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Every county in Arkansas has a local cooperative extension office that provides various services to the public. These offices operate under the University of Arkansas and the U of A System’s Division of Agriculture. If you are interested in homesteading, backyard gardening or hobby farming and are unfamiliar with how, why or when to utilize your cooperative extension offices services, read on because you are likely missing out on some incredible information.
The mission of the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is simple. They will “strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices.” In a nutshell, they conduct and gather research on gardening, beekeeping, agriculture, food science, chicken keeping, nutrition, family care, economic development and more, then provide training that supports the public in these areas.
In 2022, the Arkansas Cooperative Extension provided nearly 14,000 educational classes through their county offices, local schools and libraries thanks to their local agents and volunteers with 4-H, Arkansas Master Gardeners and Arkansas Master Naturalists. They assisted thousands and provided nearly $14 million of free services to Arkansas residents.
Homesteading, hobby farming and families returning to their roots by gardening or keeping chickens are becoming more common. Knowing where to start can be overwhelming, and the Cooperative Extension Service provides resources for individuals along every step of their journey.
Getting started is as easy as visiting the UAEX website, clicking your county and viewing a list of available services and upcoming classes. Whether looking for soil testing, gardening advice, canning classes or online resources, you will surely find something valuable.
Free soil testing is one of the most used services provided by the extension cooperative. Soil testing can be done in the fall or the spring by bringing a sample to your local office. The results can provide valuable information about amending the soil so it is the best quality for whatever you plan to grow.
Gardens are a great way to supplement your family’s food supply. Getting started may be as simple as picking up a plant from the local nursery and sticking it in the ground, but when you try to keep those plants alive and get them to thrive and produce, things can get tricky. Learning how to identify and deal with pests, supplement soil and select the best plants for your space can go a long way toward having a successful garden. When the season comes to an end, learning how to preserve and can your harvest is a valuable skill. Various upcoming in-person and virtual events are available for all skill levels. Find a complete list here or check out these upcoming offerings.
Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 12 – 1 p.m.
White County Extension Office
Get Arkansas-specific tips for the best homegrown tomatoes! Please register via the online form or call Sherri Sanders at (501) 268-5394
Grow Your Own Groceries: Strawberries
Thursday, March 16, 2023, 12 – 1 p.m.
Learn how to grow healthy, nutritious food in your backyard and get tips for new ways to cook and prepare your harvest. In this presentation, you will learn how to grow and cook strawberries.
Grow Your Own Groceries: Herbs
Thursday, April 13, 2023, 12 – 1 p.m.
Learn how to grow healthy, nutritious food in your backyard and get tips for new ways to cook and prepare your harvest. In this presentation, you will learn how to grow and cook with herbs.
Apiculture in Arkansas is essential for a successful plant harvest. Honeybees are not only our state insect; they are responsible for pollinating at least 35% of our food crops and more than 75% of our flowering plants. Many farmers are learning about beekeeping to help their farms to thrive, and beekeeping is also growing in popularity among hobby farmers and backyard gardeners. The UAEX offers a complete online beekeeping course and several live workshops throughout the year.
Have you considered selling your homemade jelly or your grandmother’s famous banana bread at the local farmers’ market? You may want to scale up and bring your product to local stores. Making sure you have everything in place and are following all the guidelines for safe food production is simple when you consult with the Extension Cooperative. There are resources for market research, product development and product labeling, and they can even help you make sense of Arkansas’s Cottage Food Act. Click for available food business resources.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Departments of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Arkansas 4-H programs which emphasize “Head, Heart, Hands and Health” are designed to prepare young people to step up to the challenges in their communities and provide youth with the skills to lead for a lifetime.” Youth will learn valuable life skills through hands-on opportunities at local libraries, schools and regular club meetings. Learn more about Arkansas 4-H and how you can become an adult volunteer or youth member with an organization in your area.
Education is the key to building a successful homestead, garden or hobby farm. The free resources available through the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service are designed to help you be successful in your journey. Visit them online or visit your local county office in person to learn more.
Farmers’ Market photos courtesy of the Main Street Searcy Farmers’ Market.
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