Young couple builds their farm in a permaculture manner
Jed and Sarah Bicker, originally from West Little Rock, Ark., had farming dreams that were stifled by their meager 2 acres in Ferndale, Ark.
This led the family to explore land options that would ripen their future in agriculture. After nine months, the duo purchased 27 acres in Hattieville, Ark., with intentions to raise chickens, turkeys and even grow an orchard.
“We started Hattieville Valley back in August,” Jed said. “I had grown up coming to the Hattieville area in the summer for church camp, and my wife went to college at Arkansas Tech. We felt comfortable moving our family to the area.”
The farming life has always been present in Jed’s life. His parents farmed 115 cattle and hogs, while his grandparents exceeded that by having 220 head of cattle. Beginning at the age of 14, Jed found himself running the day-to-day operations for his parents’ farm, which resulted in his decision to acquire an agriculture management degree from Arkansas State.
Today, Jed, Sarah and their 2-year-old, daughter Elenor have their hands full with hundreds of different birds.
“We raise about 480 broiler chickens per month through the spring, summer and fall,” Jed mentioned. “That number reduces to about 220 in the winter. We also have Cornish Cross and Freedom Ranger chickens. We raise them in 6-by-10 mobile tractors, and they are moved daily.”
Jed points out that this process allows them to give the chickens a new salad bar of grass every day, along with the feed rations that the couple gets mixed just for their farm at Livestock Nutrition Center in Atkins, Ark.
“Our farm is considered a regenerative permaculture farm, which means that we try to raise animals in a way that adds to the ecosystem,” Jed said. “We move animals in a way that mimics nature, and this allows left over pathogens to be devoured by our animals, which lowers food waste and makes for much cleaner food.”
Jed and Sarah strive to keep their farm and environmentally friendly as possible, which in turn makes for exceptional product.
“Fertilizer or pesticides are not used at our farm,” Jed stated. “Moving the chickens keeps pathogens down and gives our grass an amazing jolt of natural fertilizer. The use of grass and non-hormone, no antibiotic foods also makes the chicken incredibly nutrient dense and full of flavor. This movement also builds soil and helps to ensure that our farm stay carbon negative.”
The Bicker’s farming abode is also full of egg layers that come from a variety of Plymouth Rock chickens. These chickens are very hearty, and according to Jed, they strive in this area. However, Sarah likes to add a dash of color to the cartons by mixing in Cream Legbars and Green Queens.
The Bicker family does not stop at chickens. The couple also have 10 Chinese geese, 25 laying ducks and 250 turkeys.
“We used the Chinese geese for border predator control,” Jed said. “The turkeys are going to be for Thanksgiving, though. We plan to have pre-orders up for them.”
Jed also plans to expand into the pork enterprise with Hereford pigs in the forest on non-GMO feed.
Social media is another huge aspect of Hattieville Valley. Every week, Jed posts a new recipe in hopes to teach the community how to cook and prepare chicken. Many of the meals he whips up are frozen and ready to be bought by hungry customers.
“We have been blessed to have an inspected kitchen provided to us by Camp Peniel, a local church camp in the Hattieville area, and it has allowed us to expand into the prepared food sector,” Jed stated. “So far, we have had great feedback. Families love being able to pull a homemade, local meal out of their freezer after a long day.”
Hattieville Valley has caused a positive ripple within the community of Hattieville, Ark. The Bicker’s are bringing a fresh and high spirit to all those who enjoy cooking and farming. While the farm is still growing, it is safe to say that there is no telling what the family will put their hands into next.
“We sleep soundly knowing we do all we can to give our animals a healthy and happy life while they are with us,” Jed said. “Building this farm has been one of the most challenging, but fun things I have ever gotten to do. I can not wait to see where it takes us.”