Break through the surface to explore the living, breathing ecosystem beneath our world this September! “Dirt” — a new documentary about saving our soil — delves into how Arkansas farmers, ranchers and more are improving their operations by helping the environment.
Meet the producers
Margie Raimondo, a Sicilian-American originally from Los Angeles, owns and operates Urbana Farmstead inside the city limits of Little Rock. She raises chickens and grows vegetables, fruits, and herbs on just over 1 acre of land. Utilizing high tunnel grow houses, cover crops, crop rotation, and micro-irrigation, she can produce many of her crops year-round. The farm includes a commercial kitchen where Ms. Raimondo makes value-added products from her crops, including soups, breads, preserves, and herbal medicinally. These are all sold in an on-site market open to the public.
Raymond Kelley spent almost 25 years working for the Safeway and Harvest Foods grocery company. When a supplier decided to sell his wholesale produce business, Mr. Kelley purchased it and now operates it as his primary source of income. But he still runs his cow/calf operation on the side. Many of his family members have left farming over the years, but Kelley keeps on because he loves it; he enjoys being outdoors and he enjoys watching the cows grow and thrive. He uses managed grazing, moving his cows around, making sure the grass recovers before the next grazing rotation. Managed grazing gives Kelley healthy soil and healthy grass and enables him to run more cows than he would be able to with conventional grazing.
Richard White raises cattle near Royal, not too far from Hot Springs. He didn’t originally intend to be a rancher. He owns a custom cabinetry shop and is also opening a gym. He just put a few cows on some of his land about 3 years ago as an experiment. He really enjoyed it and now the ranch is official. He uses fenced paddocks and controlled water systems for rotational grazing, installed heavy use areas to control compaction and erosion, and biomass plantings to improve his forage. His family has taken to ranch life and he’s acquiring more land to expand the operation.
Dallas Peebles is a life-long farmer, working over 600 acres of land he grew up on near Augusta in Woodruff County. Dallas and his wife Katie produce organic specialty crop vegetables and honey from their on-site hives. They utilize irrigation management, multi-species cover crops, crop rotation, and reduced tillage among other sustainable practices and even maintain 14 acres of pollinator habitat. The Peebles have also expanded into agritourism, opening their land to the public in the fall season for a pumpkin patch and a 20-acre corn maze.
Adam Chappell owns and operates an 8000-acre row crop farm with his brother Seth outside Cotton Plant in East Arkansas. The farm may have been in the family for four generations but the Chappells don’t shy away from innovation to keep their operation sustainable. Utilizing cover crops, animal integration, furrow irrigation, and no-till methods have significantly improved the soil health on the farm in the last several years. Adam is constantly researching and applying new practices and is passionate about sharing his knowledge with other farmers. He was a co-founder of the Arkansas Soil Health Alliance and has become a nationally-recognized speaker.
Phillip J. (P.J.) Haynie III
Phillip J. (P.J.) Haynie III is a fifth-generation row crop farmer whose family owns and operates large farms in several states across the country. He has been farming in Arkansas since 2017. With a degree in Agriculture and Applied Economics, Haynie knows that sustainable practices not only conserve natural resources but also make financial good sense. He is a nationally-recognized advocate for Black equity in agriculture serving as Chairman of the National Black Growers Council and has received the honor of being named a White House Champion of Change.
Patti and Donnie Larimer
Patti and Donnie Larimer aren’t full-time ranchers. Patti owns and operates a child care center and Donnie is full-time in the Arkansas Army National Guard. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t passionate about their goats. They use rotational grazing, controlled water systems, and heavy use areas on their small ruminant ranch in Greenwood near Ft. Smith. Their managed grazing practices contribute greatly to the health of their animals. The Larimers started with the intention to put a few animals in local ruminant shows but soon switched to selective breeding and now manage a herd of almost 200 goats.