shaping future farms, food entrepreneurs and food system leaders
Studies estimate that 70 percent more food is needed by 2050 to feed everyone.
Meanwhile, the number of farms and farmers in the United States has declined for decades. Existing farmers are aging, with the average being age 58 or older. Fewer new farmers are entering the field to take their place. This also means valuable farmland is often developed for commercial or residential use. More farmers and small farms are essential for the future to sustain secure, diverse local food systems. It’s vital to capture the skills and knowledge of the current generation of farmers while initiating and supporting the next.
CAFF is dedicated to increasing the number of thriving farms and farmers in Arkansas. To accomplish this, the center provides farm education, training, networking, and resources. Creating a supportive farm community network will bring more people into farming and help retain current farmers by increasing their success.
CAFF is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. In the spring of 2017, a team of faculty and staff gathered to discuss what the future of the Arkansas Food System could be. This discussion included how the research and outreach work of the division could benefit the NWA area food system and Arkansas’s citizens. This meeting resulted in an exciting vision and several vital goals that became the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food’s foundation and mission.
- A robust, vibrant foodshed and food economy that supports local food entrepreneurs, increasing farm viability.
- A diversity of food products from local farms and good food entrepreneurs in a variety of markets.
- Policies and practices that protect biodiversity, preserve farmland, and support rural economies.
- A regional food system and culture that understands and values food
The goals of the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food (CAFF) are centered on supporting a vibrant regional food system, and the farms that make it possible. CAFF is dedicated to helping new and established farms succeed while training the next generation of farmers.
- Create experiential learning opportunities for beginning farmers.
- Provide farmers with strong foundations in farm business skills, farm management, and sustainable practices.
- Support sustainable production practices that encourage biodiversity.
- Provide opportunities for farmers to “level up” their skills.
- Support farmer networks and the regional farm community.
CAFF currently offers experiential learning programs for beginning farmers and experienced farmers wanting to expand their knowledge or markets.