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Winging it

The blessing in helping others


Hunting with hawks and falcons


Family farming legacy continues


The making of a roux




A R K A N S A S .




P E O P L E .

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Farm Bureau Matters

Randy Veach | Page 3

Thinking Out Loud

Rodney Baker | Page 5

Winging It

Gregg Patterson | Page 8

The Best Christmas Ever Keith Sutton | Page 18

Taste Arkansas

Stephanie Buckley | Page 24

Land & People

Ken Moore | Page 26

In the Kitchen

Stephanie Buckley | Page 30

Building Wealth

U of A Cooperative Extension | Page 34

Delta Child

Talya Tate Boerner | Page 36


The ancient sport of falconry is alive and well in Arkansas. Ron Russell of the Arkansas Hawking Association hunts squirrels with one of his Harris’s hawks. Photo by Gregg Patterson


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A R K A N S A S .




P E O P L E .

Farm Bureau Matters

by Randy Veach | President, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation

Commitment, community, compassion “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi


rkansas Farm Bureau is many things to many people, inclusive of more than 190,000 Arkansas families who represent every demographic segment of Arkansas – rural and urban – and inclusive of all races, genders and economic circumstances. There are some common traits among our members, though, and I believe they are summed up well by the words, commitment, community and compassion. Vince Lombardi’s quote above sticks out to me because it addresses commitment, and one’s quality of life. You will recall that Arkansas Farm Bureau’s mission statement is: 1. To advocate the interests of agriculture in the public arena. 2. To disseminate information concerning the value and importance of agriculture. 3. To provide products and services which improve the quality of life for our members. As an organization, I don’t believe we can succeed in our mission without including commitment, community and compassion. When I consider commitment, I think of the late Steve Stephan, who came to the United States in 1959 from his native Germany, speaking no English and with just a small amount of money in his pocket. Steve started in New York, and then went to the West Coast, where he met Zelma, who would become his wife. Someone exposed them to Arkansas, and they chose to settle in the Arkansas River Valley, around Hartman, because it reminded him of where he’d grown up. Once here, Steve began to farm, raising cattle, laying hens and swine, and started a family. He began with a small farm, 56 acres, and through hard work and commitment, he expanded that farm. He was exposed to the Johnson County Farm Bureau by a friend, who invited him to serve on the county board. A year later he became county president, and served Farm Bureau

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diligently as president for 15 years. He was also chairman of our state swine commodity division, on the Arkansas Pork Producers Board and a member of the Arkansas Agriculture Department Board. Steve died Sept. 1, after a bout with cancer. The county Farm Bureau board served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral. In his casket, the family placed a Farm Bureau cap. They understood Steve’s commitment to Farm Bureau. Steve’s story is emblematic of so many of our Farm Bureau leaders, truly committed to this organization and to your communities. That’s why when you look at the leaders of the county Farm Bureau board; you are looking at the leaders of your communities. Whether it’s the local United Way board, the conservation district, the church council, the school board, the youth baseball leagues, the quorum court, whatever. Those boards are filled by Farm Bureau leaders who work to make their communities stronger. Thank you for that work, delivered so compassionately. In fact, I believe organizationally our compassion is on display more frequently than any other character trait. You can’t be involved in the production of food, fiber and shelter without having passion for agriculture and compassion for people. Farmers and ranchers feel a responsibility to feed and clothe their families, but also to feed those who are hungry and need to be fed. Because of the compassion we have as farmers and ranchers, we understand what we produce can help feed people. Organizationally, we have compassion with the way we conduct our business, reflected in the way our insurance operations are run and our advocacy efforts on behalf of agriculture. Commitment, community, compassion. I am thankful to be part of an organization that uses these tenets throughout our efforts. God bless you and your families. God bless the farmers and ranchers. God bless Arkansas Farm Bureau.


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Official membership publication of Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation mailed to more than 190,000 member-families. SUBSCRIPTIONS

Included in membership dues ARKANSAS FARM BUREAU OFFICERS:

President • Randy Veach, Manila Vice President • Rich Hillman, Carlisle Secretary/Treasurer • Joe Christian, Jonesboro Executive Vice President • Rodney Baker, Little Rock DIRECTORS:

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Contact David Brown at Publishing Concepts for advertising rates (501) 221-9986 Fax (501) 225-3735 Front Porch (USPS 019-879) is published quarterly by the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation 10720 Kanis Rd., Little Rock, AR 72211 Periodicals Postage paid at Little Rock, AR POSTMASTER Send address changes to Rhonda Whitley at Front Porch • P.O. Box 31 • Little Rock, AR 72203 Please provide membership number

Real Service. Real People.


Issue #94 Publisher assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation reserves the right to accept or reject all advertising requests.

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A R K A N S A S .




P E O P L E .

