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The Full Story

THE PROBLEM

Agriculture is the essential industry of Arkansas and the wider Mississippi Delta, with millions of acres dedicated to growing crops like rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, and a variety of vegetables. However, conventional farming practices have come to rely on heavy tillage, excessive chemicals, and unsustainable water usage, causing unintentional downstream consequences on the ecology and biodiversity of the environment and impacting the profitability of farmers who use these methods. 

Our land is eroding, water sources are depleting, and excessive chemical use is harming both the environment and crop quality. Small farmers face economic challenges as they struggle with high chemical costs, while the consolidation of land into the hands of a few large operators threatens diversity and sustainability.

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THE SOLUTION

Fortunately, there's a sustainable solution. Regenerative agricultural practices build healthy soil, use less water, and reduce the need for expensive inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. By adopting regenerative practices, farmers can improve crop quality, reduce their expenses while maintaining yields, and create a healthier ecosystem.  

But any time farmers adopt new practices, they take on risk.  Delta Conservation (DC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, helps farmers manage that risk through research, training, and market development. We work with agricultural and biological experts, including local farmers, agronomists, and scientists from Arkansas State University, the Rodale Institute, and the University of Arkansas, to develop the best practices suited to the Delta ecosystem, minimize uncertainty for farmers, and maximize the profitability of regenerative agriculture.

SUPPORT OPPORTUNITIES

In 2024, we will begin a three year trial of water-efficient regenerative rice, partially funded by a USDA grant and conducted by top experts in this field.  This unique research program is the first of its kind in the United States.  We are also beginning a large-scale environmental impact project in partnership with scientists from the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University, and the private sector, seeking to help farmers get paid for positive environmental impact.  And we are embarking on initial trials of an indigenous corn cultivation technique that could revolutionize the industry.  All of this activity has profound potential, and all of it needs financial support.  By supporting DC, you are driving positive change in agriculture, the environment, and the economy

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Individual

  • Donate: Your contribution supports our research and initiatives.

  • Adopt an Acre: Join our mission by adopting an acre, a bird box, or tree planting.

  • Legacy / Planned Donation: Consider leaving a legacy gift in your estate plans.

  • Memorial Giving: Honor a loved one's memory by supporting Delta Conservation. 

  • Start a Fundraiser: Mobilize your network and community by launching a fundraiser for Delta Conservation.

Corporate

  • Corporate Challenge: Join our corporate challenge by contributing at a specific tier. 

  • Workplace Matching: Encourage your employees' charitable giving by offering workplace gift matching.

  • Adopt an Acre: Demonstrate your commitment to sustainable practices by adopting acreage at Bearitage Farms. 

  • Company Initiative: Tailor a custom partnership with Delta Conservation that aligns with your company's values and objectives

  • Sponsorship: Stand out as a prominent sponsor of our initiatives

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EXPECTED RESULTS

Through regenerative agricultural practices, the methodologies developed through our research will go into full scale production on farms across the Delta.  Delta Conservation will prove the models and then share the knowledge to partner farmers.The mission is to put your charitable donations to work by enhancing the economic viability of the region while protecting the environment.

Rice Research

In 2024, Delta Conservation will begin a three-year research trial on regenerative-organic system of rice intensification (SRI). Regenerative-organic is an ecological philosophy that can be applied to any crop, but so far research on regenerative organic rice in the United States has been minimal. System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a cutting edge rice cultivation technique that holds the potential to maintain yields while using dramatically less water. No research in the United States has yet been done on combining these two methods, and the potential of such a combination is enormous.

This research trial is being directed by top experts in regenerative and organic agriculture in Arkansas in collaboration with water and rice research scientists from the University of Arkansas. In 2023, Delta Conservation landformed a 30 acre parcel at the request of these experts, and University of Arkansas donated a surface water recirculating system and installed it on this field. The stage has thus been set for finding the most environmentally benevolent and water conserving rice cultivation techniques possible in the Delta ecosystem.

Your help is needed to make the most of this study. For instance, multiple varieties of rice, as well as different species of cover crop, need to be tried together to find the best combinations. Lots of different equipment needs to be used and assessed. All of this, as well as the labor and scientific analysis involved, costs money. Your contribution will help this research achieve its maximum potential.

2024 Overview

Environmental Impact

Delta Conservation is also working with environmental and biological scientists from the University of Arkansas and from Arkansas State University, as well as from the private sector, to measure the environmental impact of regenerative organic agriculture in the Delta ecosystem. The reason for this is that farmers are eligible for payments for having a benevolent environmental impact, both from the government and from the private sector, but in order to receive these payments, they need locally-sourced data to back them up. In short, scientists have to be able to verify that certain practices will have certain environmental impacts before farmers can be paid to have those impacts.

 

Delta Conservation is working to develop that necessary local data, and you can help. A wide range of scientific analysis needs to be done. Water experts need to analyze the impact on wetlands and rivers, soil scientists need to evaluate organic matter and microbial life, biologists need to measure biodiversity, and a dozen other things of this nature, and all of it costs money. Paying farmers to heal the earth benefits both the economy and the environment of the Delta, and it all starts here.

Preliminary Three Sisters Trials

In 2024, Delta Conservation will conduct trials of an ancient indigenous farming method that was once widely used by Native Americans in our region. This method is sometimes called the “Three Sisters,” because it cultivates squash, beans, and corn together, in a symbiotic and sustainable relationship. Three Sisters has not been pursued on a large scale in Arkansas in hundreds of years, and knowledge of the best crop varieties, combinations, and techniques has been lost. But the fact that it was successful in our region for so long, such that it was a primary staple of the local indigenous diet, and that it was farmed entirely without chemicals and with simple farming implements, suggests that it is ideally suited to our specific ecosystem, and that it could thrive if revived.

 

In 2023, Delta Conservation built a large garden plot surrounded by high fences that wildlife cannot penetrate or surmount. This is our preliminary test plot, where we will conduct small trials of innovative cropping systems, and expand those that succeed to larger plots in the following years, seeking to maximize environmental benefit and farmer profitability. In the 2024 season, we will conduct initial trials on Three Sisters cultivation, and you can help. We need to try a variety of species of corn, beans, and squash in a variety of combinations. We have the land, the labor, and the experts on hand. But these things cost money. With your support, Three Sisters could revolutionize commodity production in our region, with far reaching benefits for our environment and our economy.

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