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WINTER 2019

Moving Pine Bluff Forward

Also: Disappearing Dairies • Clover Bend Road Trip


IN THIS ISSUE

Farm Bureau Matters

Randy Veach | Page 3

Helping Farmers, Helping You Warren Carter | Page 5

Porch Front

No Bluff: Pine Bluff is poised for a comback Rob Anderson | Page 6

Disappearing Dairies

Gregg Patterson | Page 12

Rural Road Stories Keith Sutton | Page 18

Member Services Update Autumn Wood | Page 22

Taste Arkansas

Keith Sutton | Page 28

Delta Child

Talya Tate Boerner | Page 36

Cover design by Bryan Pistole

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Farm Bureau Matters

by Randy Veach | President, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation

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t was an honor to be among more than 7,000 Farm Bureau members celebrating the 100th anniversary of the American Farm Bureau Federation at its annual convention in New Orleans, where we recommitted our efforts to our organization’s mission of enhancing and strengthening lives in rural America, and building strong, prosperous agricultural communities. U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to those in attendance, his second consecutive appearance at the AFBF Convention. Farm Bureau’s leadership took that opportunity to impress upon him our need to get the federal government reopened and to work diligently to address trade inequities involving agricultural products. AFBF President Zippy Duvall, as he did when he spoke in Arkansas in October, reemphasized that the most important part of this 100-yearold organization are our county Farm Bureau members. It is the grassroots direction provided by those members that have seen the organization through bad times and, more often, the good times. When the American Farm Bureau was formed in 1919, it already had in place successful county Farm Bureaus and several state Farm Bureaus. Farmers and ranchers at that time were struggling to find a way to make a living with transportation problems and trade problems, because the rest of the world had tariffs on our products. Those farmers were trying to find an answer. Broome County in New York formed the first county Farm Bureau in 1911 and the idea of uniting farmers started to gain momentum and spread. County Farm Bureaus were started everywhere across the country. And the first state Farm Bureau was in Missouri, our neighbors to the north, in 1915. We got to 1919, and those farmers looked at what they were accomplishing at the state level with their Farm Bureaus, and they said, “We’ve got to do this on the national level.” And they created what we know as American Farm Bureau, because they needed one united voice. In 1919, they elected the first American Farm Bureau Federation

president, James Howard, who said to the people, "What's good for the farmer is good for America." It was then, and it still is today. During the '20s, it was a struggle to get farm legislation passed, so the American Farm Bureau, along with our state and county partners, encouraged congressmen and senators from rural areas to create what came to be known as the “farm bloc.” That farm bloc of congressmen and senators became so strong that nothing in Congress could get by them. It took their vote to make sure that it could pass. Then into the '30s, after the fall of the stock market, the Depression, the ravages of the dust bowl (where more than 850 million tons of topsoil had blown off the southern plains in 1935 alone), farmers were struggling again and it was a blow to agriculture's economic impact. Farm Bureau put together a farm relief program, and they took it to Congress and Congress implemented the very first Farm Bill in 1933. And it was almost word for word what the Farm Bureau policy had. The president of American Farm Bureau, Edward O'Neal during that time, went to the oval office and witnessed the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, sign the first Farm Bill into law. I was fortunate to be with state board member Terry Dabbs of Stuttgart and a handful of other state Farm Bureau presidents who were invited to the White House to witness President Trump’s signing of the 2018 Farm Bill. American Farm Bureau was there in 1933 for the first Farm Bill signing, and Arkansas Farm Bureau was just part of the most-recent Farm Bill signing. 1 Corinthians 10:26 says “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” meaning the Lord is in charge of all things. We should always look to the Lord's wisdom for our direction. Throughout the 100-year history of the American Farm Bureau, lawmakers have had one question: Where is Farm Bureau on this issue? With God’s will, Farm Bureau’s position will continue to be blessed and rewarded. God bless you and your families. God bless our farmers and ranchers. And may God bless the United States of America.

1 Corinthians 10:26 says “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” meaning the Lord is in charge of all things.

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Porch Front

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 • Warren Carter, Little Rock DIRECTORS:

Jon Carroll, Moro Terry Dabbs, Stuttgart Sherry Felts, Joiner Mike Freeze, Little Rock Bruce Jackson, Lockesburg Tom Jones, Pottsville Terry Laster, Strong Jeremy Miller, Huntsville Gene Pharr, Lincoln Caleb Plyler, Hope Rusty Smith, Des Arc Joe Thrash, Houston Dan Wright, Waldron EX OFFICIO

Magen Allen, Bismarck Donna Bemis, Little Rock Adam Cloninger, Keo Dustin Cowell, Deer Executive Editor • Steve Eddington Editor • Rob Anderson Contributing Writers • Ken Moore, Gregg Patterson, Maddison Stewart, Keith Sutton ADVERTISING

Contact David Brown at Publishing Concepts for advertising rates dbrown@pcipublishing.com (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 rhonda.whitley@arfb.com Front Porch • P.O. Box 31 • Little Rock, AR 72203 Please provide membership number Issue #110 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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Helping Farmers, Helping You

by Warren Carter | Executive Vice President, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation

