In 2008, Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte Levy, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Firsthand Foods, merged…
Kendra Cardella-Soto raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep at Miles Away Farm in Marshall, Arkansas. Her love of farming started when she was young, as she spent time on her best friend’s family’s farm—a place quite different from city life in her hometown of Detroit. Over the course of her life, she worked as a software developer and lived in several major U.S. cities before settling in Florida. One weekend, while visiting friends in Arkansas, Kendra fell in love with the area and ended up buying a ranch. “With the housing market in the state it was, we sold the house in Florida and decided to build a place on the ranch, move to Arkansas and do what we want to do. It was a major life change, and I jumped straight into farming!” Kendra and her husband Harry Soto moved to Arkansas in 2010, focused on securing fencing, movable housing and making preparations before they purchased the first sheep in 2012.
Kendra manages a flock of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW Katahdin sheep at Miles Away Farm, located in the Campbell Valley in Northern Arkansas. “Our farmland was part of a larger acreage that belonged to a neighbor’s family,” says Kendra. “It’s primarily bottomland but also includes woods, rocky cliffs, steep hills along with springs and spring-fed ponds. The farm totals 155 acres, and right now we’re utilizing about 70 acres of pasture for our sheep.” After researching several different breeds, Kendra chose to go with the Katahdin breed. “They are a docile, small to medium-sized breed,” says Kendra. “They are more parasite resistant than other breeds, and because they don’t require shearing, they do well in the hot summers in Arkansas. They’re a nice fit for this farm.”
The production practices at Miles Away Farm focus on rotational management and promoting the health of the sheep. Managing the sheep rotationally, and grazing on one section of pasture before moving them to fresh fields, allows grass to recover before sheep return to graze again; it also keeps the soil properly fertilized and minimizes the build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments. “Rotational management is a key factor in the health of my sheep. I focus on prevention and trying to maintain good health, so I watch the sheep carefully. I can tell immediately when one is sick. Good nutrition and close attention eliminate a lot of problems that they could have, down the road.” While rotational management benefits the animals, it also benefits the pastures too. “The pastures have gotten richer, and the grass has gotten better. The benefits are far reaching!”
Kendra chose to pursue certification with AGW because of the program’s principles. “It matters to me how animals are treated, and I think the general consumer trend is moving in that direction. The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification reflects more of what people want these days. I think it’s more important to people than Organic. From a personal perspective, I got tired of seeing food labels with pretty pictures of rolling, grassy hills knowing all the while the company didn’t do that—and mine do! The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW label protects my production practices and actually reflects how my sheep are raised.”
In the future, Kendra plans to carry on with production in a slow and steady way, making sure not to outpace her markets or overstock her fields. “I’ve gotten to the point that I’m getting out there now. I sell locally to a couple restaurants and also work with another AGW producer to provide certified lamb to more outlets in Arkansas.” She also plans to move toward Certified Grassfed by AGW certification for her sheep in the coming year. Kendra is an advocate for the independent farmer: “I think sometimes people want to do something like farming and they think they’re too old or are afraid to make a change. We need a lot more independent farmers and small processors out there, so I encourage everyone to go after their dreams and try it if you love it!”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW lamb from Miles Away Farm is available directly from the farm in wholes, halves, quarters and by the cuts (by emailing or calling ahead of time) and at several outlets across Arkansas. Check the AGW directory for more details. For more information about Miles Away Farm, visit milesaway.farm and contact Kendra Cardella-Soto at firstname.lastname@example.org and (870) 447-6108.