Arkansas Grown

Page 1

A Guide to the State's Farms, Food, & Forestry

Arkansas Grown Pink Tomatoes

The Impact of the Vine Ripened Pink Tomato on Arkansas

Hook, Line, and Sinker

The Producers of Catfish Pro Catfish Bait, an Arkansas Made Fish Bait, Make a Big Splash 2020 | SPONSORED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Innovative Faculty – Revolutionizing Agriculture

Pictured from left to right, the College of Agriculture’s newest faculty members: Dr. John Nowlin, Dr. Ahmed Hashem, Dr. Aaron Shew and Dr. GwanSeon Kim

The College of Agriculture at Arkansas State University offers outstanding academic preparation including a wide range of educational opportunities, professional growth, and direct connections with industry leaders. Located in the Upper Delta, A-State delivers a regionally specialized education. From the Arkansas River to the Mississippi, from the Ouachita Mountains to the Ozarks, our students make a global impact. New faculty at A-State are incorporating digital agriculture across the curriculum to prepare our students for successful careers in modern agriculture. “We are equipping our students with the technical skills needed for environmentally sound food production and long-term career resiliency in order


(870) 972-2085 AStateCoA

to feed the world’s growing population.” – Dr. John Nowlin, assistant professor geospatial technologies. The college offers academic programs in agricultural business, agricultural education, animal science, preveterinary medicine, agricultural systems technology and plant & soil science. Research in the college is enhanced through its partnership with the Arkansas Biosciences Institute where researchers are providing leadership in the discovery of innovative plant-based materials for sustainable food production, energy, and bio-based pharmaceuticals. Serving Arkansas and reaching the world – come innovate with us at A-State!


(870) 972-2025


The Poultry Federation (TPF) is a multi-state trade organization representing the poultry and egg industry in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The purpose of The Poultry Federation is to promote and protect all poultry interests relating to production, distribution, merchandising and consumption of poultry and poultry products; to disseminate information relating to the various phases of the poultry industry in order to improve and expand markets; to increase efficiency in production and marketing; to encourage and support research in production and marketing of poultry; and to encourage and support youth programs in poultry work. Learn more about us at

321 South Victory Street • Little Rock, AR 72201 • (501) 375-8131 •

Table of Contents A Bootcamp for Ag Entrepreneurs

An Act of Transformation B & D Genetics: Breeding Out the Competition The Century Farm Program UAPB Farm Academy Beginning Farmers Program Rice Reps Plant Seeds for the Next Generation Delta Peanut Farm to School: How Does Your Garden Grow? Livestock Inspectors are Essential for Protection Basking in the Sun Something in the Water From Work Boots to High Heels To Protect and Serve Food Safety: Adventures in Grading Shared Kitchens are a Hot Commodity One Bean, Infinite Possibilities Hemp is Happening Plants, Pets, and Pellets Beasts of Burden: Arkansas's Feral Hogs

10 14 16 28 36 44 48 52 56 62 66 68 74 76 84 86 88 90 92

20 24 32 40 58 80

Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives Arkansas Cities and Towns Embrace Community Forestry to Create Healthier Communities

Hook, Line, and Sinker The Producers of Catfish Pro Catfish Bait, an Arkansas Made Fish Bait, Make a Big Splash

Sweet on the Stalk: Esau’s Sweet Corn Meticulous Care, Attention to Details Make Esau’s Sweet Corn Unforgettable

Arkansas Grown Pink Tomatoes The Impact of the Vine Ripened Pink Tomato on Arkansas

What is the Produce Safety Rule? Important Guidelines that Protect Consumers from Foodborne Illnesses

Homegrown by Heroes: Boots on the Ground Recognizing Arkansas Veterans Who Work in Agriculture


Pink Tomatoes from Pace Farms of Monticello, Arkansas. ARKANSAS GROWN 1

The Arkansas Grown program, administered through the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, began in 2012 to help promote the many agricultural products that are grown here in Arkansas. The program is often used to help make the critical connection between producers and consumers. Developed by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture to help buyers locate Arkansas producers, any Arkansan that produces an agriculture product may join the program. Learn more about the membership options and get your FREE MEMBERSHIP today!

BECOME A MEMBER Go to and register today! Listing information is provided by members and does not imply endorsement. Members are responsible for the accuracy of their listings and may update their information by contacting the Arkansas Grown Program Manager. The Arkansas Grown program is administered by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. The “Arkansas Grown� logo is a registered trademark.

A guide to the state's farms, food, & forestry

Arkansas Grown is published and distributed annually by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. For questions or advertising information, please call Amy Lyman at the Department at (501) 410-4616 or email WRITERS: Anna Thrash, Karen Reynolds, Cynthia Edwards, Krista Quinn, Department; Aaron Sadler, Arkansas Press Association; Tracy Courage, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension; Lon Tegels, University of Arkansas at Monticello; Rebecca Kaufman, AgLaunch; Amy Gordy, Arkansas Rice Federation Rice Rep; Will Hehemann, UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences GRAPHIC ARTIST: Joby Miller, Department PHOTOGRAPHERS: Anna Thrash, Joby Miller, Brett Dawson, Department; University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension; Lon Tegels, University of Arkansas at Monticello; Keith Sutton, Arkansas Farm Bureau; UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences EDITOR & ADVERTISING COORDINATOR: Amy Lyman, Department ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Wes Ward ARKANSAS DEPUTY SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Cynthia Edwards FORESTRY DIVISION DIRECTOR: Joe Fox LIVESTOCK & POULTRY DIVISION DIRECTOR: Patrick Fisk PLANT INDUSTRIES DIVISION DIRECTOR: Scott Bray NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION DIRECTOR: Bruce Holland DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS: Amy Lyman

© Copyright 2020 Arkansas Department of Agriculture 1 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205, (501) 225-1598, All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. No state appropriated funds were used in the publishing of this magazine.


ARKANSAS AGRICULTURE OVERVIEW A glimpse of Arkansas’s leading agricultural products


Arkansas has



acres of farm land with an average farm size of



327 acres





$4,000 $3,000


$2,000 $1,000 $0 Broilers $4,090

Soybeans $1,487




Arkansas Rice


All other states combined

Rice $1,159

Eggs $528

Corn $432

Cattle $416



Timber $405

Cotton $388

Turkey $304

Hay $235




, 56% of the state is forested land

42% of land is comprised of farms

Source: 2019 University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas Agriculture Profile 2019, USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service 2019


A Message from the Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson Agriculture is pink tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pine trees, pigs and poultry, hay, and farm-raised minnows and catfish. But agriculture is more than crops, livestock, and timber. Agriculture is a livelihood, a way of life. For many Arkansans, agriculture is their life story. I know many people who attribute their outlook on life, their work ethic, and their broad knowledge of the world to their childhood on the farm. The long hours in August heat and January cold required discipline and endurance, qualities they have carried into their careers, whether they stick with farming or find a desk job in town. A retired Little Rock orthodontist says that stringing barbed wire and tightening it with a come-along when he was a boy taught him the principals of bending wires to straighten teeth. Farms kids can drive most anything on wheels and a manual transmission – tractors, combines, pickup trucks – before they are teenagers. They can back a cattle trailer or a flatbed into a barn on the first try. These skills develop naturally and breed a quiet confidence in them that no job is too big, no adversity insurmountable. They carry that confidence into adulthood, regardless of their profession. Agriculture is Arkansas’s Number 1 industry. Arkansas has 42,500 farms, and 97 percent of those are owned and operated by families. Farmers are the strength of our state and some of the most optimistic people I know. Year after year, in the face of drought and flood, grapevine red-blotch virus and boll weevils, the rising cost of seed and the falling price of crops, farmers head to the fields to grow the food for our tables, raise the cotton for our clothes, and harvest the timber to build our houses. The Arkansas Grown values that our farm-raised Arkansans bring to life make everything better in Arkansas. Respectfully,

Governor Asa Hutchinson State of Arkansas ARKANSAS GROWN 5

What’s Growing on in Arkansas?

Our team of experts can help you tell the story of our state’s #1 industry For photos, video, news, commentary and more: Facebook






Welcome to the 2020 edition of Arkansas Grown! The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s goal with each annual edition is to honor the hard work and dedication of the 42,500 Arkansas farms and ranches and the many related businesses that make agriculture the largest industry in Arkansas. Arkansas’s agricultural industry is broad, diverse, and strong. It contributes more than $21 billion to the state’s economy annually and provides one of every six jobs in the state. Arkansas consistently ranks in the top 25 in the nation annually in the production of more than 17 different agricultural commodities. Our diverse agricultural production includes livestock, poultry, aquaculture, row crops, specialty crops, and forestry. Arkansas producers serve as leaders at the local, state, and national level and are at the forefront of agricultural technology improvements and innovation. The passage of Governor Hutchinson’s Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 kicked off an exciting year of transformation for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. The legislation officially changed the name of the Department and added 12 new boards, commissions, and programs under the administration of the Department. We have provided an overview in this edition of Arkansas Grown to help you become familiar with our new name, logo, and structure. It is an honor and a privilege to serve Arkansas’s vibrant and innovative agricultural industry. Department staff across all divisions continue to work together to identify ways to improve the Department’s efficiency and effectiveness, both internally and externally. You have my assurance that the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is committed to be the strong and effective resource and partner that our agricultural producers, businesses, and rural communities deserve and expect.


Wesley W. Ward Secretary of Agriculture ARKANSAS GROWN 7


Arkansas Grown, administered through the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, began in 2012 to help promote the many agricultural products that are grown here in Arkansas. The program helps connect the growing number of consumers, who want to know where their food originates, with local producers.

Arkansas Made

Arkansas Made, another Department program, promotes goods and products manufactured in our state by businesses and connects them to potential buyers. Since 2014, Arkansas Made has encouraged the purchase of locally made products by creating a community of suppliers and buyers that call Arkansas home.

