Each week, KNWA highlights individuals, who’s works in the community resonate through our area.
He’s a man that’s planting seeds of hope to eliminate hunger in Northwest Arkansas. And like many who battle with food insecurity, Don Bennett had his own struggles to overcome. Bennett says, “I was looking for a job…and I found a purpose.” Bennett had dreams, goals and ambitions, but not everything grows as planned. As the founder of Tri Cycle Farms, Bennett says starting the farm was difficult. “This has been the most challenging thing that I’ve done in my whole life.”
As a young man, Bennett’s journey began with a small piece of advice from his parents. He says, “My dad always used to say, ‘Be a Jack of all Trades and a master of none.’ And I know just a little bit about a lot of things…. to be a little dangerous.” Much of Bennett’s adult life was filled with high risk. And on the brink of losing it all in 2008, his life changed. Bennett says, “10 years ago, I stopped drinking alcohol that was transformational, because I was..I had better ability to hear what was happening around me, instead of being in my own self.” What Bennett heard was a message that changed the way he thought about others. It was also his first encounter with food insecurity. He says, “It was based on a person who had a degree at the University, had two jobs and was looking for a third and told me something that I never even admitted to myself and that was she didn’t know what she was going to eat the following week.”
A seed was planted for the beginning stages of tri-cycle farms. And the search for land led bennett to a place he never expected. “It was lost in all of the over-growth in this fallow and feral farm. It’s almost the last two acres, of an over 200 years old farm.. and it was right behind my house on Deane Street.” says Bennett. In 2011, Bennett broke ground on that two-acre lot. But like any business, things weren’t easy to begin with. “There were times where I walked through these gardens and I was starting to look at this as something that was going to fail. We had $100 in the bank account and at that time I received a phone call and a donation of $10,000 that put me in tears.” says Bennett. He used those tears to water a dream now, producing a harvest. And soon after, a platform to feed the vision into others. “I didn’t know that I could stand up and speak in front of a big crowd. I had to go through being sick and scared and stand up and do it. And then realize that it was a power inspiring other people to carry this message forward.”
Life cannot sustain in dead soil. For Bennett, the ground he now walks on is fertile. And he’s hoping to pass on his purpose to future generations. Bennett says, “We need to pursue our dreams and we need to connect with our community and we need to give, because that giving is receiving 10-fold, because it’s making me into a person that my mother and father can be proud of.”
Since the opening of Tri Cycle Farms, Bennett has spoken in public settings, large and small, including as a lecuturer at the U of A and even as a Ted Talk speaker. It’s a far cry from where his life was just a decade ago, during his battle with alcoholism. And Bennett hopes his story can inspire others that the grass is greener on the other side.