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Family Farm Adjusts, Continues Fall Tradition by Ken Moore

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s the year progresses, efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continue to impact many public activities, including fall agritourism attractions and festivals. October is traditionally the month when these events take place on farms across the state. Hicks Family Farms, situated northeast of Little Rock between Lonoke and Cabot, is one such farm, and they’re forging ahead by following the state’s public health guidelines. An Arkansas Century Farm, it was established in 1913 as a dairy and cotton farm by Kevin Hicks’ great-grandfather, at a time when dairy operations were thriving and cotton was king in Arkansas. But 10 years ago Kevin and his wife Rebekah realized dairy farming had changed and wasn’t profitable anymore. His family had given up cotton farming years earlier. As Kevin Hicks put it, “the day they planted their last acre of cotton was the happiest day of his (dad’s) life.” Agritourism programs were becoming popular and the Hicks saw an opportunity to make the transition. “We had a wild idea to invite people out to the farm and have a pumpkin patch and corn maze,” Kevin HIcks said during a recent visit to the farm. “Back then a lot of farmers weren’t doing that. But we learned that these type of activities were being held on farms and it turned out to be the right thing for us.” Five generations of the Hicks family have been raised here

with several of them now working together to prepare for and conduct their annual fall outreach. “We just had our 23rd wedding anniversary and are raising the 5th generation of Hicks kids on the farm, our 16- and 19-year-old sons,” said Rebekah Hicks. “My father was in the Air Force but I married into this farm family and thoroughly enjoy being the farm mom, farm wife and farmer.” During its first nine years Hicks Family Farms’ Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze was doing well attracting visitors from across central Arkansas. Several thousand would attend on weekends. Then this year the pandemic hit. “It’s been a learning curve for everybody,” said Kevin Hicks. “We’ve worked with the health department to figure out the best way to keep everybody safe,” he said. “We will try to control the flow of people around the farm and from congregating in one area. We will reduce the number of people in the maze and on the hay rides at one time. We brought in extra staff for cleaning and sanitizing all the common surfaces, especially in our café. We will also have signs posted throughout the venue reminding visitors about the mask and distancing requirements.” Kevin said they’ve made other adjustments in an effort to adhere to the protocols. “We changed up our entrance and exit. That used to be the same door, but now people will enter in one area and exit in another to eliminate congestion there. We’ve added handwashing continued on page 10>>

Front Porch

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ARKANSAS FARM BUREAU • FALL 2020

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