Homegrown By Heroes

When consumers search for an Arkansas Grown or Arkansas Made item and see a Homegrown By Heroes logo, they know the item was produced in Arkansas by an Arkansas veteran. In 2015, the Department adopted the national Homegrown by Heroes branding program that enables farmer veterans to market their agricultural products by labeling them as veteran-produced.

JOIN TODAY! Learn more at


“It’s difficult to articulate how much I learned from this week.”


A Bootcamp for Ag Entrepreneurs AgLaunch, ASU, and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture partner to host entrepreneurial bootcamp The Mid-South Delta region is gaining in popularity and visibility for its opportunities to advance innovation in agriculture, and Arkansas stands to be a major force in that progress. As a hotbed of innovation for years through biotech, water management, and crop varieties, Arkansas has typically been the beneficiary of new technology but not always part of the development of innovation. With fertile farmland, plentiful water, river, rail, and major interstates, Arkansas farmers have a chance to lead the region in adopting and growing new ag-tech startups. Agriculture is at a flection point, and many farmers and businesses are charting new territory – a landscape driven by consumer demand, sustainability concerns, labor shortages, volatile weather patterns, and increased market pressure. Farmers are looking to new technology to address some of these pain points. Ag-tech has become a big business. According to AgFunder, investment into agri-food tech companies reached more than $17 billion in 2018, five times the amount invested in 2012. Despite increased investment, very little of this technology has made its way to the farm because new technology is not always compatible with the needs of farmers. So how do farmers get involved in these early stages of technology? One option for involvement is through the farm-centric innovation at AgLaunch, a Memphis-based nonprofit operating in the Mid-South Delta Region. AgLaunch is committed to making sure farmers are included in the development of agricultural technology every step of the way. The organization is recruiting and expanding its farmer network, a group of farmers from across the region who are testing innovation and creating new marketing approaches.

The AgLaunch Farmer Network boasts more than 20 growers farming more than 100,000 acres across the Delta region. One of AgLaunch’s leading Farmer Network partners is Ritter Agribusiness, a farm based in the eastern Arkansas town of Marked Tree. Ritter Agribusiness provides a diverse landscape where tech startup companies can test their innovations like precision agriculture, robotics, biologic-based pest control, and supply chain integrity in the field. AgLaunch recruits ag-tech entrepreneurs from all over the world to come to the Delta and partner with farmers to build and advance their companies. These entrepreneurial partners can also seek investment from Innova, Memphis’s Ag Innovation Fund, a $31 million investment fund backed by Farm Credit banks. AgLaunch was recently named one of the Small Business Administration’s Regional Innovation Clusters, which means it is tasked with leading innovation efforts in production agriculture for the Delta region. As part of that work, AgLaunch partnered with Arkansas State University’s Delta Center for Economic Development and Department of Agriculture, as well as the Arkansas Department of Agriculture to host a week-long entrepreneurial bootcamp in Jonesboro in the summer of 2019. Arkansas State University and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture were natural partners given their commitment and agricultural experience, research, and expertise. AgLaunch sees this continued work with Arkansas State and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture as vital to support early-stage companies in the Mid-South region. The 2019 bootcamp program included farm tours and sessions focused on marketing, venture ARKANSAS GROWN 11

capital, working with land-grant universities, field design and research. These sessions complemented the existing AgLaunch programming through AgLaunch365 and the AgLaunch Farmer Network. Teams also received instruction from partners like Arkansas State University’s College of Agriculture, the Delta Center, A-State Innovate, Agricenter International, Archer Malmo, Innova Memphis, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Arkansas, and others. This year’s teams hailed from four states and included companies representing the full life cycle of agriculture from soil health to human health: ● Animal Health Analytics, St. Louis, Missouri; monitors livestock biometrics and uses big data to provide solutions that improve the wellness of the animal, provides cost savings for farm operations and increases confidence for consumers in the U.S. food supply. ● Cobbler Technologies, Inc., Carlisle, Arkansas; developed and deployed software as a service platform for agricultural companies that easily integrates multiple data sources and allows users to customize dashboards to help them make better decisions and share reports securely. ● Sprout Urban Farms, Little Rock, Arkansas; is an online grocery store with an emphasis on local products and same-day delivery. ● GSS Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas; developed a vertical hydroponic tower that increases production capacity of greenhouse “dead-space.” ● Lepidext, Lexington, Kentucky; is a proprietary sterilizing virus to organically eradicate corn earworm. ● Smart Farm Systems, Nicholasville, Kentucky; created remote, wireless monitoring and control for wells and irrigation. ● SymSoil, Solano County, California; is scaling indigenous microorganisms to bring the soil food web to market.


“It's difficult to articulate how much I learned from this week,” said one of the bootcamp participants. Several of the startups have applied to be part of the AgLaunch365 program, a more robust acceleration process that begins the field trial process with farmers. Three startups were featured at the AgLaunch “Future of Agriculture” Field Day held at Agricenter International that hosted nearly 200 people and showcased cutting-edge technology and new value-added crop trials. AgLaunch is planning other events like field days, innovation workshops, and opportunities to engage with field trials in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and A-State for 2020. To learn more about AgLaunch and its farmer network, please visit

Led by cattlemen, for cattlemen.

Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association 310 Executive Ct., Little Rock, Arkansas 72205 501.224.2114  FI

Legislation  Education  Advocacy  Development 

An Act of Transformation Taking a look at Rebranding the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Governor Hutchinson’s signing of the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 kicked off an exciting year of transformation for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. The Transformation Act became effective on July 1, 2019, and reduced the number of Cabinet-level departments from 42 to 15. The new law changed the name of the Arkansas Agriculture Department to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and designated it as one of the 15 new Cabinet-level departments. Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward continues to lead the Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department).

“The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is committed to being the strong partner and resource that agriculture, our state’s largest industry, deserves and expects.” “It’s an honor to lead the Arkansas Department of Agriculture during this time of historic transformation of state government under Governor Hutchinson’s leadership,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. The Transformation Act increased the number of boards, commissions, and programs under the administration of the Department from 10 to 22. The law also specified that all personnel are employees of the Department. The Department has been reorganized into five divisions: Forestry, Livestock and Poultry, Natural Resources, Plant Industries, and Shared Services. A new official identifying brand has been developed for the Department and each division to provide a consistent identity and increase the public’s recognition of the Department’s wide range of services. Department staff across all divisions are working together to identify ways to improve the Department’s efficiency and effectiveness, both internally and externally. A 30-member Transformation Action Team met weekly for three months to develop strategies to improve customer service and increase ARKANSAS GROWN 14

teamwork and communication between divisions and all entities under the Department’s administration. The Transformation Action Team also recommended ways to increase utilization of existing resources and provided important feedback on the consolidation of existing Department policies and the development of new ones. Several Transformation Action Team committees continue to meet as needed throughout the implementation process. “Employees of the Department have embraced the goal of being the most productive, most efficient, and most effective department in state government in order to best serve our state’s largest industry,” said Ward.

processes and improve customer service are available, and action is being taken to add more later this year. Cross training of employees is taking place to build resiliency and increase capacity across the Department. Savings have been achieved through lease and contract consolidations. More than 110 separate policies have been consolidated into 46 updated policies applicable to all employees within the Department, and a new employee handbook is being developed.

“The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is committed to being the strong partner and resource that agriculture, our state’s largest industry, deserves and expects. I’m confident that the transformation efforts underway at the The Department has made significant progress Department will strengthen our ability to serve on implementing the identified transformation Arkansas agriculture for many years to come,” ARKANSAS measures. More online formats to streamline DEPARTMENT said Ward.






























“We’re bringing American sheep genetics to the world.”


B & D Genetics: Breeding Out the Competition International breeders make a home for themselves in Arkansas In the heart of Arkansas rice country, where mills, silos, and combines are often the only things obscuring an expansive horizon, sits an innovative, and internationally recognized sheep and goat facility specializing in reproduction and genetics. It’s not a place one would expect the only approved multi-country sheep and goat semen and embryo export facility in the United States. But for B & D Genetics owners David and Brittany Carwell, there’s no place they would rather be than the Arkansas Delta.

countries worldwide, you literally have to come to Cherry Valley, Arkansas. You can’t go anywhere else,” Brittany said. “We’re bringing animals of national-champion quality here to Arkansas for collection. Arkansas will be responsible for making these high-quality sheep and goat genetics available to the rest of the world.”