Thinking Out Loud

by Rodney Baker | Executive Vice President, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation

A purposeful work


he past year proved successful as it was one of solid commitment and cooperation displayed by our county leaders and staff. We continue to be engaged in a purposeful work advocating for agriculture. And that work resonates with our member leaders. Our year saw many successes. We worked to improve our efforts to solicit and appropriately respond to the feedback we received concerning the needs of our counties coupled with the staff ’s ability to respond to and address those needs. We moved our Young Farmers & Ranchers annual conference to February, so it wouldn’t conflict as it had before with our younger members needing to be in the field at a critical time on their farms. Another example of responding to the needs of our member leaders occurred at the annual Officers & Leaders conference. Our members wanted more training, especially leadership training, along with more emphasis on demonstrations and information featuring some of the latest on-farm technologies available. We also successfully continued to refine our recent efforts to emphasize our policy development at the county level. Our members continued to enthusiastically respond to this foundational aspect of our legislative and rulemaking focus locally, statewide and nationally. Important examples of teamwork by our members and staff at the local level included input into the development of the Maumelle Watershed Plan and its effect on rural landowners primarily in Pulaski County. We also worked together to ensure the rightful continued operation of C&H Farms swine operation in the Buffalo River watershed. Statewide our members and staff were active in hearings concerning the development of a new state water plan. Nationally, our membership responded well to the “Ditch the Rule” campaign designed to rein in onerous rulemaking by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to redefine parts of the Clean Water Act, as well as exceed its authority to enforce it. Our national efforts were also front and center in challenging

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the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s seemingly random use of and designation of “critical habitat” via the Endangered Species Act. The agency’s failures to accurately measure and consider the total economic impact such designations have, especially toward agriculture, resulted in our members and leaders testifying before congressional committees. These are just a few examples of the great teamwork between our grassroots membership and staff to tackle these important issues. These kinds of actions are possible because we are blessed with a strong commitment from our county members and leadership. Nowhere was this more evident than the enthusiastic response and across the board participation our local leaders and delegates showed in response to the ice storm that hit during last year’s annual state convention. The result involved the necessity to call our voting delegates back to Little Rock to take care of our canceled business session. There was a lot of dedication to come back and fix it so our business was done right. There was a lot of pride in the fact that they were coming back to do it in quick order, and it all went smoothly and efficiently. I was deeply satisfied by the dedication displayed by our county leaders and voting delegates in rallying around that essential need. It reinforced the commitment to the purposeful work that our organization is actively engaged in on behalf of agriculture and its members. Our future looks positive. Our teamwork approach within staff and with our county leaders provides the tool set necessary to positively influence the agriculture decision making processes from the local to the federal level. We are a non-partisan organization that works on policy related issues that represent our members and will continue to do so regardless of party majority. Our future is also bright because our younger members are actively migrating toward leadership positions and seeking the necessary training to become effective leaders. They understand the purposeful work that is agriculture. Arkansas and the world will continue to benefit from that work.


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Winging it Hunting with hawks and falcons


The red-tailed hawk is one of the most popular hawks used in falconry.

Article and photos by Gregg Patterson


he rear and passenger areas of the extended cab pickup are stacked full of gear. Mid-calf-high rubber boots are strewn on the floor boards like in an unkempt mud room. Daypacks loaded with snacks, energy drinks and rain gear act as temporary pillows for three dozing 15-year-olds loosely covered blanket style with fleece jackets and hoodies. They’ve managed to recreate a mobile version of their messy bedrooms in the short time it took them to pile into the truck. It’s still chilly dark as we leave Little Rock heading for White River National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a long trip. I slide a book on CD into the console. Ernest Hemingway’s The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber comes to life through the pickup’s speakers, drowning out the boys’ slumber breathing cadence while transporting me from the heavy road noise of semis on Interstate 40 to the safari plains of Africa. The boys sleep while Francis and I hunt lion and Cape buffalo amid the confusion of trying to understand the hieroglyphic intricacies of the feminine mind.


It’s the first weekend of February. We’re heading to the annual winter gathering and hunt of the Arkansas Hawking Association (, a four-day event headquartered at Butler Lodge near Ethel, located amid the patchwork outskirts of the refuge. The association’s dedicated members raise, train, care for birds of prey – primarily hawks and falcons – and use them to hunt rabbits, squirrels, waterfowl and other birds. A stop in Brinkley for a fast-food breakfast rouses the boys, and my son George, ignites the imaginations and volatile mixture of caffeine, sugar and the unpredictable nature of the teenage brains of his friends Chase Binsky and Jacob Ulvestad with stories of previous years’ hunts; a red-tailed hawk for rabbits and a peregrine falcon dive

bombing ducks. And then, of course, there’s lodge proprietor Ida Butler’s famous homemade vegetable soup. George loves it and knows there will be a steaming hot bowl of it waiting for him at lunch and maybe some cobbler for dessert. The rapid-fire conversation and energy of teen spirit overtakes the truck cab just as Francis McCumber’s body is being prepared for transport to Nairobi, the back of his head blown out by an “accidental” rifle shot from a 6.5 Mannlicher fired by his loving wife. “Why didn’t you poison him?” the safari guide asks. “That’s what they do in England.” The sport of falconry and hawking possibly has origins as far back as 2000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, but the first firm record of it is from China in 680 B.C. The sport

Kyle Holton (background) looks on as Arkansas Hawking Association members (from left to right) Ron Russell, Brenda Russell, Francine Forrester and Rusty Scarborough tend to the injured leg of a Harris’s hawk during a squirrel hunt.


