We are already a sustainable family farm in many ways. We raise heritage breed livestock with love on pasture and in the woods, we source our feeds locally, we don’t use any hormones or chemicals on our animals or our land. We sell our products locally at farmer’s markets, through community minded businesses, and through a thriving farm share. We work side by side with our children and find deep satisfaction in our labor. Our business is profitable, our products are highly acclaimed, and we have achieved the highest animal welfare designation available to owner-operated farms.
But we can do more to create a fuller, deeper kind of sustainability for the farm, the animals, and our lives as farmers.
Our goal is to shift more of our labor onto the animals and the ecosystem of the farm, which will release us from the physical and financial burden of outside inputs.
After 12 years building our business and the last 18 months getting settled on this new property, we are ready to launch phase one of our exciting and ambitious plan: planting a forest of trees that all bear nutritious, delicious forage for our livestock to eat.
With our resources alone, we can only afford to purchase slower growing trees and won't be able to share incredible forage finished meat with our community for 20 years or more. With your support, we can mix in faster growing, faster bearing trees that will feed our animals and our community in just 4 or 5 years.
Katie started Farm Girl over 11 years ago as a city kid with some farmy dreams. Motivated by her love of animals and science, and concern for our food system, she combined two of her passions, excellent food and humane animal care. What started as a small flock of sheep on some rented land grew steadily and by 2009 she had her first season at the Argenta Farmer’s Market in North Little Rock. By 2013 Farm Girl was producing 90 hogs, 4,500 chickens, 1,500 dozen eggs, and 1,500 gallons of milk per year which were sold through a farm share, 2 farmers' markets, a farm store, and restaurants across Central Arkansas. The business had outgrown the original lease and the 30 acre homestead Katie and Travis called home and they began shopping for a new property that would have plenty of room to grow.
In early 2015, they found just the right spot along the Fourche River in western Perry County. With 132 acres of rolling pasture, young woodlands, and stand of mature hardwood trees, the property was perfect for the future of Farm Girl. After 18 months of getting settled, it's time for the real farm building to begin!
If you'd like to read more about the process of moving to the new farm, head over to the blog and start with "Why we're doing 2015 the hard way"
The steps to planting this forest of forages are pretty straight forward. We've already completed an inventory of the young trees growing in our future forest area. We have also created a topo map of the front half of the farm that helped us to identify key slope points and ideal planting rows. We used our tractor and a hand-built subsoiling shank (like a rod that sticks deep into the soil) to create underground channels for collecting rainwater and providing pathways for little baby tree roots to grow. And we have carefully planned out how and where to build fences so that we can continue to graze the pastures around the new trees without damaging them. We have also determined the best path for the water line installation. So now all that's left is to order and plant the trees, build the fences, and install the water line!
The money raised in this campaign will help us purchase:
- Seedling fruit and nut trees including 3 varieties of white oak, one variety of red oak, Water Hickories, Pecans, Pawpaws, Native Persimmons, American Hazelnuts, Chestnuts, Wild Apples, and Crab Apples.
- Electric fencing supplies to protect newly planted trees. This includes wire, insulators, fence posts, connecting crimps, and fence switches. The new fence will tap into the existing system, so no new fence charger is needed.
- A water line to extend from the pond and water main at the front of the property, down the center of our land to the very back. This will allow us to water the young trees as needed during the first few years and improve our livestock rotations so that the newly planted areas can be protected from grazing. This cost includes pipe and fittings, spigots, equipment rental and fuel, and labor.
THANK YOU for your support! We are so grateful to you all for supporting our farm all these years and for dreaming about a better future with us. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Katie or Travis if you have any other questions about our project. We are happy to share!
Risks and challenges
There are very few potential challenges that could prevent us from sourcing the trees, planting them, protecting them from livestock and wildlife, and keeping them watered through the first couple of years. We have experience planting young trees in pasture settings, the equipment and experience to lay water lines and erect protective fences, and the trees themselves are readily available from multiple sources. Based on our farming experience, we feel completely confident that with full funding we will be able to complete this phase of our twenty year plan and deliver most of the rewards by June of 2017 at the very latest. The first hogs finished on forages should be ready November or December of 2020.
The real risk to this project is the passage of time in that eventually as the trees grow, there could be some kind of infection that effects a particular tree species, or a particularly brutal summer or winter that stunts them. We hope the risks of disease, pests, and extreme weather, while outside of our control, will be dramatically lessened by the diversity of trees that we intend to plant.
Another way we are protecting the future of the young trees is by planting far more trees than are needed to complete this forest. If all goes well, and a high percentage of the trees we plant are thriving, we will selectively thin them over the course many years. If weather, disease, or pest come into play and some saplings are lost, there will still be a huge number to continue growing into the forest we envision.
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