Arkansas Urban Homesteading Conference – Session Descriptions


9:30 am – SEED STARTING METHODS – Britt Talent of Rison, co-founder of the Arkansas Homesteading Conference, will go over the steps of starting your seeds indoors to get a jump start on the planting season. In addition, his presentation will include a presentation on using a super easy way to start seeds naturally using the “winter sowing” method.

10:45 amRAISED BED GARDENING – Raised beds are the perfect solution for anyone wanting to get maximum vegetable production out of a small amount of space, regardless of what your soil is like. Randy Forst, horticulturalist for the Pulaski County Cooperative Extension office, will go over the best methods for building a raised bed that can be very productive regardless of what your native soil is like.

12:30 pm – DIY HIGH TUNNEL/HOOP HOUSE – If you’re looking to extend your growing, the best way to do it is with a hoop house/high tunnel. Les Walz, staff chair for the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Office and manager of the Rison Community Garden, will discuss how you can build a low cost 18 feet by 30 feet high tunnel using materials that are readily available at your local home supply store. Les will also give you a few tips on how to use a high tunnel to grow vegetables nearly year-round.

1:45 pmCOMMUNITY GARDENING/KEYHOLE GARDENING – Master Gardeners Ruth Landers and Valerie Smith, manager and assistant manager (respectively) of the St. Joseph Community Garden, have a passion for gardening, and community gardening in particular. Join Ruth and Valerie as they discuss building partnerships and maximizing the garden experience in a local community garden.  In addition, you will also have a chance to get a firsthand look at their latest project in the St. Joseph Community Garden – a keyhole garden. Keyhole gardens are usually circular or square gardens with a compost basket in the center that is accessed through an indention in the garden. Gardeners dump uncooked vegetable scraps, manure and other organic materials in the basket to keep the composting action constant to help feed the surrounding garden.


9:30 amFOOD PRESERVATION – Fresh off her feature article in Arkansas Food & Farm magazine, Michelle Carter, family and consumer science agent and food preservation specialist for the Bradley County Cooperative Extension Office at Warren, will go over the basics of hot water bath and pressure canning to safely preserve fruits, vegetables and meat.

10:45 amTRILOGY OF FERMENTATION – Learn how easy it is to make and incorporate fermented foods into your everyday life. A small change that nets big health results. Join Margie Raimondo as she teaches the art and science of fermentation. This workshop will teach you to make kefir, kombucha and fermented vegetables. You will leave the workshop feeling confident about making your own fermented foods at home.

12:30 pmMAKING CHEESE AT HOMEJoAnn Vann, an agent with the Clark County Extension office, and her husband, Jeremy, enjoy living a simple but fulfilling life on their small homestead in southern Arkansas. One of her favorite things to do is to take the things they harvest off their homestead and turn them into product. And one of her favorites things to make is fresh cheese! Join JoAnn as she demonstrates the process of turning milk into cheese.

1:45 pmWILD ELDERBERRY FOLK REMEDY – The high content of antioxidants in elderberry have made this wild berry all the rage with those who practice natural health. Karen Talent of Rison, co-founder of the Arkansas Homesteading Conference, will show you how to find and harvest this wild berry that grows throughout Arkansas, and then how it can be combined  with four other natural ingredients to make a folk remedy that has been used to battle colds and flu.


9:30 amGROWING CULINARY AND MEDICINAL HERBS FOR THE HOME – Debbie Tripp, the owner of of Rosemary Hill Herb Farm at Royal, is a regular presenter on growing herbs to Master Gardener Clubs around the state. She will be discussing the hardiness of some of the most popular medicinal and culinary herbs, and ways to grow a collection of those herbs for home using a container or herb bed.

10:45 amEDIBLE LANDSCAPES – Ornamentals aren’t the only plants that can be used in landscapes! Janet Carson, horticulturalist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service  and author of garden column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as well as for her person blog, “In the Garden With Janet,” will show you how to incorporate edible plants into your landscape and garden areas while maintaining that beautiful look you’re striving for.

12:30 pmNATURAL BEEKEEPING –  Lori Bird of Rison, along with her husband, Trent, have been regular speakers with the Arkansas Homesteading Conference since nearly the beginning. They are the founders of Birds & Bees Honey, one of the largest natural, chemical-free beekeeping operations in Arkansas. Lori’s session will give you some insight into some of the natural methods she uses to help her hives prosper.

1:45 pmBUILDING A POLLINATOR GARDEN – Mara Leveritt and Katherine Beck with the Central Arkansas Master Naturalists will discuss building a pollinator garden that can not only be an attractive landscape for your home, but very beneficial to your vegetable garden too! The St. Joseph Center saw a noticeable increase in their vegetable production after their pollinator garden was established at the center.


9:30 am – COMPOSTING – The secret to a good garden is  the soil, and one of the best methods to building a nutrient-rich growing medium is with compost. Read Admire of the Urban Food Loop in Little Rock has advanced local food culture by making communities compostable and turning food waste into a valuable natural resource for local growers.

10:45 am – BACKYARD POULTRY –  Chickens are a great way to have farm fresh eggs, and they can be great companions as well! Heifer USA’s Erin Payne, a livestock technical assistant, and Christine Hernandez, a Heifer livestock entrepreneur, will discuss the various breeds and establishing a backyard flock.

12:30 pmCHICKEN TRACTOR DESIGN IDEAS – If you’re interested in having backyard chickens, a “chicken tractor” might be a good option for you! Britt Talent, co-founder of the Arkansas Homesteading Conference, and John Appleget, a volunteer with the Rison Community Garden, will go over the different types of mobile chicken coops and provide you with some tips on building one.

1:45 pm – URBAN FARMING – Ever thought about growing produce in your backyard for the local farmers market? Chris Hiryak has taken that idea to the next level with Little Rock Urban Farming, a community-based food enterprise located in the heart of Little Rock. Chris will talk about the challenges of turning a neighborhood yard into an urban farm producing organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers for local markets.