It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!Read More about this safari issue.
Arkansas has always been an agricultural state. As a matter of fact, it’s the state’s top industry. While we often cover tourism projects, we love to dig into the incredible work of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and the farmers, growers and makers that keep Arkansas a competitive space for food production and artistry.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture will host the Arkansas Grown Conference & Expo this weekend. The conference focuses on those who fill Arkansas’s food systems cycle, but it is open to anyone interested in any aspect of agriculture. A Saturday Showcase Expo at the Hot Springs Convention Center is open to the public. The Arkansas Grown and Made showcase will connect consumers with Arkansas-made products and allow conversation and in-person shopping directly from producers.
The Arkansas Grown Conference began in 2023 to create conversations with farmers and the Department of Agriculture and develop a focus on the local food system. The expectation was that just over 100 people might attend and facilitate future growth. Over 450 attendees and 70 vendors registered within two weeks of the conference. Event planners had to close registration and adjust to the tight space. It was a splendid success!
Accordingly, this year, the Hot Springs Convention Center will offer more space and a central location for attendees statewide. “The Spa City is always a great host, and we are thankful to be in a place that gives many people access to the Conference and Showcase,” shared event coordinators.
Our goal is to strengthen the Arkansas local food system by equipping our producers with training and connections.”
While the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is the conference host, other partner organizations make it a successful event.
Before the weekend event, attendees can register for a farm tour at Fat Rabbit Farms in Hot Springs. Fat Rabbit Farms is in their second year of consumption production. They are a small market farm focused on sustainable farming and regenerative agriculture. Fat Rabbit products are sold at three regional farmer’s markets, an on-site farm stand, and through five restaurants focused on farm-to-table cuisine.
Farm Tour attendees can expect to learn more about microgreen production, vermicompost production, high tunnel/greens and lettuce production, and the certified naturally grown process. Visitors will tour a small market garden walk-in cooler and learn about an on-site lettuce washing station. These processes are essential to building a growing farm with long-term sustainability.
During the conference, break-out sessions sponsored by several partner organizations above will focus on
The conference is an excellent resource for using experienced producers to introduce attendees to farming and elevating the production possibilities for multi-generational farmers. Attendees will find quality and value in the variety of topics offered and the experience of attendees like the owners of Keels Winery, Staff Attorneys for the National Agricultural Law Center, Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries, Arkansas Food Innovation Center, as well as extension agents from across the state.
The conference will include notable general session and keynote addresses from Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward, John Lewis of the National Weather Service, Michael Marsh of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, John Kennedy of Agritourism Life, Gary Matteson of the Farm Credit Council, and Dr. Jennifer Conner of the Arkansas Heart Hospital.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture developed the Arkansas Grown label to distinguish products made in Arkansas and to use the program to promote those products and the farmers, growers and makers who supply them. The program hosts multiple goals, including connecting consumers and producers, distinguishing Arkansas-based products, and making critical connections in the food supply chain cycle. Membership is free, and any Arkansan that makes an agricultural product is eligible to join.
Every Arkansas Grown member is listed in a directory of products and is eligible to use the trademarked logo in promotion and marketing. You will often see Arkansas Grown on a jar label, produce stand, or website to set apart the product.
Arkansas Made started in 2014 as an expansion of the Arkansas Grown program to include makers and producers beyond the solely agricultural community. Buying products with these labels immediately indicates you support Arkansas and state producers.
“The trend to Buy Local has seen a significant increase in momentum. Consumers have been more interested in buying from a local source since the pandemic. Over 80% of purchase decisions start with an online search. The network offers a free online platform for producers and makers to reach consumers and market their products.” Being part of the network makes you part of the conversation to stabilize and grow the Arkansas food system.
For more event information, visit the Arkansas Grown Conference website.
Photos used with permission from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Thanks to Amy Lyman for her help with details in the article.
Sign up for our weekly e-news.
Get stories sent straight to your inbox!
We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.