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cience is not just another opinion. This may seem obvious when you first read it. We all have opinions and, as social media has shown us, we are often too quick to share them. Science, on the other hand, involves intensive research and often years of experimentation and reviews designed to tell us facts. We hear opinions spouted daily, but we rely on the work of scientists and researchers to help us make long-term, informed decisions about everything from health and the environment to how we do our jobs. This is particularly true of farmers and ranchers and almost everyone involved in producing the food we eat. Whether it’s the machinery and technology farmers use to plant, protect and harvest their crops or advances in meteorology, veterinary medicine and seed development, sound science makes farming and animal agriculture possible. This is exactly why Arkansas Farm Bureau’s published state policy – a policy developed at the grassroots level by farmer members across the state – refers to “science” or “sound science” more than 20 times. It’s also why our policy supports critical funding for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and other important research and development initiatives at our state’s universities. During my recent trip to the American Farm Bureau annual convention in New Orleans, I learned about research that shows doubt in science has been growing, and some consumers now feel the opinions of friends and social groups – including those they connect with online – are just as important as scientific data. Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, discussed these findings in a workshop at the convention, explaining that cold, hard facts are no longer enough to convince some consumers, particularly when their fears are fed by friends and members of like-minded groups. This evidence has been clear for some time. It is disturbing to those that produce our food and should be equally disturbing to consumers as well. We’ve watched as bloggers and marketers have cast doubt on the science of GMOs, ignoring the numerous peer-reviewed studies that show GMO foods are perfectly safe, and, in Arkansas we’ve seen activists attack the sound science behind the Arkansas Phosphorus Index and, relatedly, the monitoring of C&H Hog Farm in

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Newton County. Specifically, we’ve seen emotional appeals and dubious claims used in attempts to discredit the hard work of the team of respected, award-winning scientists researching the impact of C&H on the local environment. This is remarkable when you consider this team is made of up 10 Ph.D. researchers and other accomplished technicians with expertise in areas like groundwater, nutrient management, soil, and biological and agricultural engineering. It’s even more shocking when you know their work has been supported by scientists that include representatives of the University of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, the Agricultural Research Service, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and others. I find it hard to believe that all of these respected scientists risk their reputations and livelihoods for the benefit of one small farm. More importantly, we should all be concerned if special interest groups can impugn the reputations of such large groups of distinguished scientists simply because their work doesn’t support their ideological agenda. Despite this trend of science denial and the spread of bad information, Arnot’s research revealed some positives for farmers and ranchers, and offered a roadmap to those fighting to make facts – scientific, farming and otherwise – matter again. The Center’s survey on consumer attitudes shows that most hold a positive impression of agriculture and find farmers to be among the “most trusted” sources for information on food-related issues. Arnot explained that those of us in agriculture must “communicate with values” and highlight the values that we all share, like a deep concern for water quality, the environment and the health and well-being of animals. Begin the conversation here, he says, and people will be more likely accept the science. Science isn’t just another opinion, but opinions can have an impact on whether we accept or understand the science. If you have questions or concerns about where your food comes from or how our crops and animals are raised, talk to an Arkansas farmer or rancher. They will tell you why “sound science” matters to them and how it will help us protect not only our food supply, but the land, water and environment that matters to us all.

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NO BLUFF: After years of economic woes and bad press,

PINE BLUFF

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t’s not as easy as you’d think,” and “It’s a complicated process.” These are a few of the quotes Hunter Breshears provides when asked about the work of the Highland Pellets plant in Pine Bluff. Breshears, chief operating officer of Highland Pellets, is talking about his company’s procedure for making small wood pellets for use in power plants, but he may as well be talking about what’s happening in Pine Bluff. The Highland Pellets plant, which opened in 2016, is a small part of a much broader effort to move the once-thriving Southeast Arkansas city forward and help the community recover from years of economic malaise and negative publicity. Breshears, who grew up in Pine Bluff and worked internationally with Tyson and Hormel Foods, joined Highland

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IS POISED FOR A COMEBACK

Pellets after hearing about and meeting its co-founder and chairman, Tom Reilley. Reilley, a New Hampshire-based investor and entrepreneur, discovered Pine Bluff while scouting potential sites for the pellet plant. “I heard about Tom Reilley in late 2016 ... I wanted to talk to him because I heard about what he was doing with Highland Pellets and building and growing the company, but I also heard about what he was doing for the community,” says Breshears. “It sparked my curiosity. Why does a guy from New Hampshire want to be in Pine Bluff, Arkansas? What would make him think that he needs to help a community in a very depressed part of southern Arkansas – besides building a company? “ Breshears had dinner with Reilley during one of his many

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The Highland Pellets has more than 100 employees and can produce 600,000 tons of wood pellets per year for use as a coal replacement in power stations owned by Drax Power in the U.K.

visits to the state and, he says, after a few hours he knew Reilley was the “real deal.” “Tom really cares about the economic growth (of the city) and the social impact on Pine Bluff. He told me that he almost felt like it’s his mission to give back to the community and make a difference, and he’s lived that out,” says Breshears. “Tom’s not just thinking, he’s doing.” Reilley, who spends several days in the area every other week, admits he didn’t know anything about the city and visited only because “it had access to the logistics, power and fiber we needed to produce wood pellets.” As a former senior managing director with investment banking giant Bear Stearns and founder of private equity enterprise Kalan Capital, Reilley

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Ryan Watley, a Pine Bluff native and former chemistry professor, leads the efforts of Go Forward Pine Bluff, a non-profit working with the city to help improve infrastructure, education, economic development and quality of life. knew what he was looking for from a business standpoint. What he didn’t know was how much he would be drawn to the community he ultimately selected.

