“If we are to have any real hope of maintaining the quality of life that so many of us associate with the small towns and rural communities of Arkansas, we should be committed to fostering diversity in agriculture…we need to be building many different paths to success in agriculture for as many different people as we can.” – John D. Anderson, Ph.D., Departmental Chairperson for Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness University of Arkansas
The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust recently exhibited at the Arkansas Farm Bureau Diversity in Agriculture Conference in Little Rock to promote our new program, NWA Farm-Link. One of the goals for the program is to keep working lands in working hands. We aim to help underserved farm seekers, and farmland owners, access the land, tools and resources necessary to achieve their dreams and preserve our local farmland.
There were many great speakers at the event, including farmers sharing stories and tips. The land trust works closely with the University’s Center for Farms and Food. It is — among other principles — committed to diversity of food products that highlight local farmers and good food entrepreneurs in a variety of markets. John presented a compelling and inspiring case for diversity in agriculture.
What is diversity in agriculture? It includes the diversity of the farmers themselves, the diversity of what is being grown and how it is grown, and the size or scale of farming operations, and distribution through diverse markets. Farmers have understood the importance of diversity long before it was a buzzword, from the soil to the seed, to the harvest, and to their bottom line. Today, diversity in agriculture is even more important offering solutions to help combat climate change, food insecurity and to grow economic opportunity for a new generation of farmers.
At the land trust, we value the strength of diversity in all that we do. We protect species biodiversity, landscape diversity, and work with diverse partners and communities to protect our quality of life. In our farmland preservation efforts, we meet farmers “where they are”, recognizing and valuing the importance of diversity in agriculture and working together to sustain it.
When we look at the four key counties of Northwest Arkansas which make up most of our population and economic engine, we see progress and opportunity to foster more agriculture diversity. This subject has become top of mind as residents in our area — and across the nation — look for solutions to shop local during the COVID-19 pandemic to put food on their tables, and to support farmers in their communities.
According the United States Agriculture Census 2017, here are some interesting statistics to help us gauge our agriculture diversity within Arkansas at the county level.
You can read John’s remarks in their entirety here about The State of Arkansas Agriculture, which will provide more color and analysis of these Ag Census stats.
To learn more about NWA Farm-Link or to help us support farm seekers and farmland owners, please contact us at 479-966-4666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.