CONWAY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas PBS will launch the new monthly agricultural podcast “The Growing Season” with host Ben Dickey on Friday, May 13.
According to a press release from Arkansas PBS, “The Growing Season: An Agricultural Podcast” will follow the stories of six Arkansas farmers as they work through a year on their land. Listeners will get an inside look at “what it truly means to be a farmer today, and the stressors and struggles that come with that commitment.”
The podcast will be available at myarpbs.org/thegrowingseason and wherever podcasts are found with a new episode releasing on the second Friday of each month.
“Arkansans love our digital storytelling on all the platforms where they watch, and have loved our broadcast content for more than 50 years. Now we’re sharing these important Arkansas stories in a whole new way through this new podcast. Special thanks to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture for being a strong partner in supporting this content,” said Arkansas PBS CEO Courtney Pledger.
The journey begins in March when the farmers get to work in the fields, barns and greenhouses, planning for the upcoming year. In the spring, the season takes shape as the soil wakes up. The difficulties of the season will present themselves – broken equipment, underperforming crops, heavy loans and other stressors.
As the summer heat sets in, the work of the Arkansas farmer only gets tougher. The simple complications of springtime have grown into full-on worries and shortcomings for the season, but the work doesn’t let up. For a troubled farmer, summer months are all about keeping their head above water.
The end of summer means harvest – one final exhausting push to the finish line. Weary and exhausted, it’s only now that the farmer gets a clear understanding of how their growing difficulties will impact their day-to-day well-being.
Winter means putting everything away and planning to avoid the pitfalls of the previous year. A farmer must at once always be looking forward to the expectations of the next season and looking back at the complications of the last.
Episodes will address such topics as the unpredictable demands of the farming lifestyle; different types of stress and their effects on the body and mind; how the costs of farming have exploded with inflation; the wear and tear of never taking a day off; deteriorating mental health; the suicide rates among farmers; mental health and self-care; and more.
“The Growing Season” is hosted by Ben Dickey. Born in Arkansas in 1977, Dickey is a singer, songwriter, musician and actor. He has released two solo albums, “Sexy Birds and Saltwater Classics” and “A Glimmer on the Outskirts.” However, Dickey is best known for his role in “Blaze,” the 2018 film where he played the role of Blaze Foley, another musician from Arkansas. Dickey’s grandparents farmed in Arkansas for many years, and he is excited to lend his voice to telling their stories.
Farmers featured in the podcast include:
- Darrin Davis – 2022 will be Darrin Davis’ 32nd season of farming. A lifetime row crop farmer and current mayor of his hometown of Lake View, Arkansas, Davis grew up watching his father and grandfather work hard to find a place on the land. He is determined to be successful, to give his children and grandchildren some place in this world to call their own.
- Larry Galligan – After growing up on his parents’ ranch and sale barn in Clinton, Arkansas, Larry Galligan went on to earn a degree in entomology and worked for several years at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. However, in 2020, Larry took his West Fork farming operation, Riverside Specialty Farms, full time and has been growing organic vegetables and greens ever since.
- Ruthie and Grace Pepler – Dogwood Hills Guest Farm allows guests from all over the country to take part in the chores and experiences of small farm life. Ruthie and Grace Pepler take as much pride in opening the eyes of their visitors as they do in taking care of their animals and family just outside Marshall, Arkansas, near the Buffalo River.
- Will and Rachel Norton – Will Norton grew up raising cattle right beside his father. He even bought his first few cows from his dad at just 13. Now, Will has a family of his own, a few more cows and a few more acres – but he’s glad to be continuing the family business. Even in these uncertain times.
- Donna Kilpatrick – With over 25 years of experience in agriculture, Donna Kilpatrick specializes in pasture-based livestock production, ecosystem restoration and land stewardship. She leads Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture and literature from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, where she worked on the college farm, and a master’s degree in nonprofit management from The New School in New York, NY. Donna lives at Heifer Ranch with her wife Liz and corgi puppy Austin, who she is raising to be a trained cattle dog.
- John Michael and Rachel Bearden – This family operation just outside of Friendship, Arkansas, is farming cattle, hay, quarter horses, sheep, and timber. They are carrying on the family farming legacy, as Rachel has become the sixth generation to raise cattle along their Ouachita River farm. John Michael, a former agriculture instructor, manages the farm full time. As a county extension agent, Rachel loves that she is not only making her farm better and more profitable, but she is also helping other farmers across the state do the same.
Podcast producers for the series include:
- Antoinette Grajeda, who served as Arkansas Soul’s inaugural editor-in-chief and helped produce “Ozarks at Large” at KUAF.
- Hilary Trudell of The Yarn, an initiative that amplifies Arkansas voices and builds community through storytelling.
- Omaya Jones, who records and edits for The Yarn.
- Andy Vaught, Hendrix Murphy Visiting Fellow in Theatre Arts at Hendrix College.
- Jordan Hickey, an award-winning, trilingual writer and editor based in Little Rock.
“Agriculture is an inherently stressful occupation that often requires individuals to work long hours and navigate through numerous factors that are beyond their control. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is proud to partner with Arkansas PBS to tell the story of individuals that provide the food, fiber, fuel, and shelter that we all depend on every single day and what they do to keep our state’s largest industry successful into the future,” said Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward.
“The Growing Season” is funded through a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant provided by the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA), and administered by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.