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“Once I started spending some time in Pine Bluff, I was saddened by some of the poverty I witnessed, but also intrigued about the bones of the old downtown,” Reilley says. Reilley wanted to know more Tom Reilley about the city and why it had been hit so hard by the “changing economic winds” of the last century. He noticed the issues Pine Bluff faced were similar to those faced by rural communities across the Midwest and he began to meet and talk to the people in the community through morning runs, community meetings and visits to local schools. “Jobs, jobs, jobs was the most frequent topic,” Reilley says of his conversations with city residents. As Reilley got to know Pine Bluff, he says he became interested in “placemaking,” a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces in a community. He also saw a need for improvements in education and job training – and re-training – in the area. Combining these interests and observations, Reilley became a director for a non-profit coalition of community leaders known as Pine Bluff Rising, which began pushing an array of community improvement initiatives and supporting efforts to promote positive news about the city. In addition, he began to take action through Catalytic Management, LLC, which is raising a new $100 million private equity fund called "Catalytic Opportunity Zone Fund, LLC" to invest in cities across Arkansas taking advantage of Opportunity Zone tax legislation for development and redevelopment projects. Both Pine Bluff Rising and Catalytic are key players in the effort to renovate and redevelop the 105-year-old Hotel Pines,

once a centerpiece of downtown Pine Bluff. While Pine Bluff Rising owns the hotel building, an operating group called Catalytic PB leases it and has purchased other properties on the street for potential use as restaurants and other nightlife attractions. Meanwhile, as Reilley was building Highland Pellets and engaging with the community through Pine Bluff Rising, other developments helped to fuel the effort to re-energize the community. First came the election of Mayor Shirley Washington in late 2016 and then the passage of the five-eighths cent “Go Forward Pine Bluff” economic development sales tax initiative in 2017. The tax initiative sprang from another community group effort – the 100-member Go Forward Pine Bluff task force, which formed in 2016 to build a plan for attacking the problems that had been dragging down the city. Over the course of a year, the group developed a 27-point plan for infrastructure improvements, economic development and education and other key issues. The tax, along with private investment, donations and grants, would provide the necessary financial support for enacting the plan. After the tax initiative was passed, Go Forward Pine Bluff, or GFBP, became the centerpiece non-profit driver for the plan, monitoring and guiding the planning process and specific projects and continuing the critical efforts to engage and inform the community. The organization quickly hired Ryan Watley, a city native who had served as an assistant professor of chemistry and assistant director of development for athletics at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, as its CEO. Watley had worked with the Pine Bluff Rising group and was a volunteer leader in the Go Forward tax campaign efforts. “We’re a very small organization with an ambitious plan,”

Hunter Breshears of Highland Pellets and Caleb McMahon of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County discuss ongoing efforts to revitalize Pine Bluff in the board room of the Highland Pellets plant.

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The 105-year-old Hotel Pines was once a community showpiece. Now owned by Pine Bluff Rising, the building is set for a major overhaul as part of the redevelopment of the city’s downtown.

says Watley. He and the GFPB team focus on four areas, or “pillars” – government/infrastructure, education, economic development and quality of life. Watley says he decided to help the GFPB campaign because he wanted to make a difference in his hometown and to help ensure that local workers and minority contractors were included in the efforts to improve downtown Pine Bluff. He was also drawn to the work because of his experience in development and fundraising in higher education. Despite the challenges inherent in helping a community make a major turnaround, Watley is undaunted. “It really only takes what we’ve essentially already begun to do – get people working together and have the right leadership in place,” says Watley. “We have an excellent mayor and we’ve seen the spirit of coming together that you need to solve any challenges. And then it takes investment dollars to provide the quality of life and infrastructure improvements and support the educational system.” Watley points to what the group has already accomplished, from involvement in developing the new Downtown Master Plan and Vision, the Pines Hotel redevelopment, and the recent successful relaunch of the King Cotton Classic basketball tournament to conducting numerous small business workshops through “The Generator,” its entrepreneurial and “innovation” hub. In addition, Watley says Go Forward has worked to improve community spirit and quality of life through the launch of several festivals celebrating regional culture and the holidays. Specifically, the organization sponsored Forward Fest: Blues, Batter and Brew, a summer festival held downtown and featuring numerous live music acts, and it partnered with the city to present Mistletoe Magic, a holiday festival that incorporated the city’s annual Christmas parade.

Conceptual drawings of the new library and aquatics center. Images courtesy of the Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington's office and design firm Crafton Tull.

