Farm Family Salute

2023 Edition

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By Karen Rice e 76th annual Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program has announced the 2023 County Farm Families of the Year. e Farm Family of the Year program begins each year with the selection of the top farm families in each county and culminates in December with the selection of the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, who will then go on to represent the state at the Southeastern Expo Farmer of the Year event in Georgia. Arkansas has had two Southeastern Farm Family of the Year winners, Brian and Nan Kirksey of Clark County in 2008 and Wildy Family Farms of Mississippi County in 2016. Since 1947, the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program has served as a vehicle to recognize outstanding farm families throughout the state. e objectives of the Farm Family of the Year program are to give recognition and encouragement to farm families who are doing an outstanding job on their farm and in their community; to recognize the importance of agriculture in the community and state; and to disseminate information on improved farm practices and management. Selection of the Farm Family of the Year includes efficiency of production, conservation of energy and resources, leadership in agricultural and community affairs, home and farm improvement, and home and farm management. e 2023 County Farm Families of the Year in Northwest Arkansas are: • Benton County – Wes and Laura Evans, Evans Farms in Gentry • Boone County – Brian and Tammy Lemon, Lemon Farm in Lead Hill • Carroll County – William and Phylicia Chaney, Chaney Farms in Green Forest • Crawford County – Jared and Jessie Williams, Williams Farms in Mulberry • Madison County – Kenny and Megan Harris, Harris Farm in Huntsville • Sebastian County – Tracy and Julie Leonard, Leonard Farm in Huntington • Washington County – Travis and Ashley Appel, Appel Farms in Elm Springs We are proud to tell their inspiring and heartwarming stories in this special section. Each one conveys the perseverance and hard work that has made America's family farms a unique part of the rich tapestry that makes up our great country. Sponsors of the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program are Arkansas Farm Bureau, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas and Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas. Additionally, support for the program is provided by the Arkansas Agriculture Department, Arkansas Department of Career Education, Arkansas Press Association, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and the USDA's Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development. Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of almost 190,000 families throughout the state who are working to improve farm and rural life. 2023 County Farm Family of the Year program salutes seven farms from the area By Karen Rice Farming is a way of life for many, but the actual number of family farms and farmed acreage in Arkansas has been decreasing. Several organizations, including the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food, and Market Center of the Ozarks, and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust which are supported by the Walton Family Foundation, are stepping forward to address the issue. Preservation of the Family Farm "Many new and beginning farmers have the passion to farm, but they are struggling with knowledge, experience and access to capital that challenge their success in farming," said Heather Friedrich, assistant director for the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food. "e modern small family farm needs to be close to communities so they can sell to a variety of markets, however, land in these areas is also desirable to commercial developers, which oen makes it too costly to purchase and support a farm business." Growing More Farmers and Local Food Northwest Arkansas is known for its livestock production, particularly cattle, chicken and hogs. Not so long ago, the area was also known for its orchards, nuts and specialty crops. With the recent growing popularity and success of the farmers markets in our area, fruit and vegetable production has increased. However, there is still an unmet demand for more of these crops at a wholesale scale, and many young farmers are interested in going in that direction. To address this, the Walton Family Foundation funded a feasibility study in 2017 to figure out what barriers prevent the growth of more fruits and vegetables in our area, and how to overcome them. e study also looked into how growing more fruits and vegetable could be profitable for local farmers in the long run. As a result of the findings, the foundation worked with local partners to establish the Northwest Arkansas Food Systems initiative, a multi- faceted program designed to strengthen the capacity of small- and mid-size farmers to grow more fruits and vegetables locally. Farmer Education and Training e University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture created the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food, which offers the hands-on Farm School and Apprenticeship programs. ese programs provide experiential learning opportunities for those wanting to learn how to create a farm business by growing fruits and vegetables for local and regional markets. e apprentices work on farms as part of their education, which in turn benefits the established farmers. The Center for Arkansas Farms and Food also partners with local cooperative extension offices to support established farmers by offering continuing education classes in fruit and vegetable production. Market Center of the Ozarks: Growing Markets A critical piece is opportunities in the market. Farmers said that they would be happy to grow more fruits and vegetables if they had the markets to sell them. is means creating additional markets beyond the local farmers markets. e Walton Family Foundation is funding the development of the Market Center of the Ozarks, a 45,000-square-foot multi-use facility being built in downtown Springdale. e center will house operational partners to help connect locally grown products to Northwest Arkansas markets, and will have space for local food aggregation and distribution capabilities that connect farm- fresh food with wholesale and direct-to-consumer markets. Farmers and food entrepreneurs will also be able to use the center to process whole produce into fresh and frozen products for wholesale, retail and institutional markets, as well as access shared commercial kitchens to grow and scale their businesses. Market Center of the Ozarks is set to open in 2024. Farmers Access to Land e role of Northwest Arkansas Land Trust is to preserve farmland, and provide access and support to farmers. NWALT manages NWA Farm- Link, a free service that allows both owners of farmland to farm seekers to connect with each other or resources. NWALT also can help farmers lease or purchase land with conservation easements that allow for agriculture. Northwest Arkansas Land Trust encourages established farmland owners to contact them to learn more and connect with the network they are building. For more information, visit;; and https://farmandfoodsystem. Preservation of the family farm 2023 Farm Family Salute 2 June 2023

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