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St. Joseph Center of Arkansas
St. Joseph Farm
St. Joseph Center of Arkansas becomes agricultural education center:
Additional plans include art studios, galleries and education
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (Tuesday, September 24, 2013) – It may be Fall on the seasonal calendar, but it seems as if Spring is in the air at the St. Joseph Center of Arkansas (SJCA). The historic building and its surrounding 63 pastoral acres are getting ready for a transformation – to become an agricultural education center to be exact through a unique partnership with local farmer Jody Hardin and his company, St. Joseph Farm. SJCA’s future plans and Hardin’s immediate vision for the property were announced at a news conference at the facility September 24.
“St. Joseph Center of Arkansas is taking a step forward in its mission to revitalize this historic property by ‘forming community partnerships that foster learning, independence and dignity’ with the creation of St. Joseph Farm and Education Center,” SJCA Board President Sandy DeCoursey said. “This partnership is the first of many we hope to form as new and innovative ideas are brought before our Board of Directors as a means to bring this property back to its original splendor.”
Hardin, a well-known farmer from Grady, Arkansas, is enthusiastic to begin a new project in the metropolitan area with high visibility. “I’m very excited to be working with the St. Joseph Center of Arkansas to repurpose the facility with a modern and important new mission that is centered on sustainable agriculture, community outreach and feeding the hungry,” Hardin explained. “I intend to make our endeavors here accessible to the community so that anyone who is personally interested in learning more about agriculture or teaching their children about agriculture in this area will have the opportunity to see for themselves how a farm works.”
St. Joseph Center of Arkansas is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that signed a 50-year lease with the Diocese of Little Rock in September, 2010. At that time, SJCA assumed all fiscal and management responsibility for the former St. Joseph Orphanage. The group took on the challenge of revitalizing the 100-year-old landmark by finding a new mission and purpose for the 56,000 sq. ft. building and 63-acre property. SJCA spent five years researching and exploring various options before deciding that St. Joseph will return to its original roots as a self-sustaining farm growing good food for charitable purposes. Instead of supporting an orphanage, the new farm enterprises, under Hardin’s leadership, will provide not only a means of helping feed the hungry but also a revenue stream to allow for renovation and continued use of the building as an agricultural education center.
In addition, St. Joseph Art Studios are being developed along with a gallery and education opportunities. More information regarding this partnership will be available soon, DeCoursey noted.