The facility serves a brand-new industry, “Arkansas is a great and the international location because we can community is taking service companies in notice. The products North Dakota, New York, require worldwide distributorship, and the North Carolina, and Carwells have multiple Georgia.” international contracts. They have planned The married couple met while studying multiple international trips in 2020 to grow reproductive physiology in graduate school at the export business, and they have multi-year Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. They projects currently on going with producers from relocated to Cross County, Arkansas, to establish the European Union and Australia. their business on farmland owned by David’s family. He is a Cherry Valley native. “We wanted to find a niche for our company,” she said. “Right now, if you have the best goat in the Simply put, B & D Genetics offers breeding and U.S.A. and you want to ship semen to Brazil, you genetics services for sheep, goats, deer, and have to apply and get a permit. What we’ve done animals classified as small ruminants. Much instead is try to standardize the process to where like neighboring farms seek to find and replicate the products can go to more than one country at the best varieties of rice, B & D Genetics assists a time. No one has done that but us.” customers in reproducing the best genetics in the various sheep and goat breeds. Before B & D Genetics, most places internationally wouldn’t accept genetic products They quickly recognized the export need and from anywhere but New Zealand or Australia went through the rigorous process of becoming because of concerns about diseases. Because of the only USDA-certified multi-country (including their exacting standards and the New Zealand the European Union) export collection facility in government’s rigorous certification process, the country. The demand for their services has B & D Genetics has effectively opened the exceeded expectations. international market to United States products. “In order to be able to qualify your frozen products (semen and embryos) to go to multiple ARKANSAS GROWN 17

That’s a benefit to consumers who no longer have to pay exorbitant costs to ship live ruminants for breeding purposes. “We’re bringing American sheep and goat genetics to the world. It’s much more economical to ship frozen embryos than it is to ship live female animals,” Brittany Carwell said. The Carwells own both B & D Genetics and Delta Livestock Diagnostics. B & D Genetics also offers artificial insemination, flushing and embryo transfer, in-vitro fertilization and semen collection for sheep, goat, and deer producers at their domestic clinic and through satellite centers located around the United States. Delta Livestock Diagnostic is a ruminant (cattle, sheep, goat, and deer) diagnostic lab that tests blood samples submitted by producers across the U.S. for pregnancy and diseases. They also operate B & D Land & Cattle which maintains herds of cattle, sheep, and goats as commercial embryo transfer recipients and work with professional breeders within the region. Their location remains ideal for the domestic side of their business as well as international, according to Brittany Carwell. “Although there are a lot of practitioners in Oklahoma and Texas, Arkansas is a great location because we can service companies in North Dakota, New York, North Carolina, and Georgia,” she said. And while the Carwells never envisioned having an international business – especially one that has grown so quickly – they are thankful to work with other international companies based in Arkansas, specifically Heifer International, Winrock International, and the University of Arkansas’s World Trade Center in Rogers.

Want more information? Visit to learn more about B & D Genetics or B & D Land & Cattle. ARKANSAS GROWN 18

LIVESTOCK & POULTRY OVERVIEW Food Safety & Quality, Diagnostic Laboratory, Animal Health and Fairs


1.73 BILLION pounds of chicken meat inspected


pounds of turkey meat inspected

1.52 BILLION chicken eggs graded


pounds of rabbit meat inspected



calf hood vaccinations by livestock inspectors


Health Certificates processed

OVER 2,400

hours worked by Livestock and Poultry Division Inspectors at Arkansas Fairs


equine infectious anemia (EIA) tests performed


Animal Movement Permits issued


exhibits inspected at fairs


people attended Arkansas Fairs


cattle tagged for disease traceability


Diagnostic Procedures performed


provided to Arkansas Fairs

Information provided by the Livestock and Poultry Division 2019



Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives Arkansas Cities and Towns Embrace Community Forestry to Create Healthier Communities For many decades, trees have been considered “A lot of Arkansas residents are starting to nice things to have in cities and towns. However, recognize that trees are valuable resources and a growing body of research is providing strong need to be managed just like other community evidence that having trees in communities is infrastructure,” says Fisher. not just nice, but essential for human health Proper planning and tree care are the keys and well-being. Research shows that having to maintaining a community forest that will an abundance of well-cared-for trees in provide many benefits for years to come. Simply communities improves the health of residents, planting trees, without a plan increases air and water quality, for how to take care of them, reduces flooding of city streets, “There are some rarely results in an attractive and has numerous other surprising benefits and healthy community valuable benefits. forest. Community forest of having trees in “There are some surprising management also makes communities, like benefits of having trees financial sense because the presence of trees in communities, like the trees, when properly cared reducing crime and presence of trees reducing for, are one of the few forms crime and violence,” says of community infrastructure violence.” Harold Fisher, Urban Forestry that gains value Partnership Coordinator over time. for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Elements for successful community forest Forestry Division. “Some of these benefits management include having trained tree care may be due to the positive effect trees have on staff or volunteers, developing a community mental health. People just feel better when forest management plan, and having adequate they’re around trees.” funding and community support for tree Because trees grow well in Arkansas, many management. While larger cities usually have communities have offered these benefits more resources for public tree management, in the past without much effort. However, small towns are often able to do a lot with the increasing urbanization, the spread of nonhelp of dedicated volunteers. Local tree boards, native pests and invasive plants, and poor tree garden clubs, civic groups, beautification care are contributing to losses in tree canopy committees, and community development in many Arkansas communities. These losses, groups can be very influential in establishing along with an increased understanding of the tree management as a priority. positive impact trees have on communities, are “There are a lot of small towns in Arkansas motivating Arkansas cities and towns to take a that have made great strides in their tree more active role in tree management with the management with the help of volunteers,” says hope of reducing canopy loss and maximizing Fisher. “Concerned citizens are often the best community benefits. advocates for trees in a community and can jumpstart a community tree management program.” ARKANSAS GROWN 21

Fisher also recommends the Tree City USA program as one of the best ways for communities to manage their trees. The Tree City USA program is coordinated by the Arbor Day Foundation and provides a framework for communities to manage and expand their urban forests. The Tree City USA program can work in large or small communities and promotes care of existing trees while planning for future tree planting. While becoming certified as an official Tree City USA community can seem like the end goal of the program, the process establishes a good foundation for community tree management. The best Tree City USA programs continue to expand and improve community forest management annually and set new management goals when appropriate. Tree City USA communities that monitor their progress regularly and adjust to new challenges and opportunities are the most successful. There are currently forty-one Tree City USA communities in Arkansas, and several others are working toward certification in the program. “There’s always room for improvement,” explains Fisher. “The real goal is to improve the quality of life in the community and maintain sustainable forests for community health.” The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Urban & Community Forestry Program provides technical assistance to help communities develop sound community forest management practices and policies. The Urban & Community Forestry Program also assists communities with Tree City USA certification and provides training for municipal employees in proper tree care. As the number of people moving from rural areas to urban areas in Arkansas continues, it is important to think of trees as valuable community assets and manage them accordingly. Tree conservation, planting, and care is in everyone’s best interest and can be a cost-effective way to address many community issues.


Cultivating leadership in public policy since 1939.

GROW WITH US Agriculture is more than land and crops; it is Arkansas's economic foundation. We promote this industry and advocate for its future and our state's prosperity.



Our roots run deep in agriculture. Simmons Bank is proud to be a homegrown product of Arkansas. So we know the important role agriculture plays in our local and national economies. Our history can be traced back to the deep farmland roots of the Mississippi Delta — a strength of our business that continues today. So if you’re looking to expand your farming operation, buy new equipment or purchase livestock, stop by today and talk to an agricultural lending specialist.

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Hook, Line, and Sinker The Producers of Catfish Pro Catfish Bait, an Arkansas Made Fish Bait, Make a Big Splash Mike Baker didn’t catch a single catfish during one fishing trip to the Arkansas River in 2013, but he did catch an inspiration.

The composition of the bait makes it perfect for a simple J hook – no treble hooks or sponge hooks needed – and most importantly to Mike Baker, the bait stays on the hook when cast into the water.

Frustrated by baits that wouldn’t stay on the hook, Baker made a vow during his ill-fated excursion to create a new kind of catfish bait. “We tell people this: A big part of fishing is Seven years, countless meetings and over the memories. A son or daughter can ask 100,000 vehicle miles later, Baker’s Catfish Pro their mom, dad, or grandparent to take them Catfish Bait keeps bait fishing. Even if they are – and business – on the beginners, they can catch “Even if they are hook for the Springdalea fish with this bait. If based entrepreneur. beginners, they can catch they can make a memory, we’ve done something a fish with this bait. If “We sat down there all really good for someone.” they can make a memory, weekend and every time we threw something out, Catfish Pro baits are we’ve done something the bait would go one really good for someone.” available in more than way and the line would 1,000 Walmart stores, go the other way,” Baker thanks in part to Mitch said of his fishing trip near the Ozark-Jetta Baker’s determination. Mike Baker estimates Taylor Lock and Dam. “I told my wife, ‘I’ll tell his son logged more than 60,000 miles one you one thing. I’m going to make a bait that summer alone pitching Catfish Pro to stores stays on your hook and catches catfish.” and demonstrating the product. Baker went to work in their kitchen developing the bait with help from his wife, Sharon, son, Mitchell, and several experts, including Tyson Foods. Catfish Pro was incorporated in 2013 with its signature product, a bait cube made of all-natural ingredients and designed to stay on any kind of hook. The Bakers said the unique cube shape does not break down in water as quickly as the traditional rounded bait, and releases a scent trail in the water faster than the traditional rounded bait. The signature scent attracts fish and is released only while in water, in contrast to the “stinky hands” anglers may get when using other artificial catfish baits.

This year, six different Catfish Pro baits will be available at Walmart stores across the country, as well as selected Academy Sports and Scheels. Local bait shops in the region carry Catfish Pro and the bait is always available on the company’s website, Mike Baker said the company initially targeted Walmart because “it’s the number one retailer in the world and we have so much confidence in our product." “Mitchell went on the road going to Walmart after Walmart demonstrating the product and asking them to sell the bait,” he said. “Mitchell was the one out there on the road with all the windshield time.” ARKANSAS GROWN 25

Catfish Pro asks for volunteers to use the bait on the Catfishing America Facebook page which has nearly 50,000 members. Those volunteers provide vital performance information that is used for product development.

“I’ll tell you one thing. I’m going to make a bait that stays on your hook and catches catfish.” “We use high fatty amino acids, proteins, and 100% natural ingredients: real blood, real shad, real catalpa worms,” Mike Baker said as he identified the eight flavors of Catfish Pro bait available for purchase. “I’m not a professional fisherman by any means. That’s one reason our bait works. I had to make it so that anyone could use it.” The company’s founder said Catfish Pro plans an overhaul of its website this year to make it an online destination for catfish anglers. They’ve already developed specialty hooks and rods and are evaluating a prototype reel for the brand’s online store.






LARGEST agriculture commodity in Arkansas

ARKANSAS IS NATIONALLY RANKED #2 IN BROILER CHICKEN PRODUCTION In 2018, ONE BILLION broilers were raised and processed for distribution across the nation


produce some type of poultry

BENTON is the No.1 poultry producing county

Invest Inspire Impact Your donation helps create the next generation of leaders.Visit us online to invest in the future. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.



