
Fast forward to 2007 at the nervous Embassy interview. The heightened Islamophobia in the US and countries across Europe had us both anxious about the questions that may arise. Our marriage certificate was in Arabic after all. We had nothing to be nervous about. In fact, when I hesitated answering the question “when were you married”, the Embassy employee broke the tension by saying something to the effect that my hesitation was evidence that I was telling the truth. All hesitation aside, it’s a day I’ll never forget, April 30, 1998.
Four months later, in December 2007, we touched down in Charlotte, North Carolina and eventually found a home just outside Apex, NC. We began visiting Lou and Richard regularly, making the 2000-mile roundtrip drive twice a year. Richard and I grew close during our visits. He was a great storyteller, and I enjoyed many hours of stories from his youth, his time as a Marine stationed at Midway and the many practical jokes that he had played on unwitting targets over the years. For the first time in my life, I began to understand why people said family was important. We all laughed a lot when we were together, and I affectionately called Lou and Rich my out-laws, as opposed to in-laws.
I had never considered giving up my Danish citizenship before. It offered us a road back to Europe should Sue and I ever consider retiring to the south of Spain. But my growing bond with Sue’s parents had shifted something in me and in 2010 I raised the possibility of US citizenship with Sue. It would mean renouncing my Danish citizenship, but neither of us saw Spain on the horizon, we really liked living in North Carolina. I called US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and learned that there were two paths to citizenship, either be a green card holder for 3 years AND be married to a US citizen, or be a green card holder for 5 years. I chose the second path and set my sights on becoming a citizen in 2013.
In late 2012 I received a thick information package from USCIS including a copy of The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, many pages of questions that I could be asked as part of the citizenship test and a surprise. It turns out that you have the option to change your name for free as part of gaining US citizenship. My parents had not given me a middle name and I had always wanted one. After moving to Canada when I was 8, it seemed everyone had a middle name but me. For a while I adopted the middle name was Clyde, inspired by the Orangutan in the Clint Eastwood movie, Every Which Way but Loose. I decided it was time to add a middle name, not Clyde though.
In early 2013, I sent an email to family and friends asking for their suggestions. My parents had a few, but I told them they already had their chance! The best suggestion I got was from Lou and Rich’s neighbor Pam, a teacher at the K-12 school in California. “I think you should be Michael ‘Friggin’ Hansen” she wrote! Yes! I had finally found it “Hello, I’m Michael Friggin Hansen” Perfect! I had my middle name.
But the novelty wore off. The more I considered it the more I wanted to honor my new family. Richard had passed away in August 2012. It was a huge loss for us. As I was considering my new name, one of Richard’s stories came to mind. He had shared with me a few times (as had Sue) that his maternal grandparents had been forced to leave their home in southern Missouri as part of the creation of the Lake of The Ozarks. The Bagnell Dam would be completed in 1931 to form the lake, flooding Richards grandparents log cabin home. The farm Sue grew up on is less than 50 miles from the lake. The lake and Sue’s childhood home are located in the northern part of The Ozarks, a 47,000 square mile (120,000 km2) area that ranges from central Missouri through Arkansas and into Oklahoma and Kansas. From that story, Michael Ozark Hansen was born. I officially adopted Ozark at my naturalization ceremony in Durham, North Carolina on September 20, 2013, less than five months before we moved to what is now Ozark Akerz Regenerative Farm.
Akerz not Acres, North Carolina not Missouri
A farm needs a name. We decided on Ozark Acres. Unfortunately, a domain search found that ozarkacres.com was already taken. Undeterred, we decided the farm name would stay the same just spelled slightly differently, Ozark Akerz. We’ve always done things our own way and farming would be no different, the name reflects that.
The name has had its share of mispronunciation. In the early days we would hear many people pronounce Akerz incorrectly, pronouncing the ‘A’ as is in action instead of ‘A’ as in acres. People still think we’re located in The Ozarks of Missouri or Arkansas instead of North Carolina. Honest mistakes. A lot more people find us online by searching our tagline Graze Against The Machine, very few search for Ozark Akerz and likely misspell it when they do. Friggin’ Acres may have been easier to spell and pronounce, but who friggin’ knows if it would have been easier to find.
The name Ozark Akerz represents a journey that started in 2006 and continues to this day. There have been many stories since we started the farm in 2014, too many to share in this post. I will share one that honors my out-law Richard.
Ozark Outlaw - Born on the Farm, Raised in a Pint
In 2015, friends in Raleigh began inviting us to join them for a pint at a new brewery they had discovered, Raleigh Brewing Company. We took them up on it and combined delivering farm orders at the brewery with a cheeky pint. We met the founders and head brewer, and eventually partnered with them to create a small batch beer with organically grown jalapeño peppers grown at Ozark Akerz. I suggested the name Ozark Outlaw in honor of Richard. They loved it. Richard could eat the spiciest food, it’s like the dude had a stomach made of leather. He also loved a cold beer. Some of my fondest memories of him is when he took me to the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Jefferson City for a few cold beers and stories. Bringing together jalapeños and beer under the moniker Ozark Outlaw seemed a fitting tribute to my old friend.
On the day Ozark Outlaw was released to the public, we set up a table at Raleigh Brewing to sell our Clucking Crazy Farm t-shirts and launch our Mesquañero™ Hot Pepper Sauce at Raleigh Brewing. A lot of people came to support us. The beer was pretty good! Even friends that weren’t beer drinkers enjoyed a pint of Ozark Outlaw. Some liked it so much they had a second pint! Hats off to the head brewer for honoring Richard by converting a few more beer drinkers!
One a side note, Mesquañero™ became our most popular and bestselling hot pepper sauce. Now retired, we’re hoping Mesquañero will live on by sharing the recipe.
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