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Watley emphasized that these events and other examples of change and success are important to maintain public support and enthusiasm for GFPB’s work. “Keeping the people informed Mayor Washington and communicating about our progress is key, because people want to see results. They want to see things come to fruition,” he says. “We don’t hold as many forums as we did in the past, because people aren’t as interested now in attending community meetings. We’ve showed them the plan and told them what we’re going to do and now they want to see the results of the plan. They want some tangible evidence.” Some of that tangible evidence is coming later this year, in the form of two new public facilities for the community – a new public library and a new community aquatics center. “I think people are noticing all of it,” says Mayor Shirley Washington of the city’s progress. “But the new aquatics center really stands out in my mind. It’s a $12 million project. We’re hoping to open it at the end of June or in July, but we’ve had so much rain, we’re a little behind schedule. “We don’t have any real public swimming pool for the community, so this aquatic center is going to provide something that we’ve needed for many years. It’s going to house a 25-yard swimming pool and a recreational pool, with lanes for aerobics and swimming lessons. It will also have a spa and a water park for kids with water features in one end and a large water slide.” She adds that the facility will also generate revenue because it will include rooms for parties, a conference room and a concession area. “The library will also be big plus for the community, in that it will be more than just a library where you check out books. It will be a learning center,” says Washington, who spent her career in education before becoming mayor. Washington also points to key elements of the Go Forward plan that are on the way, particularly a “streetscape project” that will make downtown more walkable, and development of mixed-use development in the area. She has worked closely with GFPB and has been involved with the organization from the beginning. “I was a part of that group before I announced that I was running for mayor, so I had already embraced the vision of Go Forward,” says Washington. “I felt that this public-private partnership was something that we really needed to aggressively move our community forward and that’s actually what has happened. “This was an initiative that had a hundred people – citizens from all walks of life and all ages and ethnicities in our community – coming together to forge this plan and I was happy to be a part of it. Coming on board from the beginning, I was able to catch every facet of the vision. That made it easier for me to embrace and to also encourage others to support.” Caleb McMahon, director of economic development with the

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Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, was also closely involved with the Go Forward effort from its early days. After becoming co-director of Pine Bluff Rising at Tom Reilley’s request, he was very active in the community conversations that led to the planning effort. “I’ve been here for more than two-and-a-half years now,” says McMahon, a Monticello native who spent years in China doing legal consulting for contracting and engineering firms. “Within my first week of being here, Tom walked into my office.” McMahon says he and Reilley now talk regularly and he is active in the Hotel Pines effort and other downtown projects. He and Reilley have also worked on fundraising events for local charities and Reilley has helped him in his other economic development efforts. “When we have prospects come to see if they want to locate here, we’ll bring in Tom and Hunter (Breshears of Highland Pellets) and they will sit there and be our salesmen,” he says. “That carries so much weight with other industries. Hearing that from industry that’s already here is so important, because they know it’s my job to sell them on Pine Bluff.” McMahon notes that “socially responsible” investing has been on the rise in recent years, with more companies and company shareholders expecting to do more than just make a profit. He says that he has sold some companies on the city with the idea that they could make a genuine difference in the community and change lives in a very real way. Mayor Washington believes such economic development efforts and the efforts of private business are critical to Pine Bluff’s future and she acknowledges that Tom Reilley has been an important connector for all of those working on behalf of the city. “We’re doing far more than the city could do working solo,” she says. “We bring so many resources together – human resources and capital resources – to make a more powerful impact. “Tom Reilley is amazing because not only does he come here making his investments, but he has a strong arm of outreach to draw others in and he’s doing everything in his power to get other eyes on Pine Bluff.” Nevertheless, despite the positive developments and the work done so far, both Washington and GFPB’s Watley recognize that more challenges lay ahead and that some in the community and the state may still have their doubts. “Anytime you have something new and something that involves change, you can face resistance. You can face uncertainty and doubt in people, so the most challenging thing is making sure people understand our role – the private sector’s role – in this public-private partnership. We want them to know that we’re not here to overhaul city government, but to do the private sector’s part in supporting city government.” Washington adds, “At the end of the day, when people see the impact it’s going to have on the city – and that it’s already having – they can’t help but say, ‘This was a good move for our city.’” For more on the Highland Pellets plant and additional interviews with community leaders, visit our blog at www.TasteArkansas.com.

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DISAPPEARING

DAIRIES A vanishing Arkansas icon

By Gregg Patterson

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Photos by Keith Sutton and Gregg Patterson

et’s make it clear. There’s no shortage of milk in Arkansas. Or for that matter, there’s no shortage of any dairy product. Plenty of milk. Plenty of butter. Plenty of yogurt. Plenty of cheese. Plenty of ice cream. Plenty of the numerous other things we eat that require and contain dairy. The supermarkets are chock full of them, and prices are affordable for this grocery list staple. So why are dairy farms nearly gone in Arkansas? The state once had more than 4,000. Now, there are about 40. What happened? Bruce Tencleve tracks the dairy industry for Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Commodity & Regulatory Affairs division. He says what’s happening in Arkansas is occurring elsewhere, too. “I don’t think Arkansas is any more unique than anywhere else as far as the challenges that face us now,” Tencleve said. “There’s so much milk in the country. The number of cows and total production in the United States is up. The amount of milk produced per cow is also up. “Combine that with the trade issues we’ve had with our neighbors to the north (Canada) and the south (Mexico) and other countries where we’ve lost markets. These problems are not unique to Arkansas,” Tencleve explained. Tencleve also cites the trending changes in the way dairies now operate as a major factor in the consolidation of the industry. “It’s not just that dairy has changed. Everybody sees that row crops have changed,” Tencleve said. “Look at the broiler industry. Everyone is bigger and more efficient, and dairy is not a lot different. One of the things we’ve been built on in this country has been smaller, pasture-based dairy farms; not a lot different from what Wisconsin’s dairy farms are right now.” He says Wisconsin, a well-known dairy state, averages 60-70 cows per farm. Throughout 2018, Tencleve says Wisconsin lost an average of two dairy farms a day. “Two… dairies… per… day,” he says emphatically, pausing between each word for maximum effect. That’s already happened in Arkansas. Tencleve says the herd size on dairy farms in the U.S. are getting bigger – much, much bigger. “In Arkansas, we didn’t get bigger, and we lost the farms. You’ve got to be a thousand-plus cows today,” he said. “And that’s a small farm. Dairy farming is not pasture-based anymore.” That idyllic scene that immediately comes to mind of cows loafing and grazing in a beautiful green field by a big red barn is a thing of the past. Long gone.