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transported itself as man sought out new trade routes, cultures, colonies and conquering armies worked their way across the globe. Falconry and hawking made it to Europe around 400 A.D., brought by invading armies from the East. However, it didn’t gain a talon-hold in North America until the early 1900s. Getting involved in falconry is not something easily done like buying a goldfish for a pet or getting one of the free kittens the neighbor is giving away. It’s highly regulated. Birds of prey – or raptors, as falcons, hawks, eagles, owls and the like are often referred as – are all federally protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other species-specific federal and state conservation laws. There are 14 pages of regulations specific to falconry in the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s (AGFC) published online regulations. Not just anyone gets to have a bird. This eliminates the “cool” factor when it comes to owning a hawk or falcon. And these birds have cachet. Whether you are 15 or 50 years old, being around these birds is a cool experience. However, it’s a serious commitment to own and care for one. And the regulations governing ownership are not for the casual pet owner. One needs to be at least 14 years old for consideration to have one of these raptors, and it’s necessary to go through a two-year apprenticeship with a sponsor who has attained Master or General level as a falconer. An apprentice must also secure a state falconry permit from the AGFC, but the permit isn’t a given until the applicant demonstrates “satisfactory compliance” by passing a written falconry test with a minimum passing grade of 80 percent, possesses an Arkansas hunting license and has their falconry facilities and equipment pass inspection by an AGFC employee. Clear those hurdles and then it’s time to go catch a hawk…a wild hawk…on your own. An apprentice may not have a hawk given to them. And it’s illegal to snatch a baby (nestling) out of a nest. An Apprentice-level applicant must catch a wild red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, American kestrel, great-horned owl or Harris’s hawk. Catch that bird and then the real work begins: all the training, all the time invested, all the equipment, all the expense. (Falconry is not cheap.) And then there’s the waiting around for the UPS or FedEx truck to deliver those hairless pink, frozen mice to feed the bird when your food cache has disappeared. Has the cool factor worn off yet? But 15-year-olds don’t worry about stuff like that. We get to the lodge and reacquaint ourselves with folks we haven’t seen for a year, meet new birds and listen to stories of the morning hunt. Then it’s time for Miss Ida’s vegetable soup (a huge success, again) and then the afternoon hunt.

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Asher Holton gets to experience a juvenile red-tailed hawk up close while the bird’s owner, Ashley Money, instructs him on how to properly handle the young hawk.

We caravan our vehicles to the bottoms to hunt squirrels with three Harris’s hawks. We’ve grown partial to these birds and their owners as they are great group hunters, a winged wolf pack so to speak. The boys slip on their kneehigh rubber boots, shoulder their day packs and quickly search for and secure walking sticks that will double as tree trunk beaters to help dislodge reticent squirrels from knothole nests. This is not stealth hunting like hunting squirrels with a rifle or a shotgun. Our noisy ensemble chatters loudly as it marches through the winter woods,


banging on tree trunks with walking sticks and pulling on long vines hanging from the trees. Shouts of encouragement go skyward to the hawks as they drift from tree to tree, keen eyesight taking in the slightest movement. When the first squirrel decides flight is better than sitting tight, shouts of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” fill the air, and the hawks twist and turn impossibly through tree branches in aerial pursuit. This squirrel is up to the task, ducking, diving and racing from tree to tree until too long a jump and a missed branch send it hurtling 40 to 50 feet down to a hard landing on the ground. Two of the hawks are there in the blink of an eye, hitting it simultaneously, wickedly sharp talons grasping fur and flesh. The two hawks scuffle intensely but briefly over their kill. Owner Ron Russell quickly separates them from the thick-bodied fox squirrel and immediately satiates their raucous cries of thievery with chunks of prepared meat he carries for such moments. A foot injury to one of the hawks halts the hunt briefly as the falconers huddle around the bird and provide first aid. The injury isn’t serious enough to keep the hawk from continuing to hunt. The group fans out again and resumes its spirited cacophony Mardi Gras-like march through the woods. We get three more chases and one more squirrel to add to the game bag. The hunt lasts almost three hours, and the winter sun is low and sharp in the western horizon as the boys share the last of their snacks, get up close to the hawks one more time and bid farewell to our hunting hosts – hugs and handshakes all-around. It was a good hunt. Three heads nod off quickly. I’m left to my own thoughts and that comforting deep satisfaction of time well spent outdoors yet tempered by a familiar unsettling pang in the pit of my stomach. The western sky is now draped in mauve and purple with streaks of deep burnt orange reflected under scattered low clouds – no longer day, not quite night. I am reminded that author Carlos Castaneda referred to it as “the crack between two worlds.” Like day and night, the hawks remind me there are two worlds. The wonderment and awe when one of these majestic birds perches regally on one’s arm evokes a connectedness to nature foreign in our day-to-day existence, something we crave in a visceral way that makes us feel – just for a special moment – in balance with the Creator’s perfect handiwork. Yet one look into the fierce countenance of these birds is when it hits full force, a creeping uncomfortable sense of insignificance in the grand scheme of things (that pang in the pit of my stomach). These birds, like all wildlife, care nothing about what’s important to mankind. And that’s as it should be. We are not in control – never were, never will be.


