Skip Navigation

News Release

Home Sweet Home on the Malik Family Farm

Chakesha Harvey

It was love at first sight. Uma and Arshad Malik had been driving around for three years searching for the perfect small farm. They traveled through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. And in 2014 they found it: a small house on stilts on 10-acres of open land in southcentral Polk County. It was out in the country and it was quiet.

They had moved from New York to Ft. Lauderdale to be close to their daughter after a workplace accident forced Arshad to leave his job as a bus driver. He wasn’t ready to retire yet, and the couple had come from generations of agricultural producers.  Uma is originally from Rosehall, Guyana, where four generations of her family have grown fruits and vegetables, sugar cane, and raised cattle. Arshad came to the United States when he was four from West Pakistan, where his family still grows row crops and raises livestock like they have for 400 years.

Now sheep, goats, chickens, peacocks, ducks, turkeys, two cows and a horse are occupying the fields around the house. “I love being a farmer, me, my wife and son. We do it all ourselves,” Arshad said. That includes fixing fences, trimming hooves, milking the cow, and moving the goats.  The Maliks raise all their own food between the livestock and the vegetables they grow in big containers placed around the house. The 27 goats and 12 sheep are for meat, although they sell a few goats for pets. Their 90 chickens range free and are sold for eggs and meat.

They raise their livestock antibiotic and hormone free. They don’t use pesticides or chemicals on the pastures and use GMO-free seeds. “I don’t want to eat the additives. The customers want that too. A lot of them are allergic to the corn and soy so I order supplemental feed without it,” he said.  Parasites are a problem when the grass is grazed to the ground, so to keep the goats healthy, it was necessary to rotate grazing. The couple learned about financial and technical assistance from USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service from neighbors. The agency’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program helped them install fence, pipeline, and watering troughs. 

Last year they signed up for the Conservation Stewardship Program, and were accepted for a five-year contract, which included a prescribed grazing enhancement. The program rewards landowners for their existing level of stewardship and adopting new conservation enhancements. The Maliks will receive annual payments to maintain their existing conservation activities, in addition to the enhancement of prescribed grazing.

Since they were eligible under the Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher designation, they get higher payment rates depending on the conservation practice.

Karl Anderson, the district conservationist at Bartow Service Center, met with the couple. “He came out and looked at the property and measured the pastures. It was very thorough,” Arshad said. “Karl is extremely helpful; he shows you what to do and how to do it. I have learned so much,” he said.

Next the family wants to expand, perhaps buying another 12 acres to grow vegetables to sell to restaurants. They have talked to Karl about getting a high tunnel built next year. “Whatever you do, you must do it with your heart. Every single day I look forward to waking up and working with the animals,” Arshad said.

Do you want to learn more about the Conservation Stewardship Program? Contact your local USDA Service Center.