The Century Farm Program Years bring new perspective to Century Farm honoree At 82, Alma Ahrent Powell has a vastly different opinion of her family’s Clay County farm than she did at 18.

for decades. They raised five children there, including Powell. The old farmhouse remains on the property and the land is rented to farmers who grow rice and soybeans on the 240-acre tract.

“I always said, ‘If I ever get out of this cotton patch, I’m not going to look back,’” she said, even as she shuffled through documents and financial “When I think about statements chronicling the land’s 111-year history. it now, it was a

“It’s just precious,” said Powell, who lives in nearby Poplar Bluff, Missouri. “Of course, we go back and forth still. There is an old pecan tree that’s more than 100 years old, and I’ll go down and pick pecans.”

wonderful life and a With the renewed perspective of adulthood wonderful childhood.” and a firm commitment to keeping the family farm alive, Though none of the Ahrent Powell chose to participate family lives or works on the in the Arkansas Century Farm Program. The farm anymore, Powell said there’s been no talk program administered by the Arkansas of selling the land. Department of Agriculture honors farm “It’s our memories. The children spent happy properties in the state that have been owned summers there,” she said. “Most all of them are by the same family for more than 100 years. The Ahrent farm near Corning was established professionals. The oldest grandchild will be 60 this year, but the memories of that farm and by Powell’s grandfather in 1909. their grandparents are profound for them. It’s “When I think about it now, it was a wonderful very special.” life and a wonderful childhood,” Powell Powell said she learned about the Arkansas said. “At the time, you just didn’t realize how Century Farm Program from her daughter, who wonderful it was. Everybody worked hard.” encouraged her to apply for the recognition. The Ahrent farm was established by Powell’s To honor the state’s rich agricultural heritage, grandfather, William, the son of a German each family participating in the program immigrant who moved to Batesville from receives a certificate and a personalized metal southern Indiana in 1908. A year later, he sign to identify their farm as an Arkansas relocated to Clay County. In the summer of Century Farm. 1927, Powell’s grandfather was kicked by a To qualify, the legal owner or owners of the horse and suffered a fractured leg. He later property must submit an application. The suffered complications and was transported farm must have been owned by the same by train to a hospital in St. Louis where he family for at least 100 years, and the land died on October 21, 1927. William Ahrent’s must include at least 10 acres of the original son, Edward “Eddie” Ahrent, and his wife, farm and make a financial contribution to the Ellereda Deterding Ahrent, tended the farm overall farm income. ARKANSAS GROWN 29

Applicants must provide legal documentation showing at least a century of continuous farm ownership, and the process is free to the applicant. Farm owners interested in applying for the Century Farm program should visit Powell said four of the heirs to the Ahrent farm are still living, including her, two brothers, and a sister. Many other members of the Ahrent family remained in Corning, including the current mayor of the town. Other direct descendants of her grandfather, William, are Clay County farmers. Powell’s cousins, Mark and Michael Ahrent and their families, were the 2018 Northeast District Farm Family of the Year. Powell said she enjoyed looking back on the history of her family’s farm as she moved forward in the Arkansas Century Farm process. Powell, who’s spent a career in the medical field, said she’s amazed at the changes in her industry and in agriculture as well. Though she didn’t have much use for the cotton farm growing up, she still reminisces about it and thinks others are missing out on the experience. “Every one of these kids needs to spend two weeks in the cotton patch and they will find out what life is all about,” she said. “It really taught us about life and what’s important.”


The Arkansas Century Farm Program recognizes Arkansas farm families who have owned and operated an area of 10 acres or more for a least 100 years. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture began the Century Farm program in 2012 as a way to highlight the impact of these families on the agriculture industry as well as their overall contributions to our state.

Number of Century Farms by Region Since the program began, 464 farms have been inducted. In 2019 alone, 46 farms were inducted.













The Arkansas Century Farm program is open for applications each year from February until May. To get more information about applying, visit: Information provided by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Century Farm Program 2019.

Congratulations to the 2019 Century Farm inductees! Arch Westmoreland Farm Beard Family Farm Beaty Old Homeplace Bob & Sue Austin Farm Chambers Farm Chronister Family Farm Churchill Holler Farm Crigger Farm Curtis Farm Dickson Farm Donovan Farm E.M. Brown Farm Edward “Eddie� Ahrent Farm F. H. Lyons Farm Flynn Farms Grinder/Taylor Farm H & D Tucker Farms Henry Jones Family Farm Henry-Franklin Farm Highfill Family Farm Hoover Family Farm Humphries Hubble Creek Farm James B. Whitlow Farm JK-M&M Ranch Johns Family Farm Locke Farm Louis Floyd Farm Mahony Farm Marshall Farm Miller Bros/Flying Farmers Farm Morris-Taylor Family Farm Ragsdell Family Farm Rauls Family Farm Reding Farm Ryland Family Farm Sehorn Farms Sharp County Farm Sickel Farms Simmons Family Farm Sitzer Farm Sugar Creek Farm Troy & Donna Henson, Gol & Jewell Smith Farm Webb Place Wiles Family Farm Wilks Family Farms York Family Farm



Sweet on the Stalk: Esau’s Sweet Corn Meticulous Care, Attention to Details Make Esau’s Sweet Corn Unforgettable It just takes one word – Esau – for the craving to start for delicious, Arkansas-grown sweet corn. “No one ever really adds any other descriptors,” said Chad Esau, whose family raises corn on 160 acres in Desha County. Esau’s humble attempts to claim the corn is no different than anyone else’s is contradicted by the long lines of customers in June and July.

They try not to inconvenience their customers, yet sometimes it’s inevitable. Occasionally customers are waiting while corn is picked right off the stalk, processed and bagged. It’s the freshness that makes all the difference. “One of the most important aspects of sweet corn is that it must be fresh to be really good,” the Esaus say on their website,

“Someone from Guy, Arkansas, or Conway, Esau sells the Triple Sweet variety and has Arkansas, may put a sign out by the road or say done so for the past three decades. The something on Facebook about ‘Taking orders corn is natural and non-genetically modified. for Esau corn’ and that’s worked out pretty well Each bag of corn contains for us,” said Chad Esau. 62 ears. Chad’s parents, Chester “We just do a and Carol Esau, founded Esau is one of just a few meticulous job of Esau’s Home-Grown Sweet Arkansas sweet corn raising the corn and Corn near Dumas in 1990. growers. Most corn paying attention to farmers in Arkansas are Chad Esau took over the details. We end up with producing field corn, business, now known as typically used as livestock a good product.” Esau Farms, LLC in 2010, and poultry feed. and has more than 20 employees during peak season from The Esaus begin planting corn in early April, mid-April to July. phasing their planting in 27 distinct corn patches over the month. The cycled planting The Esau family relocated to Desha County, and harvesting help ensure that customers near Dumas, from DeRidder, Louisiana, to take receive the freshest corn in their orders. advantage of Arkansas’s fertile soil and ample irrigation. Esau Farms’ patrons firmly believe “There are some secrets to the trade that we that Louisiana’s loss is Arkansas’s gain. keep under our hat, but it’s nothing that you can’t figure out,” Esau said. “We order the “We open the phone lines in the middle of same seed anybody else does. We just do a May to start taking orders. People will call meticulous job of raising the corn and paying to schedule a day to pick up corn that works attention to details. We end up with a for both of us,” Esau said. “We have to be good product.” careful not to overschedule orders. In the airline business, somebody must give up their Chad Esau credits his father with establishing seat when they overbook. In the sweet corn the best practices and building a sustainable business, we want everyone to get the corn farm that has a loyal customer base. they order.” ARKANSAS GROWN 33

The Esaus are adamant about not taking any shortcuts when it comes to growing their corn. That means using mostly organic fertilizers and working hard to keep pests from the crop. By Chad Esau’s standards, even one worm in every 60 ears means the farmers “have somewhat failed in their mission.” Four-legged pests also find Esau’s corn too good to pass up. “We have raccoons that will come the night before you harvest the corn,” Chad Esau said. “We have a fair bit of raccoon damage on the farm, but we have a lot more corn than we do raccoons.”

“One of the most important aspects of sweet corn is that it must be fresh to be really good.” In addition to corn, Esau Farms plants a variety of other produce, including watermelons, cantaloupes, muscadines, and blueberries, all available in season. In the fall, Chad Esau and his family raise pumpkins and bundle corn stalks for decorations. After that, it’s ordering seed and bags for next year’s Esau Sweet Corn orders.

For more information about ordering Esau's Triple Sweet Corn and other produce, visit




Resources THE voice of forestry. Resources

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e Arkansas Forestry iation advocates for the ainable use and sound wardship of Arkansas’ s and related resources Stewardship nefit the state’s forestry unity andStewardship all Arkansans, Call day and in the future.

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(501) 374-2441

us: 501-374-2441 The Arkansas Forestry Association advocates for Economy the sustainable use and sound stewardship of Arkansas’s forests and related resources to benefit all Arkansans, today and in the future.

The Arkansas Forestry Association advocates for the m | Project The Learning Tree |Forestry Landowner Education | Hunting Lease Arkansas sustainable use and sound Insurance | Log A Load For Kids Association advocates for the Benefit stewardship of Arkansas’ sustainable use and sound forests and related resources Benefit Environment stewardship of Arkansas’ to benefit state’s forestry forests andthe related resources Call us: 501-374-2441 tewardship community and all Arkansans, to benefit the state’s forestry today and inall the future. Call us: 501-374-2441 community and Arkansans, today and in the future.