With the heavy leather motif of decorative bird hoods, gloves, straps and chains, falconry attire seems to be a cross between biker gangs and someone with a leather fetish. The sight-eliminating hood keeps this American kestrel calm while the forearm-long glove is necessary to protect the falconer from the Harris’s hawk’s razor-sharp talons.

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Keith Sutton poses with the colorful red-tailed catfish he caught just before Christmas in Brazil’s Madeira River. Photo by Jose Guerra



Christmas 18


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The blessing in helping others article and photos by Keith Sutton


hristmas Day 2000. That special time of year has arrived once again. As is the tradition in our family, we all awaken at the crack of dawn and gather around the beautifully decorated Christmas tree in our living room. I play Santa Claus, passing out gifts to my wife Theresa and our sons. All our family members smile and laugh as they open their presents. Everyone is full of joy and happiness. At first, nothing seems different about this particular Christmas. We exchange our gifts, and later in the day, we all gather once again to eat our fill of a huge holiday feast – baked ham with pineapple on top, green bean casserole, potatoes au gratin, deviled eggs, homemade hot rolls and all sorts of cake and pies. After we eat, though, I sit to enjoy the holiday spirit and realize this Christmas is, in fact, very different for me. For the first time in my life, content and happy at home, I realize how truly blessed I am. Forty-eight hours earlier, I was awakened by the raucous calls of a dozen Amazon parrots in a tree outside my window. I was in my berth on the mothership Yanna, and the final day of a week-long fishing trip in Amazonas, Brazil was about to begin. I had only a couple hours left to fish before the ship took us back to the city of Manaus 300 miles away, so I hurried outside and met my guide José Guerra. The deeply tanned young man greeted me with a huge smile, as always. “Bom dia, Señor Catfish,” he said. “You are ready to catch a grandé pirarara?” The pirarara is the redtail catfish, and with Jose’s help, I hoped to land one of these big beautiful fishes in the short time I had left to fish. We hurried to a small boat tied to the back of the Yanna and motored a mile upstream to a spot where a small tributary flowed into the much larger Madeira River. “I save this one special for you, Señor Catfish,” José said, holding up a 6-inch piranha that was popping its jaws like castanets. José grinned and pretended to kiss the fish for luck. Then he grasped the razor-toothed piranha firmly in his fingertips, hooked it just behind the dorsal fin and tossed it into the river. “Cast there,” he said, pointing to a cluster of green bushes growing in shallow water on the river’s edge. “I believe there you will catch a grandé pirarara.” He smiled, knowingly.

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I cast the bait, let the rig swing tight in the current and placed a fingertip on the line so I could detect any bites. When the bite came, however, there was nothing subtle about it. My rod tip plunged into the water, and I barely had time to react to keep the rod and reel from being yanked from my hands. “Whooohooo!” José shouted as the fish surged away, taking 50 yards of line with it. As he watched from the stern of the boat, he clapped his hands and shouted encouragement. “Catch him, Señor Catfish! He’s a beeg one!” The fish struggled fiercely to throw the hook, and for several minutes, the outcome was uncertain. But the 28-pounder didn’t stand a chance against a 225-pound man as determined as I. I soon brought the fish near enough for José to net. I had tried hard throughout the week to catch a red-tailed catfish, without success. Now, in the final moments I had left to fish, I finally lifted from the water the fish of my dreams. The timing could not have been more perfect. On the eve of Christmas Eve, I caught a catfish with a Christmas-colored tail. For me, and for José, there could have been no more perfect way to end our adventure. When we boarded the Yanna again, the big boat slowly made its way up the Madeira to the town of Autazes where José and several other guides live. During the journey, which lasted several hours, I sat on rear deck with the other anglers and watched, enthralled, as we floated through the jungle. The trees, sky and water were full of colorful birds – toucans, kingfishers, tanagers, ducks, woodpeckers and dozens of species of parrots, including beautiful scarlet and hyacinth macaws. A family of giant otters swam near to fuss at us as we passed, and along the shores were scores of big caimans basking in the hot Brazilian sun. We saw several troops of squirrel monkeys feeding on fruits in the treetops and heard the booming calls of howler monkeys off in the distance.


