Experienced farmer Allexcia Rankin is raising over 60 varieties of organic produce, orchard crops and sheep in Western Arkansas.
In western Arkansas, experienced farmer Allexcia Rankin is painstakingly converting land covered in invasive cedar timber into productive, certified organic cropland. She raises over 60 varieties of organic produce, orchard crops and sheep.
Identifying as an “old-school” farmer and an Arkansas native, Allexcia grew up tending row crops which later transitioned into a large ranch. Her vocation has been agricultural ever since—commercial chicken houses, hundreds of sows (hogs), cattle, sheep, truck patches, row crops, and now organic gardening for farmers’ markets. In 2010, she purchased the 10 acres that would become Red Rooster Farms in repossession. At the time the land was 60% timber and she is still engaged in the laborious process of converting it from invasive cedar (which roots out other trees and acidifies the soil) to pastureland to maximize the land’s health and production potential.
Steward financing covered the cost of establishing fencing and a barn for Allexcia’s sheep, a replacement water well, and the enclosure of her high tunnel to allow for year-round crop production.
The ultimate goal is for Red Rooster to achieve self-sufficiency. “The farm will, in my mind, be self sufficient when it can pay for its own expenses,” Allexica explains. “In order to do that I have to have all of the pastureland at top notch levels to minimize hay and grain purchases in the future. Doing that will improve the nutrition that the sheep receive [and] increase the number of viable lambs.” Increasing the amount of land under produce production will also increase the farm’s annual income, and with the help of organic inputs, restore the soil quality from its cedar-caused acidity. In order to maximize profitability, Allexcia strives to reduce costs by implementing independent, on-farm solutions. Restoring the farm’s well instead of paying for city water, selecting perennial grass seed, and developing a sufficient barn for winter months and the lambing season will all reduce long-term costs. In addition to continued clearing of cedar, the latest project is orchard planting. Currently 16 trees are in the ground, including cherries, peaches, apples, plums, and pears.