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BIG PLANS | St. Joseph’s Orphanage in North Little Rock to become organic farm

Action taken Monday by the North Little Rock City Council will enable St. Joseph’s to possess art school, studios and gallery. This is Bird’s eye view of the historic St. Joseph Center (formerly Orphanage). Built in 1908, St.Joseph’s rests on 63 pastoral acres and contains 56,000 square feet.
Action taken Monday by the North Little Rock City Council will enable St. Joseph’s to possess art school, studios and gallery. This is Bird’s eye view of the historic St. Joseph Center (formerly Orphanage). Built in 1908, St.Joseph’s rests on 63 pastoral acres and contains 56,000 square feet.
Jody Hardin is a fifth generation Arkansas farmer who is a leading force behind the new St. Joseph Farm and Education Center.
Jody Hardin is a fifth generation Arkansas farmer who is a leading force behind the new St. Joseph Farm and Education Center.
Black and red angus cattle are lovingly tended by Julius Greb, caretaker at St. Joseph since 1955.
Black and red angus cattle are lovingly tended by Julius Greb, caretaker at St. Joseph since 1955.
Jody Hardin leads a team from the Arkansas Community Foundation through a future CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) garden. ARCF is helping support this venture.
Jody Hardin leads a team from the Arkansas Community Foundation through a future CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) garden. ARCF is helping support this venture.

The North Little Rock City Council Monday voted to adopt an ordinance allowing St. Joseph Center of Arkansas, 6800 Camp Robinson Road, to possess a special use permit for the land to be used as an art and educational center.

According to Ordinance 2013-93, St. Joseph will feature an art school, studios and gallery.

The council’s action will enable plans to continue to be in the works to transform St. Joseph’s Orphanage in North Little Rock into an organic farm, which will also be known as St. Joseph’s farm, for the purpose of providing education, community outreach and feeding the hungry.

“SJCA, the fiscal and managerial entity tasked with repurposing the former St. Joseph Orphanage, signed a 50-year lease with the Diocese of Little Rock in September 2010,” said Jody Hardin, president of Business Development/Fundraising for St. Joseph Farm, also known as St. Joseph Center of Arkansas (SJCA). “Today, SJCA will announce plans for restoring the century-old, 56,000 sq. ft. landmark and accompanying 63 acres.”

On Sept. 24, SJCA held a ceremony promoting the project.

The announcement included the introduction of the new tenants who are part of SJCA as it evolves from a former orphanage and daycare center to an agricultural, arts and education center, said Hardin.

“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 re-purpose 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. In 2010, 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 square foot 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.

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