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Matt Simon (in the cowboy hat) checks in on the milking operation at Simon Brothers Dairy. The dairy currently milks 200 cows.

“The big dairies now have several free-stall barns with sand beds that are very comfortable for the cows. But they’re not pasture-based,” Tencleve explained. “The cows aren’t out on grass anymore.” Each barn may have 150-200 cows with all their needs met near the dairy parlor where they’re milked. Efficiency is the key on the farm, as well as access efficiency to the farm with the goal of cutting input costs to improve profitability. The old real estate adage “location, location, location” directly correlates to the bigger-is-better movement dairy farming is experiencing nationwide. It’s all about location efficiency. To this end, Tencleve says the Arkansas Agriculture Department is presently gathering information to help farmers interested in starting a dairy pick a suitable location. He says some of the factors include: proximity to a reliable feed source (i.e., row-crop farms); a location near a processing plant (the only two in Arkansas are located in Fayetteville and Little Rock); and an area that isn’t overly environmentally sensitive. The department plans to put this information on a webpage when it’s ready. Susan Anglin, 63, runs a third-generation dairy farm with her husband Ryan, 64 and their two sons, Cody, 30 and Casey, 28, near Bentonville. “I married a farmer,” she said matter-of-factly. “So I’ve been on the farm working every day for 34 years.” They milk 225 Holstein cows “… twice a day, 365 days a year, weekends and holidays.” Anglin says everything evolves and changes no matter what kind of farming it is. In 1985 when she first began dairying, she says there were more than 300 dairies in Benton County. Those dairies provided milk for a Kraft cheese plant that was built in Bentonville in the late 1940s. It’s gone, and the dairies disappeared with it. Today, Anglin says, there might be a dozen dairies left in Benton County.

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"It's either going to get better, or all of us will be out of business," says Susan Anglin, who operates a dairy in Bentonville with her husband, Ryan.

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Photo by James Groves

As dairies disappeared, so did the local businesses that helped support them. “If we need a part for our milking machines, we may have to travel an hour to get that part. Our feed no longer comes from the feed store in Bentonville,” Anglin said. “We have to get it from Missouri, or the big loads of grain that we get come out of Kansas. Sometimes we’ve gone as far as Nebraska. There used to be three or four dairy co-ops here,” she said. “Now there’s one. “We’re hanging on. You’re using your equity and every day that goes by, you feel like you’re just getting deeper in the hole,” Anglin said. “There are so many factors impacting dairy. The trade issues, all of that is up in the air,” Anglin continued. “There’s so much uncertainty. You can’t really count on anything. Our price of milk and not being able to cover our expenses is huge.” Susan Anglin states it starkly and plainly, and Arkansas’ remaining dairy farmers know it in their heart of hearts. “It’s either going to get better, or all of us will be out of business.” Like Tencleve, she agrees the trend is for dairies to get bigger, much bigger. “A thousand-cow dairy is probably going to seem small,” she said, echoing Tencleve. You’re going to have to expand. The small dairy farm is going to be nonexistent.”

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Bill Haak and his wife Delia were named Arkansas Farm Family of the Year 10 years ago. Now, he says it's almost impossible for small, generational dairy operations like his to make money.

Dairyman Matt Simon, 44, agrees if things don’t change, Arkansas dairies will be a thing of the past. He runs Simon Brothers Dairy outside of Conway with his father Mike, older brother Frederic, 48 and younger brother Jason, 42. They milk 220 cows. “The answer to what the future holds for dairying in Arkansas will be answered real soon. Unless the problem is remedied, the end is real soon,” Simon said. Simon believes government intervention with how milk is handled, marketed and paid back to the farmer is the problem. He says the government is responsible for the way things are now, so it makes sense that it should be the one to fix it. “Ultimately, the government is going to have to fix it, because it determines how milk is priced and marketed,” Simon said. (See sidebar about the new farm bill.) “Every phase of milk has different regulations as to how it can be marketed, where it can be moved, who pays for that movement and who gets the rewards for it. That’s all going to have to be realigned as to how the money transfers from the consumer to the farmer.” Simon says about 25 percent of what the consumer pays now for dairy products actually makes it back to the farmer. He believes that number should be closer to 33-50 percent. “The whole problem is not the fact that the consumer is not being charged enough for the product. A small increase on the consumer end

