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New Farmers Academy strives to increase number of Arkansas farmers

To help replace retiring farmers, the Small Farm Program at UAPB is instituting a New Farmers Academy.

As the number of farms in Arkansas decrease and the average age of farmers increases, preparing new farmers to take the place of those who retire is becoming more important than ever before, Dr. Henry English, director of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said.

“According to the Census of Agriculture conducted every five years, the average age of U.S. farmers is now 58.3 years, up from 50.5 years,” Dr. English said.

To help replace retiring farmers, the Small Farm Program at UAPB is instituting a New Farmers Academy beginning March 2019. Its purpose is to provide farm training to individuals interested in becoming farmers or agricultural entrepreneurs. Ideal candidates are those new to agriculture, those who wish to transition into agriculture from another field such as military service or private sector work or those looking for a post-retirement opportunity.

Seven training workshops will be conducted over a seven month period to educate and train new farmers. Workshop topics include farm business and basic marketing; agricultural production practices; the use of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs; and equipment operation, maintenance and calibration.

Both classroom and hands-on education will be provided. Soil suitability for farming, profitable enterprise selection, business planning and marketing strategies will be part of classroom discussion. Hands-on activities include sprayer and planter calibrations, farm tours, irrigation demonstrations and transplanting.

Academy participants will have access to a retired district conservationist who will assist them in developing a conservation plan for their farm. This plan will identify the different conservation practices needed on their land to improve the farm. Individuals will also have access to a UAPB associate who will help those needing to apply for a USDA loan. Individuals will also be given credit for managerial training if they apply for a USDA loan.

If interested in attending the New Farmers Academy, contact the Small Farm Program at (870) 575-7226 or 7246.

The first session of the New Farmers Academy is set for Tuesday, March 19, at the S.J. Parker Agricultural Research Center Conference Room on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB).

The first session, which begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., will concentrate on farm business planning, record-keeping, enterprise selection, cash flow projects and selecting suitable soil sites.

Ideal candidates are those new to agriculture, those who wish to transition to agriculture from another field such as military service or private sector work or those looking for a post-retirement opportunity.

For more information on topics and dates of other sessions, contact Stephan Walker at (870) 575-7237. If interested in attending or if you have special needs, contact the Small Farm Program at (870) 575-7226 or 7237.

The S.J. Parker Agricultural Research Center is located at 2101 Oliver Road off University Avenue in Pine Bluff.

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