Tree Farm | Project Learning Tree | Landowner Education | Hunting Lease e Arkansas Forestry Insurance | Log A Load For Kids ationTree advocates forResources the Farm | Project Learning Tree | Landowner Education | Hunting Lease Introducing ATPA's Insurance | Log A Load For Kids ainable use and sound TEAM Safe Trucking PARTNERSHIP:Benefit wardship of Arkansas’ We're elevating s and related resources LOG & Fiber nefit the state’s forestry TRUCK-DRIVER Safety unity and all Arkansans, Call us: 501-374-2441 ay and in the future. Reducing Accidents

Through Enhanced Driver Training & Emphasis on EfFEctive Fleet m | Project Learning Tree | Landowner Management Education | Hunting Lease Insurance | Log A LoadRecruitment For Kids of new, Safety-focused drivers to deliver a sustainable and profitable supply chain

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TEAM SAFE TRUCKING Workshops offered by the Ark Pro Logger Training Program

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Stewardship ARKANSAS GROWN 35

The Arkansas Forestry


UAPB Farm Academy Beginning Farmers Program Popular Training Courses for New Farmers and Entrepreneurs Twenty-two beginning farmers recently provided on laying plastic mulch and drip completed the New Farmers Academy, a tape, equipment usage and safety, and raising course offered by the University of Arkansas transplants in greenhouses. at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Small Farm Program, “We wanted participants to learn through to provide farm training to individuals interested in becoming farmers or agricultural doing,” Dr. English said. “They took soil samples and tested for soil compaction, entrepreneurs. Participants included those planted sweet potatoes, and harvested new to agriculture, wishing to transition into squash.” agriculture from another field, or looking for a postParticipants were also “I got a lot out of the able to tour local farms to retirement opportunity.

training – almost learn the ins and outs of “The average age of vegetable and row crops, everything was Arkansas farmers is 58,” forestry, aquaculture and beneficial to me.” Dr. Henry English, head of beef cattle. They also learned the Small Farm Program, about marketing strategies said. “This means that a and were provided with resources, including large percentage of the state’s farmers will information on local food markets, farmers be leaving the farm in 10 or more years and markets, and farm-to-school programs. will need to be replaced. Our program was intended to help foster a new generation “I got a lot out of the training – almost of farmers.” everything was beneficial to me,” participant Seven training workshops were conducted in 2019 over seven months to educate and train new farmers. Participants received information from different U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies. In sessions with the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), they learned about conservation programs and how to select land suitable for farming. Farm Service Agency (FSA) representatives taught them about various loan programs and how to obtain farm numbers, and representatives of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) taught them about yield data and the average price for farm and pastureland.

Brett Dawson said. “I have implemented a lot of changes to my operation thanks to the information I received. I am still new to all of it, but the course gave me a starting point and direction.”

Program curricula included hands-on activities such as transplanting and sprayer and planter calibrations. Demonstrations were

Betty Gray, a recent retiree, said she recommends other individuals new to farming take part in similar programs.

Jacquelyn Faucette recently inherited a farm. She signed up for the program to get ideas on ways she and her family members can continue the family business. “I learned about farm management, operation, and production,” she said. “I also received information on the local, county, and federal agencies that are available to assist us in successful production.”


“I have done some type of gardening all my life,” she said. “As a result of this class, I developed my niche for retirement. I have already started to generate income in a market doing something I love.” Roderick Greene said he was interested in learning about the growing opportunities in hemp production in Arkansas. “There seems to be a lot of potential financial benefits in growing hemp,” he said. “I was looking for something to do with my land, and this program provided some great ideas and opportunities. All the classes were beneficial, and I gained confidence and direction for the next step in my life.” Dr. English said the UAPB program was modeled on a similar program offered by Tennessee State University that provides new farmers with production, financial, health and safety, legal, and marketing education.

“I was looking for something to do with my land, and this program provided some great ideas and opportunities.” “Graduates of our program can now use their certificate of course completion to satisfy one year of the managerial ability requirements needed to receive a USDA Farm Service Agency operating loan,” he said.


ON THE GO. Enjoy the entire Arkansas Grown publication at your fingertips with our digital magazine. Read, share, and enjoy the stories of Arkansas farmers wherever you go! Visit the Department website to view the complete online version of Arkansas Grown at:









Arkansas Grown Pink Tomatoes The Impact of the Vine Ripened Pink Tomato on Arkansas The Vine Ripe Pink Tomato has a long history “We see everything that goes into our boxes. in Southeast Arkansas. University of Arkansas Our personal touch is our marketing tool. Professor Paul Francis says, “Pink tomatoes When I step out there and say, 'Hey, I can’t give meant many things to people. There was a you 1,000 boxes a day, but what I am going to time in Southeast Arkansas, when the Vine give you is personally inspected by us. I’ve Ripe Pink Tomato harvest meant the difference seen what you’re going to get,'” said Hays. between getting a new car, buying school He sells about 1,500 cases of pink tomatoes clothes, or even having in a good season and Christmas presents. It up to 3,000 cases of red “We enjoy it because was an economic boost shipping tomatoes. we get to work with the for the region.” boys. It’s something we If I could grow a hundred For young people growing acres and sell them, get to do as a family.” up in Southeast Arkansas, that’s what I would do. the pink tomato season Everybody loves them. ensured summer jobs and the opportunity to They have a great taste and great flavor.” earn extra money and learn the said Hays. He grows less than an acre of the responsibilities that go with it. Bradley Vine Ripe Pink Tomatoes. He says the “Pinks” have a shipping life of just a few days. Josh Hays got his start at age 18 in 1999 when And that’s a problem. He farms another five he borrowed $10,000. His mother, Beth, had to acres of red shipping tomatoes on his 12-acre co-sign the banknote. That loan, along with his produce farm. grandpa’s help and knowledge, launched what is Hays Farms today. Drew County grower Mark Pace has a long family history with the Pink Tomato. His For Hays and his family, the pink tomato father was one of the original seven growers is still a viable way to earn an income. He who organized Monticello Pink Tomato considers himself a small producer as opposed Growers, Inc. in 1957. Membership grew to to a contract operator. He says growing pink about 250 by the late 1970s. At that time, over tomatoes is a way to involve the entire family. 80% of tomatoes in Southeastern Arkansas His two boys, Brandon, age 16, and Tyler, age were sold at auction, much like livestock. Drew 12, help in all phases of the operation including County and Bradley County both had auction picking, sorting, and loading the iconic fruit. markets, and buyers came from all over the His wife, Krystle, does the farm’s bookkeeping country. Pace said it was not unusual in the in addition to her full-time job with the 1960s and 1970s for the Arkansas Pink Tomato Bradley County Assessor’s office. to be shipped as far as Seattle, Chicago, and New York. “We enjoy it because we get to work with the boys. It’s something we get to do as a family,” Back in the 1970s and 80s, nearly 4,000 acres said Krystle. of Vine Ripe Pink tomatoes were grown in


Arkansas. According to Bradley County Extension Agent, John Gavin, that number has fallen to less than 50 acres. “Most of those tomatoes are grown on small plots of land from one to five acres in size,” said Gavin. “They are grown by producers who are supplementing their incomes.” The homegrown market has given way to commercial tomato growers in California and Florida. UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources professor Paul Francis says the market has changed. “The market shifted to what we call shipper tomatoes, which have a longer shipping life than the pink varieties. Vendors wanted tomatoes that are not so soft and could be cut easily. They don’t taste as good as the pink varieties,” according to Francis. He says the shelf life of the red tomatoes was a key turning point rather than a lack of consumer demand. He says up until the mid-1980s everything grown in Arkansas was primarily Vine Ripe Pink Tomatoes. Francis says that if you want a sweet taste, the vine ripened pink tomato is high in sugar content and adds additional flavor compared to the red tomatoes. He says consumers are willing to pay a little more when they can find them. Francis is often heard saying, “Consumer demand never left the pink tomato; producers left the pink tomato.” The Vine Ripe Pink Tomato bears a unique title. In 1987 the Arkansas State Legislature voted the Pink Tomato both the Arkansas State Fruit and Vegetable. It’s a distinction that brought national attention to the Arkansas tomato over the years. The designation was the brainchild of former House Speaker John Lipton of Bradley County which was and still is the heartland of pink tomato growing country. He says growers needed help with their marketing strategy when red tomato popularity began to overtake the pink variety. Since none of the agricultural professionals could come to a consensus on what the plant was, he convinced his fellow politicians to compromise and named it both the State Fruit and the State Vegetable. Lipton says the pink tomato’s livelihood is again facing a huge challenge. “So many things start with young people. What will it take to motivate young people? The tomato farmers are aging. If you look across Bradley, Drew, and Ashley Counties, families who were once recognized as large tomato growers are going away. I don’t know what will happen when the next generation comes on,” said Lipton. ARKANSAS GROWN 42

Before young people move to the tomato fields, Lipton says there needs to be a marketplace. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources are joining forces at the vine, with the award of a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture to help with plant marketing and supplemental research.

Would you like to know more about the

Vine Ripened Pink Growers Association?

UAM Agriculture Professor and Economist Bob Stark says the grant is one way to develop the Vine Ripened Pink Tomato brand. “We want to assist the promotion, and reignite awareness,” said Stark. Francis says they have organized a Vine Ripened Growers Association which has adopted a Vine Ripe Pink Tomato Growers Certification.

To qualify for certification, the tomato product must be: ● Grown by Arkansas farmers ● Grown on Arkansas soils ● A pink variety that discovered its origin in Arkansas ● Picked vine ripened

“We’re researching fall and spring production. We’re performing grafting studies. We want to assist in promoting this product as Arkansas grown,” said Francis. He adds growers will be provided with labels to put on their product identifying the crop as certified. If there is to be a commercial future for the Vine Ripe Pink Tomato, it will take more people like Josh Hayes and his family to carry on the niche market industry. “You don’t have to get on the phone and convince people to buy. They already know what a pink tomato is. They sell themselves,” said Hays. No matter how many growers step forward to ensure the pink tomato’s survival, the consensus is that it will take buyers’ demand and a viable marketplace to put the Vine Ripe Pink Tomato back in the spotlight.