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could help the farmer substantially,” he said. “But if that money doesn’t get channeled back to the farm end of it, it’s no good. In my opinion, there’s a big gap in the middle that’s not being addressed.” Simon says it’s a challenge to stay in the dairy business. However, he’s not complaining when he says this. “It is a good way of life. I’ve got younger kids. I hope to allow them the same opportunity my parents gave me,” he said. “It’s an American lifestyle, something I’ve started and something I hope I can continue.” Bill Haak agrees dairying is a good way of life. It’s the only life he’s known. He, too, runs a small operation, milking 160 cows. The 61-yearold has done it near Gentry since 1980. Before that he was involved in his father’s dairy. He says the urban sprawl in northwest Arkansas, too much regulation in the dairy business and increasing costs, have made it nearly impossible to make money. He and wife Delia’s two sons, Luke and Jake, are grown. They live nearby with their own families and have successful careers outside dairying. The Haaks consider themselves blessed to be near their children and grandchildren. Haak, too, agrees that dairy farming is leaving Arkansas. “There’s no doubt,” he said when asked. He, too, believes mega-dairies will take over the industry, making it impossible for a small, generational dairy like his to survive. “It’s going to be mega-dairies located where the feed is the cheapest,” Haak said. “And that’s in the Midwest. Where the commodities (corn, soybeans, etc.) are grown is where the mega-dairies are going to be.” Haak presently gets his feed shipped in from Kansas. He says the new

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A high-producing dairy cow yields 100 pounds of milk (12 gallons) a day. The cost to the farmer to get that milk is between $13.50-$14.00.

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generation of dairies will be located where they don’t have to pay long-haul transportation costs for feed. However, Haak isn’t holding on with the belief the dairy farm will continue operating in the family. He pushes on, because it’s the way of life he knows and enjoys. “It’s just who I am and what I enjoy,” he said. He hopes to continue dairying for 10 more years. “The future of dairying is going to be different from what it has been in the past.” Haak said. “People like myself are

a dying breed. I’m very happy with what we’ve been able to do and very thankful.” He pauses, carefully measuring in thought the words he’s about to say. “The dairying is not my legacy. My legacy will never be thought of as Bill Haak was a dairy farmer,” he said. “I hope the legacy will be that I have grandchildren that are successful mothers and fathers, assets in their own right, and that they know Jesus. That’s what defines you.”

AAAAAA

WILL THE NEW FARM BILL HELP? On Dec. 20, President Donald Trump signed a new farm bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) into law. It contained some of the immediate beneficial changes for milk producers that dairyman Matt Simon hoped the government would address. Basically, small dairies producing less than 5 million pounds of milk annually (the equivalent of no more than 250 cows) – meaning every dairy left in Arkansas – will now have an adequate insurance safety net available to them. The cost farmers pay to produce a hundred pounds of milk, potentially, will be covered by the price of milk on the commodities market and insurance the farmer can buy at affordable premiums compared to previous farm bills. “This is the best help (for small dairies) we’ve ever seen. It’s help that will keep us in business from year to year,” Simon said. “We can’t get rich off it but hopefully, it will cover expenses, so we don’t have to operate at such a deficit like we have been. “Dairy has been in a horrible state for years. Farm bills in the past have failed the system,” he said. “This time the farm bill actually looks like it did dairy some favors. It’s going to give us the help we need.” Not all is sunshine and roses. Unfortunately, the already lost local supply chain that once supported Arkansas dairies is still gone. Dairy farmers will continue to have to deal with going greater distances to other states for things like feed and other necessary items just to keep their dairies operating. “That’s going to continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. I don’t see any turnaround in the infrastructure problem,” Simon admitted. “The only hope the new farm bill provides us is protecting our incomes to where the price we get for milk doesn’t force us out of business. We’ll just have to (continue to) buckle up and get our supplies wherever we can.”

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CLOVER BEND NATIONAL HISTORIC DISTRICT

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f you travel Arkansas Highway 367 between Newport and Walnut Ridge, you’ll find yourself passing through the little community of Miniturn (population 114), just south of Hoxie. Miniturn has no school, store or church, but if you turn there on Highway 228, a four-mile-long stretch of asphalt heading west, you’ll soon arrive at Clover Bend, the oldest community in Lawrence County and site of an interesting historical restoration with deep ties to farming. Story and photos by Keith Sutton

A short drive on Highway 228 in Lawrence County leads to the restored farmstead and school at Clover Bend.

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Life at Clover Bend on the Black River revolved largely around farming. This barn, while not one of the original structures on the site, was moved from nearby to help recreate an authentic appearance.

Clover Bend's busiest years were during the Great Depression, when displaced farmers were given fresh starts on new homesteads. Several Farm Security Administration Project buildings from the1930s are preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Named for unusually shaped bends in the nearby Black River, Clover Bend was settled by Frenchmen who farmed along the river in the early nineteenth century. A cotton plantation sprang up there in 1840, and the land passed through a series of owners — farmers all — for almost 100 years. From 1883 through 1909, fiction writer Alice French, known chief ly by her pen name Octave Thanet, spent her winters living and writing there in a three-story, 15-room Clover Bend home called Thanford. Her stories about the lives of Clover Bend’s sharecropping families gained her national acclaim, and she entertained many notables at Thanford, including Theodore Roosevelt. In 1936, the United States government purchased a large portion of the Clover Bend Plantation, and during the first and second administrations of President Franklin Roosevelt, it was the site of a successful attempt to combat the socioeconomic problems of the Great Depression. The plantation was

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divided into 88 units averaging 45 acres each. Farmers received the land, a four- or five-room house, a barn, a poultry house and other outbuildings. They paid $200 a year on a 40-year mortgage while raising cotton, clover, vegetables, cattle, hogs and poultry. This allowed tenant farmers to break the cycle of borrowing against earnings on one crop to put in a new one. It was deemed the Farm Security Administration’s most successful project in Arkansas. At the core of this project were the local schools, which the government built to provide educational opportunities for the children of participating farmers. Clover Bend Elementary opened in January 1938, followed by the opening of the high school in

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Popular author Alice French made Clover Bend her winter home from 1883-1909. Her memory is honored by the Alice French Bell Pavilion in front of the high school building. The bell that hangs there was cast in 1885 and shipped there by riverboat.

