Raised bed gardening, cane berries, herbs, needlecraft and small livestock will be among the educational sessions being presented at the South Arkansas Homesteading Conference to be held Friday and Saturday, April 8-9, at the Pioneer Village, 200 Yaney Street in Rison.

This will be the third year that the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service and the Cleveland County Herald have teamed up to present this conference dedicated to teaching the skills needed to help achieve a self sufficient, sustainable lifestyle.

Trigger James (left), a veteran raised bed gardener from Rison, shows off some of the compost being made in the compost corral at the Rison Community Garden in the Pioneer Village at Rison, the site of the South Arkansas Homesteading Conference. The garden contains 27 raised beds in total, including seven that are located inside a do-it-yourself high tunnel/hoop house.

Trigger James (left), a veteran raised bed gardener from Rison, shows off some of the compost being made in the compost corral at the Rison Community Garden in the Pioneer Village at Rison, the site of the South Arkansas Homesteading Conference. The garden contains 27 raised beds in total, including seven that are located inside a do-it-yourself high tunnel/hoop house.

There will be free admission on Friday, April 8, with gates opening at 4 p.m. The Rison Community Garden, located on the grounds of the Pioneer Village, will have an open house to allow visitors to see some growing trials that are underway. In total there are 27 beds that make up the garden, with some of them dedicated solely to growing trials.

In addition, the garden also features a do-it-yourself 18 feet by 30 feet “hoop house” that allows backyard and small farm gardeners to extend their growing season. Seven of the 27 beds are located inside the hoop house.

“Our emphasis is always on finding affordable ways to help people produce more of their own food, whether its in their backyard in the suburbs or out in the country,” said Britt Talent of Rison, organizer of the conference.

Les Walz, staff chair for the Cleveland County Extension Office, oversees the Rison Community and the growing trials that are conducted there. He will be on site Friday, April 8, to answer any questions.

Of the 27 beds that make up the Rison Community Garden, 20 are located outside and seven are under the DIY hoop house. Walz is currently conducting growing trials to see how various crops react to an extended growing season using the unheated hoop house.

Also on Friday evening, the Friends of Pioneer Village will be hosting at “Beans & Greens” fundraiser supper beginning at 5 p.m. to help support restoration efforts of the historic buildings that make up the Village. The cost of the meal is $7.

Friday’s agenda also includes a vendor expo, demonstrations and two educational sessions: “Chicken Tractor Design Concepts” and “Making a Wild Elderberry Folk Remedy.”

Gates will open at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 9, with educational sessions beginning at 10 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth ages 7-17; and free for children age 6 and under.

Session topics include developing healthy garden soil, herbs, natural beekeeping, needlecraft, tomato grafting, raised beds, homesteading cow, growing cane berries, small ruminants (goats/sheep), homestead enterprises (revenue opportunities), and preserving heirloom recipes.

In addition, there will be a track dedicated youth activities. Among those activities will be a session on “orienteering,” which is a sport where participants use a map and compass to navigate between checkpoints along an unfamiliar course.

There will be ongoing demonstrations and displays throughout going on throughout the day including blacksmithing, Dutch oven cooking, needlecraft, chicken tractors, poultry sheep and more.

For more information, like Arkansas Homesteading Conference on Facebook or go to arkansashomesteader.com. The conference organizer, Britt Talent, can be reached at (870) 325-6412 or by email at [email protected] Talent said the conference is also accepting vendors. He said the conference has great potential for local crafters.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.