For more information about the Vine Ripened Pink Growers Association contact: Dr. Paul Francis University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (870) 460-1314 C. Robert Stark University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (870) 460-1414 Josh Hays Hays Farms Wilmar, AR (870) 820-3379 Excerpts taken from “Monticello Pink Tomato Growers, Inc. Marketing Expansion in Southeastern Arkansas” by Gilbert Warren Biggs Feb 1979 Excerpts taken from CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas “Tomato Industry” Excerpts taken from, Produced by UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture & Natural Resources ARKANSAS GROWN 43


Rice Reps Plant Seeds for the Next Generation High School Seniors Dig into Arkansas Agriculture While Earning Scholarship Dollars The Arkansas Rice Federation has completed this first group of Rice Reps, which she credits its inaugural year of a new program, “Rice with opening her eyes to a valuable industry Reps,” geared toward educating the state’s and helping to grow her blog and social media youth about the number one rice-producing platforms to connect with the farm community. state, and incentivizing them to earn college “This program has been perfect for me. It’s scholarships. Forty-five students chosen given me a taste of what my future can look from more than 200 applicants living in 22 like and has made me more passionate Arkansas counties spent about pursuing that their summer learning career,” Brooke said. “My about rice farming and followers say to me, ‘I “The goal of Rice Reps the importance of this didn’t know you were into commodity through is to make agriculture, this,’ and I say, ‘Oh, well let education, volunteerism, specifically rice, more of me tell you about rice!’ It’s and unique handsa conversation topic in been a great opportunity on experiences. to have that conversation today’s digital age.” “The goal of Rice Reps and meet new people. is to make agriculture, This is one of the easiest, specifically rice, more of most fun ways to make a conversation topic in today’s digital age,” said friends and connections for your career while Rice Reps coordinator Cade Bethea. earning scholarship dollars.” Arkansas is home to over 1,800 rice farms, nearly all of which are family-owned. The industry contributes $6 billion to the state’s economy annually and accounts for approximately 25,000 jobs in rural communities. The Rice Rep program targets the next generation of Arkansas’s agriculture industry and business leaders to educate them on our state’s rice industry. The program emphasizes the benefits, importance, and economic impact of the rice industry around the world, all while cultivating a genuine interest in agriculture, community service, and leadership. Brooke Bradford, a senior at Clinton High School, discovered her passion for agriculture when she joined FFA in the eighth grade. She now has goals to major in agricultural communications in college. Brooke was part of

Eligible students must be Arkansas juniors upon the application deadline of April 1. No agriculture background is necessary to apply. Reps are hand-selected and invited to participate in the program during the summer into September, which is National Rice Month. Reps must attend a minimum of two on-site experiences organized by Arkansas Rice that may include: a farm tour, volunteering at the Arkansas Foodbank, rice-cooking classes and more. Reps are also incentivized to engage with the agriculture community and share what they are learning throughout the summer with social media and news media. After completing the program and submitting a scholarship application, the Reps are introduced and celebrated for their achievements at the Rice Reception in ARKANSAS GROWN 45

September, when four scholarships totaling over $15,000 are awarded. As the inaugural year of Rice Reps ends, Bethea and the team at Arkansas Rice are looking to the future of the program and anticipating the next round of Rice Reps applicants. “I truly see Rice Reps becoming something that its participants one day look back on and accredit with sparking their curiosity and passion for agriculture. I hope it’s a program that gives future leaders and innovators in agriculture their start. We hope to grow our participant numbers and increase the amount of scholarship money we can offer to help students reach their dreams and continue learning,” Bethea said.

To learn more about Arkansas Rice and Rice Reps visit The next application process for Rice Reps opened in January of 2020.


PLANT INDUSTRIES OVERVIEW Environmental Regulation, Enforcement, Pest Control, Quality Assurance

Arkansas is nationally RANKED #4 in Cotton Lint AND Cotton Seed











certificates issued attesting export products are free of pests, weeds, and diseases

quality assurance tests on seeds for more than 100 different crops

N-P-K tests performed on 945,500 tons of fertilizer sold in Arkansas


registered beekeepers



registered bee colonies

100 different crop

varieties in the U.S. rely on bees for pollination

BUREAU OF STANDARDS performed inspections and testing on


motor fuel dispensers


retail business inspections


scale inspections

Information Provided by the Plant Industries Division 2019



Delta Peanut New Shelling Facility Adds Value to Arkansas Peanut Industry For years, it didn’t make financial sense for peanut companies to contract Arkansas rowcrop farmers to grow peanuts. Logistics and transportation costs alone meant peanuts grown here were more costly than those grown nearby existing processing facilities. Therefore, a coalition of growers joined together to stimulate the region’s peanut industry.

expenses were cost-prohibitive. There has to be a shelling plant here if there is ever going to be an opportunity for growers in Arkansas to raise more acres of peanuts.”

Jumper, who spent more than three decades in the agriculture seed business, developed a self-described infatuation with the peanut industry several years ago. After discussions with industry leaders and “Our goal is to build due to his own familiarity profitability and create with Arkansas farming, an opportunity for the he became convinced owner-investors to build northeast Arkansas could equity in their business.” become a new hub for peanut growing.

Production started in 2019 on a state-of-theart peanut shelling plant in Jonesboro, the centerpiece of a $70 million investment in the region’s burgeoning peanut industry. More than 60 farmers in Arkansas, southeast Missouri, and northern Louisiana are owner-investors in Delta Peanut, LLC. Tommy Jumper, the visionary behind the co-op says the shelling plant, storage warehouse, drying sheds, and shipping facility in northeast Arkansas will greatly expand opportunity for more peanut acreage in Arkansas.

“Unlike other crops, peanuts can’t be stored in on-farm grain bins until they are processed and sold,” Jumper said. Until now, peanut companies trucked peanuts grown in the Midsouth to far-away selling points in west Texas and south Georgia. “Farmers here were frustrated that they couldn’t farm any more acres,” Jumper said. “Peanut crops are expensive since they have to be freighted to the selling points. The processing companies wanted peanut production in our area, but the shipping

Jonesboro is strategically located near multiple peanut processing facilities: Planters in Fort Smith, Skippy Foods in Little Rock, and the J.M. Smucker Company in Memphis. “Downstream of our plant, we have an enviable logistics position for our customers,” Jumper said. The location in the Mid-South “stratifies the risk” to the nation’s peanut crop, much of which is cultivated closer to the Gulf Coast and more susceptible to storm damage. Arkansas’s soil and its water table are also a benefit. “We’re blessed here with very plentiful, sustainable, recharging irrigation,” he said. In 2019, Arkansas led the nation with a 5,200 pound yield per acre of peanuts. Evidence suggests peanuts work well in a rotation with cotton, noting that farmers who plant cotton a year after planting peanuts have seen a 200 to 300 pound-per-acre increase in cotton yield.


Delta Peanut’s new shelling plant will have an annual capacity of about 185 tons. In 2020, the plant’s first year, the company expects to shell about half that. Allen Donner, President of the Arkansas Peanut Growers Association, says Arkansas growers are looking forward to having a shelling facility in the state. “The Arkansas Peanut Growers Association is extremely pleased that a further-processing facility has chosen to build in northeast Arkansas,” Donner said. “The Delta Peanut facility will benefit all peanut producers in the region, not just the owner-investors of Delta Peanut. It adds value to the crop, provides opportunity for expansion of peanut acreage, and adds stability to the industry due to the facility’s longterm commitment.” Peanuts are a full-season crop, typically planted in midApril and harvested between 140 and 150 days later. Unlike other crops, the process of cultivating peanuts involves first digging them out of the ground, leaving them to dry in the field for a few days, and then harvesting with a combine that separates the peanut from the vine. “The other thing that’s a little different is that there are no GMOs, no transgenics in peanuts,” Jumper said. “It’s not a good thing or a bad thing. They are traditional crops.” Jumper praised Delta Peanut’s ownership structure, a model that shuns private equity companies and instead gives farmers what should be a transgenerational equity stake. “Our goal is to build profitability and create an opportunity for the owner-investors to build equity in their business,” he said. “By having chosen this business model, every dollar of top-line revenue we create is invested locally with a local trucker, supplier, or utility company. Even the cash that we generate after expenses, and every dollar of top-line revenue, stays in the economy right here. I can’t think of any better, robust way for a group of growers to have an impact on their local economy.” Delta Peanut owners currently farm about 30,000 acres of peanuts, and Jumper expects that number to grow.

To learn more about Delta Peanut visit ARKANSAS GROWN 50


Jonesboro | (870) 972-2100

Arkansas Tech University Russellville | (844) 804-2628

Southern Arkansas University

Magnolia | (870) 235-4000

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville Fayetteville | (479) 575-2000 University of Arkansas at Monticello Monticello | (870) 460-1026 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Pine Bluff | (870) 575-8000 ARKANSAS GROWN 51


Farm to School: How Does Your Garden Grow? Farm to School Program Teaches Children Where Their Food Comes From The Arkansas Farm to School program is a value to the state’s students for the nutritional and educational opportunities alone. Yet, a closer look at the emerging program in Arkansas schools shows even more to love, according to Emily English, a pediatrics professor and research director of the Access to Healthy Foods Research Group at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. “The thing about Farm to School that’s so awesome is that it’s a cross-sectional opportunity to not just change kids, but also to help farmers, our local producers, and communities of staff and faculty who are touched by this work,” English said.

Rep. Mary Bentley and Sen. Gary Stubblefield was enacted in 2019 to establish a statewide program coordinator for the Arkansas Farm to School initiative.

