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RISON – The Arkansas Homesteading Conference will be held this Saturday, May 15, at the Pioneer Village in Rison.
The event features a variety of speakers from across the state discussing topics related to developing a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Admission is $10 for adults and youth age 17 and under are free.
The conference will have a pre-conference session on seed-starting methods presented by by Britt Talent, organizer of the conference, at 9 a.m. His session will take a look at starting seeds using the traditional plastic insert trays, soil blocking and winter sowing.
At 10 a.m. three concurrent educational tracks will begin. Visitors are free to choose any session they would like to attend throughout the day.
During the noon hour, Ed Montgomery of Rison will be demonstrating blacksmithing while Glenn White of Rison will be demonstrating how to mill lumber using an Alaskan mill and a chainsaw. The Rison Community Garden and the Pioneer Village will also be open.
Here is the schedule for each track:
10 a.m. Herbs for Folk Remedies – Cindy Faulk of C the Difference Boutique in Hot Springs and Debbie Tripp of Rosemary Hill Herb Farm at Crystal Springs have been long-time members of the Herb-N League at Hot Spring with Debbie currently serving as the group’s vice president. The duo has presented at several Master Gardener meetings across the state. They will discuss several traditional herbs used in folk remedies and how our ancestors processed and used them. You may discover what you thought was just a weed is actually a quite useful plant that was widely recognized in traditional naturopathic treatments.11 am. Hydroponics – If you’re looking for a way to produce food year-round, hydroponics is an answer. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in nutrient-enriched water. Randy Platow of Complete Greenhouse at Rose Bud has used his training as an engineer to develop a variety of hydroponic systems to grow everything from vegetables to fruit trees! His session will focus on a simple bucket system that is small enough to fit inside a garage or spare room, thereby allowing you to grow crops throughout the year with proper lighting.1 p.m. Poultry on the Homestead – Poultry selection and management for your homestead is not a one size fits all exercise. Variety of poultry species and breeds can overwhelm your judgment. Carey Robertson of CWC Farm at Bradford will help you find the system that works for you and the species/breeds that will accomplish your goals.2 p.m. Growing Sweet Potatoes – High in fiber, low in calories and packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes are considered as a “superfood” by many nutritionists. Dr. Shaun Francis of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture 1890 Cooperative Extension Program and Keith Gresham, staff chair for the Dallas County Extension Office at Fordyce, will lead a session on growing this superfood.
10 a.m. Soap Making – Ashley Thompson of Sweet T Farm in Jefferson County handcrafts soaps and lotions made from goat’s milk that she collects on their farm. Ashley creates a variety of soap products from traditional old fashioned soaps to men’s soaps and herb soaps. Ashley will be leading a step-by- step demonstrations and give you an idea of what kind of equipment you will need if you ever decide to take on soap making yourself.11 a.m. Fermenting Foods from the Garden – Melanie Pessarra, owner of Mindful Kitchen and certified nutritionist, is an advocate for real food in the Central Arkansas community. As a mother of two, she has first hand experience with combining contemporary nutritional knowledge with a love of good food in the kitchen and onto the plates of her loved ones. Mindful Kitchen specializes in community nutrition education workshops and events and manufactures elderberry syrup for retail throughout the state. In this session, Melanie will be presenting on fermenting vegetables from the home garden. Fermented food are a great source for probiotics for the digestive system, which can help improve your overall health as well as strengthen your immune system.1 p.m. Kitchen Enterprises – Thanks to some recent changes in the state’s Cottage Food Laws, it is now easier than ever to turn your home kitchen into a thriving side business. Tim Kinnard of the The Kinnard Homestead podcast and YouTube channel based in Central Arkansas will provide an update on the latest changes in the Arkansas Cottage Food Law that now allows people to sell cottage foods online. In addition, Britt Talent, organizer of the Arkansas Homesteading Conference, will give an overview of the ShareGrounds Processing Kitchens, a new program that provides support and commercial food processing facilities to help aspiring food entrepreneurs develop a retail food product.2 p.m. Capturing Rainwater – Many gardeners prefer to capture rainwater to irrigate their gardens throughout the year. Britt Talent, organizer of the Arkansas Homesteading Conference, will lead a session on various ways to capture rainwater with a special focus on building your own system utilizing trash cans or plastic drums to capture rainfall from roofs. The session will include a look at the two-barrel expandable system he built at the Rison Community Garden.
10 a.m. Tomato Grafting – While everyone prefers the taste of an heirloom tomato over anything you can get at the store, the truth is heirloom varieties are more susceptible to disease and less productive than their commercial counterparts you see at the grocery store. However, there is a way to blend the best of both worlds – grafting. John Gavin, staff chair for the Bradley County Cooperative Extension Office at Warren – the tomato capitol of Arkansas, will demonstrate how to graft your favorite heirloom tomato variety onto a commercial tomato root stock that will give your heirloom tomato plants with better protection against disease and improve productivity as well.11 a.m. Cover Crops for Better Soil Health – Despite all our achievements, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. Improving the health of our topsoil should be a high priority of those who farm today. Bill Robertson, Cotton Extension Agronomist with the University of Arkansas System Division Of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service for 17 years and an advocate of no-till farming systems, will lead a discussion on using cover crops to improve soil health – and healthy soils are the basis to healthy food production.1 p.m. DIY High Tunnel – If you’re looking to extend your growing season, high tunnels/hoop houses are a great option. While there are a wide variety of ready-built hoop houses available, Les Walz, staff chair for the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Serivce at Rison and manager of the Rison Community Garden, will give a presentation on how they used PVC pipe and other materials readily available at your local home improvement center to build an 18×30 hoop house like the one at the Rison Community Garden. The session will also include a tour of the hoop house.2 p.m. Greenhouse Management – Sean Pessarra is the owner of Mindful Farmer, a farm supply, greenhouse manufacturing, and farm consulting business located in Central Arkansas. Mindful Farmer high tunnels and greenhouses are popping up across Arkansas. For the past five years, Sean has managed 3-acres of certified organic mixed vegetables for Heifer International, provided training to regional farmers, and researched and developed tools and techniques for increased profits and efficiencies. Sean completed his Master’s in Environmental Science and spent seven years as an environmental consultant and field biologist. In this session, Sean will provide some tips on using your greenhouse to grow vegetables.
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