Although we were far from the ocean, there were dolphins, too. Most noticeable were the pink river dolphins, or botos, which spend their entire lives in freshwater. Often reaching lengths of six feet and weights exceeding 300 pounds, these slow-moving, Pepto-Bismol-colored cetaceans share their freshwater world with speedier gray tucuxis that rarely exceed four feet and 110 pounds. Botos tend to be solitary, but the little tucuxis are gregarious, often appearing in pods of 10 or more. They entertained us by jumping high above the water – rolling, somersaulting, even back-flipping – as they raced about chasing fish. All too soon we arrived in Autazes and the wildlife extravaganza ended. I hadn’t seen any of the fishing guides for hours, but as we disembarked to bid them goodbye, José appeared. “Señor Catfish,” he said. “There is some time before the Yanna leaves. Will you walk with me to my home? I want you to meet my family.” Autazes fishing guide José Guerra lands a big piranha. These toothy fish often are cooked in soup, but, despite its dangerous bite, this one was used as live catfish bait.


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Wildlife abounds along the rivers of Amazonas, Brazil, including caimans, macaws and monkeys.

Autazes, a city of 29,000, lies on the Madeira River in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Although it has all the modern conveniences one would expect to find in cities in less remote areas, its residents are still at high risk for contracting malaria from mosquitoes.

A young girl stands outside her simple home in Autazes.

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The mothership Yanna was home away from home for Keith Sutton during his fishing trip in Brazil.

As we strolled through the streets of the remote jungle community, past rows of tall palm trees, through gorgeous parks full of flowers and lush green grass, alongside the city’s beautiful blue Catholic church, I thought, “What a wonderful place in which to live. It’s like paradise.” I was about to find out, however, that all was not as it seemed. José’s tiny house on the edge of town had only a single room and no furniture. Two hammocks hung in one corner. There was no running water, sewer or electricity. An open tank on the rooftop collected rainwater for cooking, drinking and bathing. The greeting José’s wife, Milena, gave me was warm and unexpected. When José had introduced us, she hugged me tightly as if she were greeting a long-lost brother. “This is Papa’s friend, Mr. Catfish,” she said to their two daughters, Ana, 5, and Maria, 7, who giggled excitedly. Then, to my great joy, the beautiful little girls hugged me, too. “And who is this little guy?” I asked of the baby boy in Milena’s arms. “His name is Gustavo,” she said, pulling back the little blanket swaddling the child. I could see then the baby was very ill. He looked pale, his skin ashen. I touched his cheek with the back of my fingers. It was hot with fever. “He has malaria,” José told me. “The doctors do not think he will live very long. Two more of our children have died because of the mosquitoes. We have no medicine for them. We worry for our daughters, too.” José said these things almost matter-of-factly, as if he had long ago resigned himself to the fact that the loss of children to the disease was inevitable. But I knew such was not the case.


Back on the Yanna, I told the other anglers about meeting José’s family. “I had no idea people still got malaria,” one of them said. “Isn’t there something we can do?” “It may be too late for his son,” I said. “But we can save José’s daughters. Every one of us still has malaria medicine with us. If we collect what everyone has, we can give it to José, and maybe we can help save not only José’s children, but others as well. We can replace the medicine when we get home.” As the Yanna pulled away later that day, José and his wife smiled and waved goodbye to us from shore. The other guides were there with their families, too. In his hand, José clutched a large plastic bag full of pills. Every angler on the boat had contributed the last of their malaria medicine to the children of Autazes. And money several of us had brought to buy Christmas gifts for our families was given to José so he could buy more medicine. Soon, Autazes was slowly fading away in the distance. We watched together from the rear deck of the Yanna, and as I looked around at the faces of the men beside me, in their eyes I saw tears. Without doubt, the things we experienced in that little town in the heart of the Brazil wilderness changed us all forever. We live in a country where it is easy to forget – especially around Christmas time – how fortunate we are to have everything we need. But on Christmas Day 2000, sitting at home with memories of Autazes still vivid in my mind, I was keenly aware of how blessed my family truly is. I hugged my wife and sons tight and said a prayer of thanks for the best Christmas ever.

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Pecans: A Southern favorite


ew things are consumed with more gusto in the South during the holidays, the college football bowl season and NFL playoffs than pecans. A bowl full of these freshly shelled nuts is a mouthwatering beacon for gatherings of family and friends. However, it’s in the kitchen where pecans can be elevated to something truly amazing. Pecan Pie, Spicy Pecans, Pecan Pralines, Honey Blueberry Pecan Rice Pudding, Brown Butter Pecan and Maple Granola. There are so many wonderful recipes using the pecan. Try this one. Toasting pecans brings out the aroma and adds crunchiness. These will go fast, so consider doubling the recipe.

Candy in a crust: Pecan Pie Pecan pie is an overly sweet, crunchy, gooeycentered wonder that contains nearly as many calories per slice as an entire Christmas meal dinner plate mounded high with ham or turkey and all the trimmings. It’s an over-the-top end to an over-the-top meal. And a good pecan is worth every calorie. Confession: Pecan pie used to be my enemy. I burned them, made them too sweet and then there was the soupy one. So I quit making them for a few years. But every holiday my husband asked if we were having pecan pie. I gave in and started trying to figure out something that’s really easy but had made me intimidated. A bottle of Karo syrup stayed on my grandmother’s kitchen counter throughout the months of November and December. We all knew that was what made the “candy with a crust.” However, I find it too sweet. So, I decided to cut the Karo in half and supplement the other half with maple syrup. I also learned more about cooking the pie through trial and error. The ones I thought weren’t too great still got devoured at my house. Give this recipe a try. And try baking this pie in a cast-iron skillet. It gives it a rustic look.


