We recently trained our largest Armed to Farm class since the program began in 2013: 30 veterans from 15 states spent June 12-16 in Fayetteville, AR, learning about small-scale sustainable farming. If you’ve ever wondered exactly what we do all week, check out our detailed recap below!
Monday: We spent the morning in the classroom, getting acquainted with each other, learning about farm goals, and hearing from several USDA agencies. After lunch, we headed out to Ames Orchard & Nursery to learn about growing apples, pears, paw paws, elderberries, grapes, mulberries, and more. We even got to sample some tasty Illinois Everbearing mulberries!
Tuesday: We had an awesome morning at Ozark Alternatives Farm with local farmer Paul Chapracki, learning about vegetable production and building a high tunnel. We learned about changing the oil and other important maintenance for the BCS tractor before taking it for a few test runs in a new garden bed area. In the afternoon, NCAT Northeast Regional Director Andy Pressman spoke about vegetable production and marketing, business planning, and whole-farm planning. A representative from the Small Business Administration (SBA) also spoke. Tuesday evening, several participants attended an optional, one-on-one business plan review session with Andy and NCAT Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale, NCAT Horticulture Specialist Luke Freeman, and NCAT Agriculture Specialist Lee Rinehart.
Wednesday: Today was all about livestock. We spent the morning at Ozark Pasture Beef learning about grass-fed beef and lamb from business partners Ann Wells and Ron Morrow. In the afternoon, we traveled to NCAT Livestock Specialist Linda Coffey’s place, Maple Gorge Farm. NCAT Agriculture Specialist Nina Prater gave a talk on different soil types. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agent Greg Watkins used a rainfall simulator to demonstrate the importance of healthy soil. Linda’s husband Ken, an animal science professor at the University of Arkansas, led a pasture walk. Participants got to practice setting up a polywire fence, handling sheep, milking a goat, and using the FAMACHA method to determine whether sheep and goats need treatment for internal parasites.
Thursday: We were back in the classroom in the morning, learning about funding resources from Margo and Daniel Keeton of Farm Credit of Western Arkansas. Rusty Rumley from the National Agricultural Law Center gave a very interesting talk on legal issues that farmers may face. Luke led a session on branding and social media marketing for farms. After lunch, we traveled to Across the Creek Farm to learn about pastured poultry and hogs from Terrell Spencer, who sells his meat and eggs at farmers markets and to local stores and restaurants. In the evening, we enjoyed a delicious meal of locally-grown ingredients, including Across the Creek Farm chicken, at The Farmer’s Table Café.
Friday: On the last morning of Armed to Farm, participants learned about recordkeeping strategies, digital tools for farm records, and marketing. To close out the event, each participant shared one thing they learned during the week before receiving a Certificate of Completion. One attendee said, “This was the best week of my life.” We are thrilled to hear that kind of feedback!
It was a great week, and we are grateful to have spent it with amazing participants and wonderful partners.
Learn more about our Armed to Farm program here.
Our sustainable agriculture specialists are always available to help answer your farming questions. Give us a call at 1-800-346-9140, email email@example.com, or visit our ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture website here.