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The Center for Arkansas Farms and Food has officially opened registration for both the 2021 Farm School and Farm Apprenticeship program. These programs aim to unleash a new wave of small-scale farmers across NW Arkansas who are part and parcel of the larger vision to position our region as a national model for food grown locally. Learn more about the programs below.

Farm School

Are you interested in a career growing specialty crops of vegetables, fruits, herbs or flowers? Do you want to gain a deeper understanding of the issues that are involved in farming in Northwest Arkansas? The Farm School might be right for you!

The Center for Arkansas Farms and Food (CAFF) Farm School is an 11-month program of experiential learning that combines hands-on farming with core knowledge classes in production, business, and legal issues. This comprehensive approach is specifically designed for beginning farmers of specialty crops. Students gain an in-depth understanding of the farming production systems and business applications needed to succeed. The Farm School prepares farmers to become specialty crop entrepreneurs, contributing to local and regional foodsheds in Arkansas.

Applications are open until October 30, 2020. The program starts in January 2021.

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Farm Apprenticeship Program

Are you interested in farming as a career, but want to gain experience working beside a successful farmer? Would you like to advance your farming skills in a working-farm setting? The Farm Apprenticeship program might be right for you!

The program matches apprentice areas of interest with mentor farms, providing real farm working experience. Apprentices learn alongside successful farmers, getting a taste of “farm life” before starting their own farm businesses. The CAFF apprenticeship program lasts one to two seasons, depending on apprentice interests. The program includes a core set of classes with curriculum topics that complement the hands-on learning. Read a story about a recent participant in the program HERE.

Applications must be submitted by December 15, 2020. The exact on-farm start and end dates for each apprenticeship are based on the needs of the mentor farmer. Start dates are typically in late winter.

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Farm Apprenticeship Program

Are you interested in farming as a career, but want to gain experience working beside a successful farmer? Would you like to advance your farming skills in a working-farm setting? The Farm Apprenticeship program might be right for you!

The program matches apprentice areas of interest with mentor farms, providing real farm working experience. Apprentices learn alongside successful farmers, getting a taste of “farm life” before starting their own farm businesses. The CAFF apprenticeship program lasts one to two seasons, depending on apprentice interests. The program includes a core set of classes with curriculum topics that complement the hands-on learning. Read a story about a recent participant in the program HERE.

Applications must be submitted by December 15, 2020. The exact on-farm start and end dates for each apprenticeship are based on the needs of the mentor farmer. Start dates are typically in late winter.

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The Larger Vision

With support from the Walton Family Foundation, the Northwest Arkansas Food Systems initiative aims to position the area as a national model for local food grown in healthy soil, while also supporting the local economy and providing access to healthy food for all.  To achieve this, the initiative will help connect new and existing small-scale farmers to land, technical assistance and capital. It will also improve farmers’ access to local wholesale and direct-to-consumer markets by providing aggregation, sales and distribution, and processing services.

In addition to the programs listed above, there are a few other efforts of note designed to help new farmers in the region get started and thrive:

  • The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust launched Farm Link, an online network that connects farmers looking to access land with owners interested in new opportunities for their property. Read a story about the Farm Link program HERE.
  • The Northwest Arkansas Food Conservancy opened a food hub that aggregates and distributes locally grown produce to meet the demand of wholesale markets. Learn more about this work HERE.

Learn more about the Northwest Arkansas Food Systems initiative below.

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Farm Facts

1

Number of acres being farmed in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington Counties

231

Number of farms growing fruits, vegetables and nuts in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington Counties

45

the increase in the number of farms growing fruits, nuts and vegetables in Benton and Washington counties
Did you know Northwest Arkansas is also home to a tech startup called AcreTrader, an online farmland investment platform focused on lowering the barrier of farmland ownership for people who aren’t experts in investing in the asset? According to the founder Carter Malloy, “Farmland has provided 11 to 12 percent average annual returns for nearly 30 years.” Read more about the startup below. 
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