“Although we have had pockets of Farm to School programs across the state for years, I knew it was vital that we have a program coordinator in the Arkansas Department of Agriculture who could bring procurement and school programs together,” Bentley said. “The thing about Farm to “I appreciated the support School that’s so awesome of my colleagues in the legislature this past is that it’s a crossapproving the sectional opportunity to session necessary funding to not just change kids, but make this position also to help farmers.” a reality.”

Individual local programs may consist of one or more of these elements: procurement, where schools purchase local foods and serve them to students in the cafeteria, as a snack or as a taste test; education, where the curriculum is connected to food, health, and nutrition; or school gardens, where students learn skills through tending their own gardens. “We are building engagement among students, teachers, administrators, parents, and farmers. I love that,” English added. “It has these multi-level benefits, whether it’s nutrition and public health or seeing dollars stay in the state.” The state currently has almost 50 schools and nearly 100,000 students participating in some Farm to School practices, with the program poised to grow. Legislation sponsored by

The coordinator is employed by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and will play a key role in facilitating new connections between farmer and educator. Sarah Lane, the new coordinator, served as a FoodCorps service member within the Conway School District at Carolyn Lewis and Ida Burns Elementary, supporting the district’s school garden and nutrition education efforts. Lane has a master’s degree in teaching. “There is something magical when a child pulls a carrot from the ground for the first time, tastes the spice of a locally grown radish, tours a farm during a school field trip, or learns how fruits and vegetables fuel their body in a hands-on math lesson,” Lane said. “The happiness of children engaged in Farm to School roots me in this work, and I couldn’t be more excited to step into this role.” ARKANSAS GROWN 53

“Everyone agreed that the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is a great home for the coordinator because we still need to grow our local food supply,” English said. “We have a lot of food grown in the state and sometimes we just don’t know about it.” English said Arkansas was behind the curve in creating a full-time, state-funded position for the program, but the state is seen as a leader in many other programming aspects. First contemplated as part of a statewide conference at Heifer International in Little Rock in 2009, this year marked a ten-year milestone for the program.

“When Farm to School is implemented at a school, kids are more likely to participate in school lunch or try fruits and vegetables.”

In 2011, the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute received some of its first research dollars directed toward better understanding the benefit of Farm to School strategies. The Institute has been the state’s lead agency responsible for the framework of the program. “Over the last ten years, we’ve been trying to do a lot of training and technical assistance, capturing data showing that people are interested in this work,” English said. “When Farm to School is implemented at a school, kids are more likely to participate in school lunch or try fruits and vegetables.” “There are several success stories throughout the state,” English said. The Fayetteville School District is a great example of a district that procures local food for use at the cafeteria salad bar and as fruit in a parfait snack. School gardens are an integral part of the curriculum in districts like North Little Rock, Yellville-Summit and Magnet Cove. English concludes, “When a garden is written into the fabric of the school, it gives hands-on experience to tie concepts together. It uses a garden, agriculture, and food as the curriculum and learning lab. Kids who grow tomatoes are more likely to taste them.”



2019 Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year Winners

2019 Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year - Pike View Early Childhood Center, North Little Rock

Best Community Collaboration Garden Marshall Elementary, Marshall The annual School Garden of the Year contest is sponsored by Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. The contest started in 2014 to promote the importance of involving young people in the process of fresh food production and cultivation. Any Arkansas school, grades K-12, with a working school garden during the 2018-2019 school year, or a startup proposal for the 2019-2020 school year was eligible to apply. Not pictured: Best School Garden Start-up Proposal: Springdale High School. Program details available at:

Best Nutrition Education Garden Sheridan Intermediate, Sheridan

Best Environmental Education Garden Forest Park Elementary, Little Rock ARKANSAS GROWN 55

Livestock Inspectors are Essential for Protection Inspectors Monitor for Disease and Contaminated Food Arkansas’s multi-pronged defense against animal diseases and food safety risks happens at least 1,500 times a year at livestock markets across the state with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Livestock and Poultry Division inspectors. “Livestock and Poultry Division inspectors are the primary watchdogs at livestock markets for any kind of diseases or other potential dangers, such as agriterrorism,” said Blake Walters with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Livestock and Poultry Division. Walters supervises 31 inspectors, each of them assigned to attend and monitor the weekly livestock sales that take place across the state. The inspectors are trained to detect signs of disease in livestock and to identify potential warning signs of any risk to the food supply. Kenneth Riggins of Osage, who has been a livestock inspector for 42 years, said inspectors don’t have the same kind of adversarial relationship that other government regulators may have within their industry. That’s because Arkansas’s ranchers recognize the importance of an inspector’s work. “Our main focus is disease control. Some of these diseases would ARKANSAS GROWN 56

cost producers a lot of money if we didn’t control it,” Riggins said. “99% of people want us there because they know we’re there to help them. Without our help, Arkansas cattle could not leave the state.” Walters said there are 26 livestock markets in the state, most of which conduct sales at least once a week. Inspectors arrive at a sale early and don’t leave until it’s over. During the sale, the inspector is visually monitoring the animals for signs of illness. Like Riggins, Walters emphasized that surveillance is a pivotal role of inspectors at a livestock market. “We’re looking for symptoms of disease, and if any animal shows signs of foreign animal diseases (FADs), it is going to be pulled aside. We’re going to immediately start working on finding out where it came from,” Walters said. Inspectors apply ear tags to every animal that comes into the sale barn that is 18 months or older. The ear tag information is logged into a federal database so that the animal is easily traceable in the event it contracts a disease or is exposed to diseases. If an animal enters a sale barn and has already been tagged, inspectors record the tag information and verify that the entry requirements are met.

“Our mission here is to protect animal and human health,” Walters said. “Traceability is a huge portion of what we’re working on, so that you’re able to trace back where your food came from. If any animal ends up sick, that animal can be traced back to where it’s been and what it’s been in contact with.” When not tagging animals or conducting surveillance for signs of disease at a market, Riggins said he’s reviewing paperwork for accuracy and making sure animals have received the correct types of immunizations and testing. Inspectors offer voluntary vaccinations, provide emergency response duties, and test swine herds and poultry flocks annually for certain diseases and during any avian influenza outbreaks.

“Our mission here is to protect animal and human health.” Fair season is a particularly busy time for Livestock and Poultry Division inspectors who annually provide approximately 2,400 manhours at 77 fairs across the state. They are responsible for monitoring the state fair and district and county fairs for livestock diseases by checking the health papers of every animal that enters the fairgrounds and conducting visual inspections. Inspectors also perform annual audits of fairs that receive funding from the state. “We’re at fairs to keep an animal from going home with something they didn’t come with,” Walters said. The Livestock and Poultry Division makes training for the inspectors a priority. “The state has a well-trained, well-equipped inspection team that does its job well,” said Walters. “We are here to protect the industry and the public.”




What is the Produce Safety Rule? Important Guidelines that Protect Consumers from Foodborne Illnesses Every year millions of people contract foodborne illnesses in the United States. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in an effort to standardize best practices for food safety, and to combat the public health impact of these foodborne pathogens. The FSMA, a branch of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, consists of seven rules. The intent of the FSMA is to protect the U.S. food supply during all points of the supply and distribution chains. These rules are a science and risk-based (preventive) approach to the management of food safety, which is a major shift from the government’s past strategy of reacting to an outbreak after it happens. The Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Safety Rule, is the first set of on-farm Federal food safety requirements for produce. It affects farms with annual produce sales of $25,000 or more that grow and sell produce that is typically consumed raw. The FSMA was signed into law in January of 2011, and the final Produce Safety Rule went into effect January 26, 2016. However, farmers have time to come into compliance based on farm income. The first tier of farms to come into compliance are the large farms, selling over $500,000 in produce, with a compliance date of January 26, 2018. Large produce farms are the first cohort to be inspected under the Rule beginning in 2019. “Walking farmers through the FSMA Produce Safety Rule through training and technical assistance, visiting farms to see practices in place, and making recommendations for improvement helps farmers understand the “why” behind the regulations. When we understand the why, the how is easy,” explains Dr. Amanda Philyaw Perez, assistant professor and extension food systems and safety specialist with University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES).

How does the PSR apply to produce farms? Coverage. The FSMA Produce Safety Rule (PSR) establishes agricultural production standards for personnel qualifications and training, health and hygiene, agricultural water, use of biological soil amendments of animal origin, intrusion of wild and domesticated animals, and sanitation of equipment, tools, and buildings. It will affect produce businesses and operations at different times, depending on farm income. Produce farms affected by the Rule are divided into three tiers: above $500,000 in gross annual produce sales (large farms), $250,000 to $500,000 in gross annual sales (small farms), or $25,000 to $250,000 in gross annual sales (very small farms). These numbers are to be based on the farm’s previous three-year average and are adjusted for inflation annually. Farmers who need help understanding their status in relation to the regulations should contact the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Exemptions and Exclusions. A grower could potentially meet the requirements to be excluded, qualified exempt, or commercial-processing exempt. The PSR includes an exclusion for extremely small produce farms that sell less than $25,000* in produce annually. To be eligible for a qualified exemption, the farm must meet two requirements: the farm must have food sales averaging less than $500,000* per year during the previous three years; and the farm’s sales to qualified end-users must exceed sales to all others combined during the previous three years. Food is defined as articles used for food or drink for human or animals (i.e. cattle, hay, dairy, feed, produce, all other crops and value-added products). Those farms that achieve a qualified exemption status must follow certain modified requirements. There are also exemptions for rarely consumed raw produce, food grains, produce that is used for personal or onfarm consumption, or produce that receives a verified



commercial processing technique. This part of the Rule can be very perplexing; growers who need more clarity can contact either the Department, or the UACES for more detailed information. *Adjust values for inflation annually. These values can be found at

Audit vs Inspection. Third-party audits may come

into question for some growers: how do they apply, and can they serve as a substitute for a FSMA PSR inspection? Beginning in 1998, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) were developed by the FDA as voluntary produce safety guidelines. At that time, third-party organizations also began offering audit services from the development of their own standards; these include PrimusGFS, Global GAP, and others. This initiated food companies to develop the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) in 2000 which set the bar for audit standards. The USDA also implemented the GAP audit verification program alongside the initial development of these thirdparty auditing schemes. These audits are industryled, market driven standards that were voluntarily adopted by growers to satisfy buyers. While PSR compliance and third-party audits share many of the same principals, they are not equivalent. The PSR is a federally mandated program with which affected growers are required to understand, adopt new practices beyond the third-party audit, and comply. It is not voluntary, and it is the growers’ responsibility to learn about the differences in the third-party audit and FSMA requirements. Still, growers who have experience with third-party audits may be better prepared for compliance within the FSMA PSR regulations.