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1939, which included buildings for vocational agriculture and home economics. The schools averaged about 350 students a year in kindergarten through 12th grades. Later, a gymnasium, cafeteria and two houses were added. World War II marked an end to many New Deal programs as the government’s attention turned to the war effort. The Clover Bend school buildings and the land on which they stood were given to the school district in 1945. Farmers continued to pay their mortgages and farm their land. As the years went by, many of the small parcels of land were sold, and larger farms began to emerge. When consolidation closed the Clover Bend school district in 1983, the Clover Bend Historic Preservation Association was formed to preserve the area’s history. The Clover Bend National Historic District, comprised of five buildings in the high-school complex, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The complex includes the school building itself, plus the gymnasium, home economics building, cafeteria and fire station. There’s also a pavilion in front of the school that houses a 500-pound brass bell first hung on the site in 1885 to call the community for school, church and emergencies. A farm house, barn, chicken house, smokehouse and outdoor bathroom were later moved onto the 13-acre site to recreate the FSA appearance. All these things can be seen by visiting the site and taking a self-guided walking tour. You also can call ahead and arrange a guided tour by appointment. Some of the buildings are available for meetings, reunions and social gatherings. There is no admission fee. Folks are encouraged to drop by any time and take a walk through history on this fascinating property. For more information, phone 870-759-8046.

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The high school gymnasium is one of the buildings preserved at the Clover Bend National Historic District in Lawrence County.

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TASTE ARKANSAS

Prize-Winning Rice Recipes

By Keith Sutton

Photos by Keith Sutton

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n her first try, Little Rock's Rhonda Hull won first place blue ribbons in all three categories – Main Dish, Salad and Dessert – in Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Rice Cooking Competition at last fall’s Arkansas State Fair. Her main dish was Stuffed Pork Loin and her dessert was Chocolate Rice Pie.

CHO COLATE RICE

PIE

CRUST: • 1 1/3 cups all-pur po se flour • ½ teaspoon sa lt • 2 teaspoons granul ated suga r • ½ cup well-chilled vegetable shor tening • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold water Preheat oven to 375 de grees. In medium siz e bowl, mix flour, sa lt shor tening into flour and sugar. Cut mixture until particle s are the size of small water, 1 tablespoon at peas. Sprinkle in ice a time, tossing with a fork until all flour is of dough can be forme moistened and a ba ll d. Add more water if necessary. Refrigerat roll. On a light ly flour e dough until ready to ed surface, roll doug h from center outward wider than pie plate. into a circle 2 inches Caref ully transfer do ugh to pie plate. Trim leaving a ¾-inch overh ed ges of dough ang. Fold edge under. Flute dough as desired parchment paper and . Line crust with add pie weights. Pre-b ake crust 15 minutes and continue ba king . Remove pie weights for anot her 15 minutes or until crust begins Remove from oven an to light ly brown. d place on cooling rac k to cool.

starch FILLING: spoons corn • 2 ½ table on salt • ½ teaspo k • 1 cup mil gar • ¾ cup su aten • 1 egg, be oons butter • 2 tablesp

opped chocolate, ch t ee sw im • 4 oz. se ine rice cooked jasm tract • 1 ½ cups te ex on chocola • ¼ teaspo la il n on va • ½ teaspo

: TOPPING heat, o Cookies re O 0 ok over low 1 o • C r. er a tt g u b su d spoons en milk an nd both • 1 ½ table the egg. Ble with salt, th h to rc in a st re tu rn chocolate an, blend co k. Stir some of the mix stir in rice, d n a at In a saucep e ic h th l m stantly unti Remove fro stirring con butter and chocolate. dd mixtures. A ol. vanilla. Co d n a extract 28

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“I enjoy challenges,” said Hull after winning. “I have a competitive spirit, so the sense of accomplishment is really important to me. I feel like today I was very accomplished.” Hull said she makes the pork loin for her family several times a year, but the pie was the most challenging. “It took me three or four tries to get the pie right and my husband really likes it. I was surprised,” she said.

PO ST U F F E D

One of the main ingredients in the Stuffed Pork Loin is purple rice, which is grown mainly in Asia and has a deep black color that turns purple when cooked. It is slightly chewy and has a nutty flavor. This rice was so revered by the ancient Chinese that only the emperor was allowed to eat it, earning it the nickname “forbidden rice.” The filling for the Chocolate Rice Pie was made with jasmine rice.

