Katie Short stands among her 40-strong herd of grass-fed cattle. Increasing forage quality is a top concern for her.

 

DREAMS OF A FARM GIRL

Katie Short has big plans for farming innovation

By: Michael Roberts    Photography: Lily Darragh 

“I grew up in the city, but I always wanted to be a farm girl,” says Katie Short when asked how she came up with the name Farm Girl Meats. “I’ve always had an affinity for animals and science.” It’s a love that saw her cut classes as a teen in order to visit local farms—and while such truancy might be frowned on by teachers, the result is a 132-acre farm near Perryville where Katie maintains a grass-fed beef herd of around 40 animals, over 100 pigs and “numerous chickens.” Katie Short’s farm girl dreams have come true—but she’s still not satisfied.

Since launching the Farm Girl Meats label in 2008, Katie’s protein has appeared on menus across Little Rock, with popular restaurants like The Root, South on Main, kBird and Hillcrest Artisan Meats proud to showcase her pork in particular. In addition, Farm Girl products are for sale for home consumption from Hillcrest Meats—and from Katie herself both at the Hillcrest Farmers Market and the farm’s webstore. Farm Girl also operates two farmshare programs, one from April through November and a winter CSA to “bridge the gap.”

Katie walks the grounds of her 132-acre farm with daughters Honey and Maggie. Farm Girl Meats has instituted a 20-year sustainability plan which includes rehabilitating pasture land into a forest full of fruit and nut-bearing trees (left). Katie always dreamed of owning and working on a farm, despite the difficulties inherent in the lifestyle (right).

"I always wanted to be a farm girl."

– Katie Short

Raising delicious, sustainably produced meat is more than a passion for Katie—it informs everything she does. To that end, Farm Girl is implementing a 20-year permaculture plan to make the farm completely self-sustaining. “Our beef is already 100-percent grass-fed, but we want to improve forage quality,” says Katie. “Pasture-raised pigs still get a food ration, and even though we are able to currently source all our feed locally, we want to do more to support the natural inclination of our animals.” 

What exactly does that mean? It means rehabilitating a large pasture area into a new forest full of food-bearing trees like persimmon, hickory, native pecan, hazelnuts, chestnuts and oaks—all things that keep pigs well-fed and produce delicious, high-quality meat when the animals are harvested. “We want to focus on native trees,” says Katie.

From left to right: Farm Girl Meats’ grass-fed beef has become a staple of menus across central Arkansas. Katie and husband Travis strive to feed and support the community in which they live. A watch-donkey stands among cows.

A second phase entails selective cutting in wild forested land on the farm, allowing existing trees room to proliferate while cutting down on invasive species that don’t serve the farm’s purposes. Farmers often must serve as their own electricians, mechanics and accountants, but this is a case where a farmer must become a self-taught forestry expert. “There are lots of great Facebook groups, and we have an extensive library of textbooks and books about the regenerative agriculture movement,” says Katie of her learning process.

Farm Girl’s goal is to feed its community to the best of its abilities, and developing better, more sustainable practices to raise meat is a large part of that goal. But Katie admits they can’t do it alone. “We’ll be announcing a Kickstarter program in October,” she says. The farm will be seeking community support in purchasing and planting the nut and fruit trees that will form the backbone of its sustainable farm program—and one taste of the meat produced by Farm Girl should be enough to convince anyone to support this enterprise.

For more information about Farm Girl’s upcoming Kickstarter announcement, its CSA program and meat pre-ordering, visit farmgirlmeats.com