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To visit the Vinson Family Farm in Rose Bud is to experience the resourceful, genuine and hospitable nature representative of people in this state. Ben and Andrea Vinson and their children live on a self-sustaining, homesteading farm with hundreds of animals, a passel of active projects and an amazing ability to embrace an unexpected path. My family’s trip to this Arkansas farm allowed us to see their operation firsthand and discover what happens around unseen corners when life doesn’t follow set plans.
The Vinson family’s YouTube channel is largely operated by their daughter, Emily, and keeps 6,000 subscribers up to date on their livelihood. Their area covers over 800 acres, but the majority of the magic happens on a five-acre plot of land.
The Vinsons currently have 150 cows that are a mix of beef and dairy. They recently started a new rotational grazing project headed up by their 16-year-old son, Lane — keeping the cows company: three pheasants, three dogs, six cats, seven goats, eight pigs, 15 sheep, 15 beehives, 58 meat chickens, 100 laying chickens, and several tilapia. The Vinsons also have multiple gardens, an engineered greenhouse, fruit and nut trees, and herbs. They use the resources they have on hand to make homemade dairy products like cheese, yogurt, sour cream and butter and have taught themselves to make soap and lotion from the goat’s milk.
It was a fun field trip for my children to visit this sweet Arkansas family of “go-getters.” Each member takes ownership and does their share of the work: dreaming, brainstorming and making things happen. It was such a joy to hear about the family’s team atmosphere. One of the highlights of our visit to the farm was seeing their massive Gloucestershire “old spot” pig, who weighs nearly 800 pounds. The Vinsons graciously didn’t mind my little chicken-wrangler catching their chickens over and over for a picture.
Emily is one of the reasons behind the creation of their YouTube channel. Several years ago, during the homemade slime craze, young people were making videos about it. Emily decided she wanted to make some videos as well. She and Lane were already used to making videos for fun, but never for the public. When Emily brought the idea to her parents, the whole family was on board with the project, as long as it would be a subject different than making slime.
Andrea grew up playing golf and living in town on a country club golf course. Now she lives out in the country where she farms, ranches, and works hard. She said she loves hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done and wouldn’t trade her country living for any other lifestyle.
I asked Andrea if they had the grand vision for their operation mapped out. “Nope,” she said. “We’ve just been rolling with it.” Each new project added to the farm was out of interest and a philosophy of “Hey, let’s try this.”
That attitude led them to several interesting projects. As part of a fascinating system, their greenhouse is powered by tilapia while plants are watered through aquaponics. The water from an aquaculture process using the tilapia is fed to a hydroponic system where the byproducts are broken down and utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.
They raise their own meat chickens and make it a family affair to prepare them for their year’s supply of poultry. Each person in the family has his/her own job and station for the day-long event of harvesting their meat chickens. They, of course, have a YouTube video about the process.
Out of all the produce the Vinsons grow to eat and preserve and animals they raise for themselves, anything left over goes to the market for local friends and family to buy. Friends in their small town of Rose Bud anxiously await the sale of produce and meat that comes from VW Family Farm. Those customers know the hard work this sweet family puts into raising healthy, clean food.
Additional endeavors on the farm include Ben’s beehives, a papaya tree and a lemon tree growing in the greenhouse with vegetables. After touring all of the farm gardens and hearing about their amazing food preservation, I learned that they could be completely self-sustaining and never have to shop for food. Since they haven’t yet tackled the project of making their own chips, they do still visit the grocery store.
Andrea continues her role as a dreamer of ideas. Ben remains the muscles and brains that make the projects happen. Andrea, Lane, and Emily maintain the farm while Ben works. When Ben is home, he is all in, making the farm run smoothly. The dream is that maybe someday the farming and ranching can be his full-time job.
Get hooked on the next Vinson Family project on the VW Farm YouTube Channel.
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