Pecan Pie Ingredients • 3 large eggs • ¾ cup sugar • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, softened • ½ teaspoon salt • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• • • •

½ cup light corn syrup (I use Karo) ½ cup maple syrup or honey 1½ cups pecan halves 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust, homemade or store bought

Directions 1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Beat the eggs with the mixer until fluffy, about 8 minutes. In another mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, butter, salt, vanilla and syrups. Gently fold this into the eggs. Gently fold in the pecans. Pour the filling into the piecrust. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling is set and no longer wobbly in the center. Let cool completely before cutting.

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Compiled by Stephanie Buckley

How to season a cast-iron pan

Spicy Pecans Ingredients • 2 tablespoons brown sugar • 1½ tablespoons butter • 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate • ½ teaspoon salt • ½ teaspoon chili powder • ½ teaspoon pepper • 1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans

Did you get some cast-iron cookware for Christmas? A well-cared for cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven can be handed down for generations. The natural nonstick surface that builds up is far healthier than other synthetics on the market. And it’s said a trace amount of iron leaches into your food, which is actually good for you. But most of all, great cast iron is a delight when cooking. It provides a fantastic searing surface for meats, uniform cooking temperature and easy stovetop to oven transfer. Many times, I just take it to the table and serve from it. It gives a rustic, homey feel. Knowing how to season, use, clean and store cast iron cookware is imperative. If you don’t know, your degree of Southern-ness could be challenged. No worries, Taste Arkansas is here for you. We’ll provide the basics and in no time you’ll be flipping perfect pancakes, stirring a golden roux and making delicious recipes and treasured memories. First, when I say “seasoning” that means a vegetable oil baked onto the iron at a high temperature, not a chemical nonstick coating. When seasoning cast iron, it creates the natural, easy-release properties. The more it’s used, the better it gets. If you maintain it, cast iron can last 100 years or more. If the pan is new, first use a sponge to thoroughly wash it with hot water and soap.

Then rinse and thoroughly dry it. This is the only time you will touch it with soap. 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 2. Rub the cast-iron pan, inside and out, with a thin even layer of cooking oil. Place the pan upside down on the top rack of the oven, and place a baking sheet on the lower rack below the pan to catch any drippings (put a layer of foil on it for easy clean up). Bake the pan for 1 hour. 3. Turn the oven off and let the pan fully cool in the oven. Don’t open it until it’s completely cool, resist the urge. 4. Remove it from the oven and wipe clean with a paper towel. Cast iron needs periodic reseasoning. It’s time when it starts to look dull or rusted. Here are do’s and don’ts on cleaning cast iron. • DO clean cast iron immediately after using it, when it’s still warm but not hot. • DO use warm water and a sponge or stiff brush to clean. • DO use water and coarse salt to help remove food remnants. • DO thoroughly dry cast iron after washing. • DON’T soak cast iron, or it’s likely to rust • DON’T put cast iron in the dishwasher • DON’T use dish soap to clean cast iron • DON’T try and cool hot cast iron by rinsing it in cold water. Allow it to cool on its own.

Directions 1. Cook the first six ingredients in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until toasted. You need to really watch them. Trust me. 2. Cool and store in an airtight container.

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Reeds named state’s top farm family Family farming legacy continues by Ken Moore


he Reed family of Marianna is the 2014 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year. The award was announced at the annual luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year Dec. 11 in Little Rock. Nathan and Kristin Reed have a 6,000-acre corn, cotton, milo and soybean operation. The Reeds have three young children, 2-year-old twins Stanley “Eldon” and Jane-Anne and 1-year-old Katherine. A fourth-generation farmer, Nathan is following in his parents’ footsteps. Stanley and Charlene Reed were the Lee County Farm Family of the Year in 1984. Conservation of soil, water and energy play a major part on the Reed Farm. Fertilizer is applied using variable rate technology and irrigation wells and center pivot systems run off electric power thus creating substantial energy savings. Reed, 34, also tries to set aside a small portion of land each year to try out different crops or cropping practices. In 2013 he had 400 acres of sesame seed second-cropped behind wheat. In 2014, he grew 250 acres of conventional, non-transgenic cotton and 50 acres of conventional cotton no-tilled behind cereal rye he grew as seed for cover crops. Reed says the honor will give his family a new platform to advocate for agriculture. “There are a lot of misconceptions in the world about agriculture, so hopefully I can use this to help educate people about the sustainability and conservation efforts we have on the farm,” Reed said. “I’m proud to help produce a safe and abundant food and fiber supply for a growing world population. I don’t know if my family deserves this recognition, but I sure do appreciate it.”


Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach (left) and Rob Roedel of Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas (right) honor the Nathan and Kristin Reed family, along with their children 1-year-old Katherine and 2-year-old twins Jane-Anne and Stanley “Eldon.” Photo by Keith Sutton

Nathan and Kristin have been married since 2010. Prior to returning home to farm full time in 2005, Nathan obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in ag business and a law degree from the University of Arkansas. Kristin worked in Dallas and Little Rock for seven years as a certified public accountant after earning a degree from the University of Arkansas. She also worked as a CPA for a Marianna law firm before the birth of their children. The Reeds strongly believe in the importance of being involved in their community and state. Nathan serves on the Lee County Farm Bureau board of directors; the Arkansas Agriculture Council board of directors; as vice chairman of the Arkansas Cotton State Support Committee; the Dean’s Advisory Committee for the University of Arkansas Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences; and as a Lee County justice of the peace. The Reeds are active members of First Baptist Church of Marianna, where Kristin serves on the budget committee. As Arkansas’ Farm Family of the Year, the Reeds will compete in the 2015 Swisher

Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program. A winner will be named from among 10 southeastern state winners next October in Moultrie, Ga. “Arkansas Farm Bureau congratulates Nathan and Kristin for being named Arkansas Farm Family of the Year,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach. “Nathan is one of the state’s fine young leaders and comes from an outstanding farm family. His late father, Stanley Reed, represented Farm Bureau and Arkansas agriculture with distinction, serving on our state board of directors for 21 years, including five years as president. I know Stanley would be very proud of his son’s family receiving this recognition.” The Farm Family of the Year program, now in its 67th year, is the longest-running farm family recognition program of its type in the United States. It begins with selection of the top farm family in each county. Then, eight district Farm Families of the Year are selected. The competition is judged on production, efficiency and management of farm operations, family life and rural/community leadership and values.

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You’re the best at managing your land for crops. Let us help you with the wildlife.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Private Lands Program offers valuable technical support, advice and financial assistance to landowners seeking to establish or enhance a wildlife habitat on their property. Contact one of our private lands biologists today to see how you can take part in helping conserve Arkansas’s wildlife. To locate the private lands biologists that covers your county, go to and review the map for contact information. Front Porch | ARKANSAS FARM BUREAU • WINTER 2015

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Gumbo basics

The making of a roux by Stephanie Buckley


ith gumbos and etouffees, it all starts with a good roux. A roux is a mixture of nearly equal parts flour and fat – vegetable oil, butter and bacon drippings (oh yeah, bacon) are most common – that acts as a thickener and flavoring agent. This single gumbo element can range from a nearly flavorless white roux to a complex, nutty roux. Even though it only requires two ingredients, don’t underestimate the power of a good roux. The stovetop method, which is the preferred method of most cooks, takes constant stirring and some loving attention for up to 45 minutes. A burned roux is the kiss of death for a gumbo. If it turns black and resembles coffee grounds, do everyone a favor and just start over. To make about 1 cup of roux, you will need 7 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter and 11 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Bring out your Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet and heat oil over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk vigorously until it’s combined well and the mixture is smooth. Then, reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking and whisking until the flour has lost its raw smell but before it turns golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. For a blond roux, continue cooking and stirring occasionally until roux is a light golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. For brown roux, continue cooking until the roux color resembles peanut butter, 30-35 minutes. For a dark roux, continue until it darkens, about 45 minutes. Note: as the roux darkens, you will need to stir more frequently. Remove from heat and use immediately or cool completely and freeze for up to six months. Here’s a duck gumbo recipe by World Duck Calling Championship Gumbo Cook-Off Committee Chairman Curtis Ahren.


Nothing goes better watching college football bowl games and the NFL playoffs with family and friends than some tasty gumbo. Put some of those ducks you’ve taken this season to use now in this ample recipe. Photo by Grav Weldon

Duck Gumbo Ingredients • 12 ducks boiled, boned & chopped (save broth) • 2 bunches celery chopped • 12 onions chopped • 1 head garlic crushed • 12 bell peppers chopped • 2 bay leaves • 2 pounds cut okra • 4 bunches green onions, chopped • 1 large pack fresh mushrooms, sliced • ½ bottle red wine • 2 tablespoons parsley flakes

• • • • • • • •

4 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste 5 cups flour 5 cups shortening 2 tablespoons black pepper 1 tablespoon cayenne 6 tablespoons Creole season A little Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce • 6 tablespoons salt • ½ cup soy sauce • A little oregano

Directions 1. Make a brown roux with shortening and flour. Sauté onions, celery and bell peppers then add to duck broth, add seasonings and bring to boil. Add roux and duck meat, stir well. Boil 30 minutes then add tomato sauce, tomato paste, green onions, mushrooms and okra. Simmer 30 minutes then add wine. 2. Serve over rice with gumbo file’.

