Written by Jack and Pam Fortner, OFN Contributors
In this day and age of “charge now, pay later,” Drew and Katie Wood have decided that their lifestyle will be “pay as we go.” Their 20-acre farm in north Arkansas near Berryville came complete with an old run-down 1920s farmhouse. Instead of tearing it down and building a home they would be making payments on for many years, they’ve been remodeling it. Drew uses recycled wood and reclaimed building materials. This young married couple, with their baby boy, Dakota, are living in a vintage motor home. Katie said, “I like it so well, I don’t even want to sell it when the house is complete.”
Although Drew is from this neck of the woods, Katie is from Massachusetts and has a degree in philosophy, of all things. They met in Rhode Island when they were both working in the boating industry. Drew was working on carbon fiber sailboats and having success racing them back and forth to Bermuda.
But now they’re in Carroll County, involved in a Eureka Springs CSA. Katie explained, “CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically it means that your customers have interest in the farm. They pay for things up front. It really helps pay for things during the growing season when there’s a cash flow problem. In our case they each get a chicken a week for a 30-week growing season.” The balance of the flock is sold at the farmers market in Eureka Springs, Ark., and at a local natural food store. In addition to meat birds, the Woods also have free-range laying hens and sell the eggs. The laying hens are kept inside a house on wheels, which is moved from location to location, so the chickens can free-range but still have their laying nests close and their roost at night.
One of the things that helped the Woods get started was a grant that Drew received from an organization called the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The group “mobilizes veterans to feed Americans.” The Woods have been able to acquire an incubator, a brooder, and they’ve built pasture pens for their chickens and Heritage turkeys. The pens are moved at least once a day. Their brooder house is full of chirping turkeys, Cornish Cross chickens and guineas. Later they’ll be moved out to the pasture pens. As they grow in number, Drew will have to build more pens. The turkeys are kept in pens at night, but are allowed to free-range during the day. He’ll find eggs in nests that the turkeys use during the day. “I go out every evening and hunt for turkey eggs,” Drew said.
The Woods take the turkey eggs, incubate them, and raise their own chicks instead of buying them. Drew said, “The incubator is really important. If we buy the chicks, they cost about $9 a piece.” So producing their own has been a cost-saving measure.
Katie and Drew are proud of their Heritage turkeys. They got their first pair from a friend. Katie said, “Heritage turkeys are better foragers and bug eaters. They’re one step from being wild. The meat is darker and more flavorful, with lots of leg meat.” Drew added, “They’re not like the ones in the stores that are little turkeys with big breasts. We have been able to sell all we raise so far.”
A small flock of Nubian goats runs on the property, too. One of Drew and Katie’s goals is to grow a larger herd and one day have enough goats – or maybe sheep – to set up a small dairy and be able to produce cheese. But they’ll do it slowly, so as not to incur debt.
Drew and Katie have set up bee hives. The bees love the old pear trees on the property. They help pollinate the pear trees, which produce beautiful fruit.
As to plans for the future, the Woods would like to build a barn, and gradually increase the numbers in their farming enterprise. Drew said, “We’d like to have between 3-5,000 broilers.”
Although they both have part-time jobs, Katie and Drew intend to ultimately make their living on the farm. Katie said, “We want this to be our income.”
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