What is a Discovery Farm?

Discovery Farms are privately owned farms on which demonstrations and research regarding the environmental impact of agricultural production is conducted. At each site we are evaluating the interaction between such factors as topography, soil type, and water drainage characteristics and their impacts on environmental and economic sustainability of the farming enterprise. In each case, the farmer has the final say on which conservation practices will be evaluated.

Discovery Farms are designed to be temporary demonstration units representative of Arkansas agriculture. Monitoring will occur for five to seven years. Initial data collection will be analyzed to establish baseline values for nitrate, phosphate, and sediment content of runoff water associated with current farm management methods. As sampling continues throughout the duration of the project and more information is collected, farm owners may evaluate the suitability of their management techniques and implement any changes they deem necessary.

Why do we need the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program?

Arkansas farmers are under increasing pressure to manage nutrients in an environmentally sustainable manner. In some sectors of the farming community, this has created constraints to remaining economically viable and competitive in today’s global market place and is threatening the long-term economic sustainability of some segments of Arkansas agriculture. Arkansas farmers are concerned about the impact their operations have on the environment and are eager to implement best management practices which conserve or improve the quality of the land they will pass to the next generation of agriculturists.

Knowledge gained from the Arkansas Discovery Farm Project will help farmers, natural resource managers, and decision-makers develop more effective practices and policies which are based on sound science and could positively affect millions of acres of privately owned land in Arkansas. Information gathered from this project will provide a knowledge base to help address larger-scale issues such as hypoxia, water quality impairments, water quality credit trading, air quality, and water conservation. Discovery Farms have the potential not only to benefit agriculture but also society at large.

What is the goal of the program?

The goal of the Arkansas Discovery Farms (ARDF) is to promote and document sustainable and viable farming systems that remain cost effective in an environmentally sound manner.

What are the objectives of the program? 

To conduct on-farm research and monitoring which assesses the need for and effectiveness of best management practices.

To provide on-farm verification and documentation of conservation practices which ensure sound environmental land stewardship.

To develop and deliver educational programs from data collected on-farm that will assist producers in achieving both production and environmental goals increasing the overall sustainability of Arkansas' farming enterprises.

Where are the ARDFs?

 Nine farms have been chosen (at eight locations), across the state.