My partner, Cody Hopkins and I (Andrea Todt) started our farm, Falling Sky Farm, in 2007. It is in Marshall, Arkansas - about 100 miles north of Little Rock.
Why We Farm
Cody and I met and read Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006. We both love food, and we were looking for a way to stay in the beautiful rural Arkansas Ozark's. Both of us are college educated with degrees in physics and outdoor education, but there just weren't many job opportunities for us here.
After visiting Joel Salatin's Polyface farm in Virginia (featured in Pollen's book) we decided to give small-scale, grass-based livestock farming a go. That was five years ago. We are committed to raising delicious healthy food in a manner that respects the animals we raise as well as the land we raise them on. We are also passionate about participating in, and supporting, our local economy and community.
What We Raise
On our farm we raise meat - poultry, pork and beef.
|Cody with happy turkeys|
The chickens, ducks, and turkeys for meat are raised in floor-less pens "tractors" which are moved daily to fresh pasture - keeping the animals clean and healthy while at the same time fertilizing our pastures and building organic matter in our soils. We also have a flock of hens who lay beautiful, delicious and nutritious eggs. (We are planning on increasing our flock size this year to make sure we can supply more of you with this high-demand item!)
The hogs reside in our wooded acreage - keeping the understory cleared out while foraging for acorns and other tasty treats. Both our hogs and poultry are supplemented with a GMO-free grain ration.
We raise beef cattle that are strictly grass-fed and finished. We manage all our animals intensively, moving them regularly to allow plenty of rest and regrowth time for our pastures and woods, and plenty of high-quality food for our animals. Frequent moves also aid in breaking parasite cycles, allowing us freedom from chemical dewormers and the use of antibiotics to keep our animals healthy.
|Beef: it's what's for dinner.|
As for help - we have grown large enough that we now employ, at least part-time, several members from the local community to help us with chores during the busy season (spring and fall is when we raise the majority of our broilers - meat chickens), various projects that are always happening on a farm (fencing, running water-line, and building projects mostly), and then the big one- processing all of the poultry.
All our chickens, ducks and turkeys are processed on-farm, and on butcher days we'll have up to 7 other people working with the two of us to get the birds from their (we hope) happy life in the pasture to their packages in the freezer.
By doing all of our own processing for the birds we are able to keep their lives as stress-free as possible and ensure a clean and respectful environment for their journey to your kitchen. Some day we would love to be set up to be able to process all our animals on farm, but for now we do haul our hogs and beef to a certified USDA butcher.
|Andrea & baby Sam at the Argenta Farmer's Market in NLR|
Joys of Farming
One of the greatest parts of our "job" (more a lifestyle in my mind) is that I really appreciate the connection to the land and the animals that comes from farming. It is not always as romantic as it might seem (in fact it's often not) but there are certainly those days when it's beautiful outside, and you have a few minutes to sit and enjoy the serenity of the cattle herd grazing enthusiastically in the new paddock you just moved them too, or to take a walk in the woods to check the pigs and sit for awhile on a log and enjoy them rooting or resting contentedly in the leaves. There is always something new happening - never a dull moment!
Challenges of Farming
By far we have found that the most challenging aspect of farming is how many hats it requires you to wear. Not only do you have to be good at (in our case) raising and caring for animals, but you also have to be a marketer, a bookkeeper, good at networking with other growers/farmers and able to fix all those little things that always come up on a small farm, and in a small business. All of this must be accomplished with the lack of infrastructure that exists for small farmers (finding mills that will get us the grain we want, finding butchers for our beef and pork- much of what used to be available in most small communities around the country is now lacking).
It is certainly very rewarding work, and the appreciation and commitment of our customers is a huge help in getting us through the challenging times. We also have the support of friends and family who help out tremendously.
The Future for Falling Sky Farm
I am looking forward to experimenting with growing some grains this year- to supplement a small part of the grain we purchase for the animals, but mostly for our own consumption and that of our customers! We shall see how successful I am... if it goes well I anticipate doing more next year and incorporating the use of draft animals (a passion of mine).
We are very much looking forward to living on the farm full-time. As soon as our land-owners finish their new house we will be moving into their old one. In the past we have lived in an airstream camper from April to Thanksgiving on the farm. Soon we will be in a real house instead of the airstream (which is great, but will begin to feel a little cramped with a boisterous 17 month old when we move back up for the spring season!)
Where can you find us?
We direct market with all of our products. The majority of our customers and our venues are in Little Rock and Conway. You will find me, and our 15-month-old son Sam, at the North Little Rock Argenta Farmer's market most Saturdays through the market season. We have also attended the Hillcrest market several times.
For on-line markets, we sell through both the Little Rock Locally Grown and the Conway Locally Grown markets (in fact, we started the CLG market in May of 2008 in an effort to create another outlet for our products, as well as for those of other local farmers).
Several restaurants in Little Rock have our meat on the menu. To name a few: Brave New, Ashley's at the Capital Hotel, Heifer Cafe, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, and The Root Cafe.
We offer a Meat Share Program- a years supply of meat (for most families): 1/4 beef, 1/4 pork, 24 chickens and a turkey delivered to your home in it's own freezer! For customers interested in purchasing in bulk this is certainly the most economical way to buy from us.
If you are interested in hearing more about our farm keep an eye on our Falling Sky Farm facebook page, and check our website periodically. I'll have information about our spring open-farm posted soon! Thank you for your interest and support of our farm. Happy eating!