R K L OI N

r ple rice • 1 cup pu icken stock ch butter • 1 ¾ cups s unsa lted n o o p s le b e onion • 2 ta opped whit h c ly e n fi d wa lnuts • ¾ cup pped toaste o h c .) z o • 1 cup (4 sa lt on coa rse c k p e pp e r • ¼ teaspo ground white or bla on ots • ½ teaspo dried apric y d e p p o h c • 1 cup ped pa rsle oons chop p s chives le b ta 2 • pped fresh o h c s n o o • 2 tablesp d ther t, butter fl ie eaten toge • 2 eggs, b neless pork loin roas bo chopped • 3-pound a rlic, finely or g s e v lo c e • 2 la rg table oil poons vege s le b ta 2 – 1 • ay ook ing spr nonstick c

STUFFED PORK LOIN DIRECTIONS: In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir well, reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until the stock is mostly absorbed. Set aside. Turn off heat and cover for 10 minutes. When the rice is ready, add it to the walnut mixture, then stir and toss with a fork to combine. Let cool to room temperature stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, melt the butter over moderate heat in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook gently, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the walnuts and continue to cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Add the apricots, parsley, chives and eggs to the rice mixture, then stir briskly until evenly mixed. Set aside.

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Lay the pork loin out flat on a work surface Spread it with the garlic, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread the cooked rice mixture over the meat then roll the loin up snugly. Using heavy duty string, tie the roast firmly around its circumference in three or four places at 2-inch intervals. If some of the stuffing comes out, just push it back in. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the oil in a heavy, oven-proof skillet, or coat the skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over high heat. Brown the rolled-up roast all over, turning it frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in the oven and cook until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 degrees, about 1 to 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. With a long sharp knife, cut crosswise into slices ½- to ¾-inch thick.

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DELTA CHILD In Delta Child, author Talya Tate Boerner draws on her Mississippi County childhood to deliver readers back to a simpler time when screen doors slammed, kids tromped cotton, and Momma baked cornbread for supper every night. Boerner, a fourth-generation Arkansas farm girl, has been published in "Arkansas Review," "Deep South Magazine," and "Delta Crossroads." Her award-winning debut novel, "The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee," is also set in northeast Arkansas. Follow her blog "Grace Grits and Gardening" (www.gracegritsgarden.com) for more tales of Arkansas farming, gardening, and comfort food.

Farm Magic

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hen I was a little girl, I looked for magic on the farm. I felt confident it was there somewhere, hidden in plain view inside our farmhouse or around the property. I saw evidence everywhere. It came in the form of deep snowfalls that appeared while I slept, snowfalls that surprised everyone, even the bushy-eyebrowed weatherman in Jonesboro. Nana said gardening was magic. She pointed to the way her irises popped up from the soil, and the way her roses bloomed just in time for Easter. Daddy said he didn’t believe in magic or miracles even though, in my opinion, every single harvest was miraculous, mainly because every single summer was the worst Daddy had ever lived through. So I searched. The problem, as I saw it, was not that it didn’t exist – this magic portal to somewhere else – I’d just not yet located the secret passageway or stood in the exact spot to make the entrance appear. Magic was a common theme in the library books I devoured, towers of books, each a new adventure, many of which would stick with me into adulthood as though part of my DNA. Yes, somewhere in our expansive yard there had to be a gateway to Wonderland, a hole hidden by tufted grass or shaggy dandelions, and once discovered, would reveal a more curious world than the one in plain sight. My little sister and I continued exploring not only the yard surrounding our house but also along the turnrows and ditchbanks. We looked beneath shrubs and inside hollowedout places in pecan trees. The only staircase in our one-story house was hidden inside the ceiling, a folded-up, accordion-style contraption that Momma released with a loud grunt and the yank of a cord. By its very nature – dark and still smelling of a long-ago fire – the entire attic space held great possibility. We stepped on warped floorboards and pressed fingers into interesting knot holes and along wall cracks that let in light. We found no clues in the attic, either.

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by Talya Tate Boerner

One thing became clear. The entrance to our Wonderland would reveal itself in its own sweet time. Later, say seventh grade, I considered those kids who discovered Narnia through the back of an antique wardrobe. The bedroom I shared with my sister held no such secret furniture, and our closet was nothing special. I knew this to be factual because, after one certain (miraculous) year that included excellent cotton prices and a (miraculous) harvest, Daddy built an addition on to the house. We watched the walls go up and learned that although the process was cool to see, magic couldn’t be constructed with nails and 2x4s purchased down at Barton’s Lumber. At least I didn’t think so. As I look back on it, the only place we didn’t fully explore was Momma’s bathroom closet. The bottom half of it was hidden beneath an odd trap door. Momma stored our Halloween jack-olanterns inside that space, but otherwise, the area served no purpose that I could tell. And the door itself was easily forgotten, hidden from the world by bath towels and rolls of toilet paper stacked on top of it. Now, I wonder about that door and the unique space beneath it. Perhaps it was an escape hatch for Momma? A way for her to find a few moments of peace and quiet away from her overworked farmer husband and two imaginative girls? I often return home to the farm to clear my mind, to get away and write. I’ve come to believe the magic I searched for isn’t found in the dark attic or behind a shelf in the pumphouse. The whole of the place is the magic – the land, the yard, the aged trees that are beginning to die off. The house itself. True magic lies in the plans we made, the dreams we had, the memories that still live between the walls. Was the magic there the whole time, growing alongside the cottonfields and ditchbanks? I think so. But I believe magic only reveals itself later, much later, when memories become fragile and more distant. Even so, I’ll be going home soon, and I plan to investigate that trap door in Momma’s bathroom closet. Because you never really know.

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Profile for Arkansas Farm Bureau

Front Porch Magazine - Winter 2019  

New