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Four simple steps to financial stability Enjoy peace of mind

Compiled by The Cooperative Extension Service U of A System Division of Agriculture


higher percentage of Arkansans outspent their income in 2012 compared to three years earlier. However, a slightly higher ratio of Arkansans have a “rainy day fund” compared to 2009, according to a study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The “Financial Capability Study” compared the money use habits of American consumers in 2009 to 2012. The study found that in 2009, 16 percent of Arkansans were spending more than they earned. That number rose to 20 percent in 2012. Nationally, the percentage of consumers who outspent their income declined slightly from 20 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2012. The percentage of Arkansans, who had a “rainy day fund,” or savings for unexpected situations such as economic downturns, illness or job loss, increased from 30 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2012. (See: www. Creating an emergency fund is one of four financial goals that consumers need to build financial stability, says Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Personal finance can be confusing, and many consumers aren’t sure where to start when planning for their financial future,” she said. “Long-term financial goals may vary for consumers based on future hopes and dreams, but there are still some basic targets that apply to everyone.” Connerly recommends these four steps: 1. Live within your income. Sound simple? “In many Arkansas households, consumers


spend more than they earn,” Connerly said. “This usually means there is revolving debt – credit cards.” The problem with carrying credit card debt from month to month is the interest continues to build. Here’s an example. A $3,000 balance at 14.4 percent interest with a $90 minimum payment would take 11 years to pay off and you would pay more than $1,500 just in interest. Another concern with living month to month is there is no safety net or plan for unexpected expenses. 2. Build an emergency fund. “An emergency fund is your safety net for times of crisis or unexpected expenses. Life happens – cars break down, kids get sick, people lose jobs,” Connerly said. “An emergency fund helps to keep you financially stable during times of crisis. If you’re just starting to build your

emergency fund, set your goal at $500$1,000. Eventually, you should aim for a fund large enough to cover two to six months of expenses.” 3. Keep adequate insurance. Maintain adequate amounts of auto, home and health insurance. “Without adequate insurance, a crisis could leave you thousands of dollars in debt and possibly even lead to bankruptcy,” Connerly said. “Become familiar with terms used in insurance policies, so you’ll know what to look for in benefits. Comparison shop for the best rates on a policy that has all of the features and benefits that you need.” 4. Increase your credit score. Consumers with the best scores receive the lowest interest rates on car and home loans. This can save thousands of dollars during the life of the loan. For example: Financing a $150,000 home with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at an interest rate of 4.5 percent would result in $123,610 in interest during the life of the loan. With a 3.5 percent interest rate, you would pay $92,484 in interest, a savings total of more than $30,000. For more information on personal finances, download these publications: • “How Good is Your Financial Health?” • “Money Talks: Building Good Credit” If you would like more information on healthy money managing, contact your county extension office or visit go online at

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The year Santa Claus first made sense by Talya Tate Boerner


remember when I finally understood how Santa Claus worked. For years, he and his entire North Pole operation remained a magical mystery only partially explained through 30-minute Christmas specials with details that often conflicted. Whenever we quizzed Momma about the whole thing, her ambiguous answers provided no clarity. It seemed no one understood how the most organized of entrepreneurs managed to fill a sleigh with enough toys for all the world’s children much less find our rock chimney in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas. And, he always brought a few of the specific items on our Christmas lists. His was a job trickier than cotton farming. Each year beginning just after Thanksgiving, my sister and I circled items in the Sears Christmas Wishbook and debated the merits of this Baby Alive over that Tonka truck. Toys from Santa occupied us during the long, cold northeast Arkansas winters and saw us through to summer birthdays. Santa never disappointed. And once I stopped trying to analyze the logistics of


global sleigh travel, the answer was delivered straight to our backyard. Stuffed with turkey and dressing and sweet potatoes rolled in marshmallows and coconut (which I didn’t much like but ate anyway because Nana made them), I stared at the bedroom ceiling and tried to will myself to sleep. The house sat still and quiet, the night perfect and calm — ideal for a winter sleigh trek across the heavens. My mind raced. Head to toe, my skin tingled. I felt consumed by the rare excitement of Christmas Eve night. The clock on the nightstand glowed orange. Almost midnight. Almost Christmas morning. That’s when I heard it. I turned toward the bedroom window and stared at the sheer pink curtains filtering a moonlit night. I heard it again. “Did you hear that?” I whispered to my sister. She had. We both lay tree trunk still and listened to be certain. My heartbeat quickened. There it was again! Outside our bedroom window, the unmistakable yet distant sound of bells jingled through the cold darkness. Jingle bells on

Christmas Eve night only meant one thing. Did we dare peek? Yes! We decided without speaking and moved as one, jumping to tiptoes, shoving aside the curtain and peeping out the high, narrow window above our beds. An almost full moon illuminated the furrows behind our house, perfectly spaced and fanning to the ditch bank. A dusting of leftover snow sparkled all-around. And in the far corner of the backyard near the pump house … what to our wondering eyes should appear? Momma. Momma wearing her winter coat over her flannel nightgown. Sporting fuzzy slippers on her feet, she tromped through the stiff, silvery grass hauling Goldsmith’s shopping bags from our pump house to the back door. I stared at my sister. She stared back at me. Everything made sense. Momma secretly worked for Santa. (Read other work by Talya on her blog “Grace and Gardening” found at

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