Produce Safety in Arkansas While the PSR is a federally mandated law, the FDA is working with the states for the implementation of the rule. The FDA believes that developing a working relationship with states is of great significance because of their ability to better understand farming practices that occur within their state lines; state



departments of agriculture and university landgrant extension services have a historically close relationship with farms. To better coordinate with states, the FDA established the State Produce Implementation Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP) to provide funds for a variety of activities like education, training, and technical assistance to produce farms.

Regulation. The Department was awarded a five-year CAP grant in 2016. It was classified as a Competition A/B program, meaning it receives funding for infrastructure, education, technical assistance, and inventory program components, as well as an inspection, compliance, and enforcement program. The Department produce safety team focuses on the regulatory aspects of the PSR. The program conducts all initial and routine produce safety inspections for the state of Arkansas. The national PSR motto is to: “educate before, and while, we regulate.” This philosophy holds true for the Department Produce Safety Program. Education and Outreach. The Department

has one CAP subaward in place with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service to assist with education and outreach activities. It hosts Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings throughout the state. This is a standardized national produce safety training program to prepare fresh produce growers to meet the regulatory requirements in the PSR. The trainings are typically a one-day, 8-hour course, and 18 have been completed to date. Occasionally, UA Extension will host a two-day workshop series with the first day being the PSA Grower Training, and the second day being a supplemental course. The Department also provides one-on-one consultations, technical assistance to address specific food safety issues, and On-Farm Readiness Reviews (OFRRs) for growers. An OFRR is a free, on-farm assessment designed to help growers feel prepared and ready for a regulatory inspection. It is completely voluntary on the growers’ part and is scheduled for their convenience.

To find out more, or to determine whether you’re subject to the Rule, please contact the Arkansas Produce Safety Team at or visit one of the following:

Department Produce Safety Contacts: John Lansdale Agriculture Program Manager (870) 820-6787 Scarlet Waters Agriculture Specialist (Produce Safety Inspector) (501) 580-1852 Tammy Winsor Agriculture Specialist (Produce Safety Inspector) (501) 551-2717

UACES Produce Safety Contacts: Dr. Amanda Philyaw Perez Assistant Professor Extension Specialist- Food Systems & Food Safety (501) 671-2228 Julia Fryer Program Associate (501) 671-2181 Angela Gardner Program Associate (501) 671-2180 *Funding for this statement, publication, press release, etc., was made possible, in part, by the Food and Drug Administration through grant number U18FD005918. The views expressed in written materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Food and Drug Administration; nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government.




Basking in the Sun Arkansas Farmers Harness the Power of Solar Energy If A.J. Hood had his way, just about every farm in Arkansas would have a barn, some tractors, and a few hundred solar panels.

“My system would have to be three times as big to offset my usage if I didn’t have the ability to use net metering to build those credits up in June, July, and August and then use them when I’m drying,” Hood said. “We designed a system based on my needs for that particular grain facility. That’s the beauty of solar. You build to your needs.”

Hood manages Tillar and Company, an expansive row-crop agriculture operation based in the Desha County community of Tillar. The farm was one of Arkansas’s first agricultural adopters of solar energy, and Hood has said to anyone who’ll listen that he hopes for solar “to be as practical on every farm as a tractor” “We’re always looking one day.

“Solar power is becoming more and more affordable to farmers to adapt. In agriculture, and to the general public,” said Katie Laning Tillar and Company if you’re not looking Niebaum, executive has an array of more to adapt, you get left director of the Arkansas than 600 solar panels Advanced Energy behind.” harnessing electric Association. “With power to substantially consumers like Tillar offset the energy costs typically used to and Company investing in solar energy, the operate the farm’s 300,000-bushel grain solar industry is one of the state’s fastestfacility. The company air dries its rice at growing job creators,” Niebaum said. that building just after harvest. “Upfront costs of solar power have “We’re always looking to adapt, and in decreased by 50 percent in the last five agriculture, if you’re not looking to adapt, years,” Niebaum said, “and farmers can you get left behind,” Hood said. “We want benefit from a variety of federal to be cutting edge, and we want to be tax incentives.” sustainable, and we want to see this farm still all together in 150 years because we The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers were sustainable and good stewards of guaranteed loan financing and grant the environment.” funding for renewable energy systems for agricultural producers and rural small Tillar and Company’s solar system works businesses. The Rural Energy for America like this: Using a process called “net Program, or REAP, has money earmarked metering,” Tillar’s solar array is consistently specifically for solar projects and other generating power for which its electric funds set aside specifically for utility is harnessing. In return, Tillar gets Arkansas producers. credits to use when most beneficial, like in the fall when grain dryers are in Hood noted that, for tax purposes, solar full operation. equipment is considered a depreciable ARKANSAS GROWN 63

asset and that there’s a 30 percent tax credit available to offset the cost of solar projects. Aside from the incentives, both Niebaum and Hood stressed that solar projects provide some greater financial stability to growers as well. “Farmers face a great amount of uncertainty in their operations, and now with solar, they have long-term certainty and lower utility bills,” Niebaum said. Hood put pen to paper to determine just how beneficial a solar array at his grain facility may be, and he quickly learned it was worth the price to eliminate a variable cost.

The farm managed by Hood is more than 150 years old, and he said the only way to make it last for the next few generations is through sustainable practices. Tillar and Company is looking for ways to expand its solar footprint, such as through powering its irrigation wells with solar energy. “Nobody really realizes what producers do on a day-in and day-out basis to see that we are good stewards of the land,” he said. “Whether it’s managing fertility or using surface water, most every farmer is multigenerational and they want to see their kids succeed. Solar falls right into that equation.”

“We’re taking a variable cost and making it a fixed cost, and in agriculture, that’s extremely important to us. It just takes so much pressure off our operations,” he said.

Join a network of in agriculture.




Connect with other women in ag and grow with educational opportunities. Join our organization and register for our annual conference at






More than two-thirds (79%) of all Arkansas counties have an active farmers market, together generating $9.2 MILLION in sales in 2017

1,500direct FARMERS sell at FARMERS





MARKETS across the state

A farmers market is a place where producers from a local area gather to sell their own product directly to the consumer


Something in the Water Groundwater Conservation Leads to Tax Breaks Conserving groundwater, one of the state’s most In the past five years, an estimated 15,200 acreprecious natural resources, has been a goal of feet of groundwater has been conserved due to the Arkansas’s agriculture industry and state government construction of 57 surface water conversion projects leaders for decades. The Arkansas Department of that were approved for a state tax credit. As of fall Agriculture is working to get the word out to more 2019, more than 25,000 farm acres were covered Arkansas producers about a state tax credit program under the tax credit program. that helps offset the cost of Kathryn Stewart with the implementing groundwater “Arkansas farmers Arkansas Department of conservation practices. understand better than Agriculture’s Natural Resources The Water Conservation Tax Division sees opportunity for almost anyone the Credit Program was established more producers to participate importance and value by the Arkansas Legislature in the tax credit program, of water, and some have in 1985 to assist producers and she is working to make learned it the hard way in their efforts to conserve more producers in the critical groundwater. All Arkansas groundwater areas aware of the when they turned on farmers are eligible for tax program and its benefits. their well and nothing credits for specific conservation “The main goal is to keep came out.” measures including surface pushing this program and get impoundments and land leveling. as many people to apply for a tax credit as we can,” In 1991, the Legislature enacted a law to identify Stewart said. “The tax credit is a great tool to help critical ground water areas in the state. Critical producers afford the cost of water conservation ground water areas are defined as regions with practices and protect our groundwater resources for significant declines in groundwater or degradation the next generation.” of water quality. Critical areas include parts of 18 Farmers may claim a 50% tax credit, up to $9,000 counties in eastern and southern Arkansas, including each taxable year, for costs incurred in construction, all of Lonoke, Prairie, Jefferson, Arkansas, Ouachita, installation or restoration of a reservoir, or holding Calhoun, Bradley, Columbia, Phillips, and Union pond, of at least 20 acre-feet. This tax credit allows Counties. Monroe County in eastern Arkansas was farmers to claim up to $90,000 over a 16-year period. added to the list in 2019. Farmers in the critical areas are eligible for a higher percentage of tax credit Farmers may receive a 10% credit for land-leveling, up assistance from the state for certain improvements, to $9,000 each year, with a total credit of $27,000. and they may be eligible for additional benefits under In critical areas, farmers who convert from some federal conservation programs, including the groundwater to surface water are eligible for a credit Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) of up to 50% of the total project costs. Outside critical administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. areas, that credit is 10%. Similarly, a 50% credit is available for the cost of water meters installed on Arkansas ranks fourth in the nation for total water use wells in critical areas, and a 10% credit in and second in the U.S. for groundwater withdrawals. noncritical areas. ARKANSAS GROWN 66

To be eligible for the credit, an application must be submitted to the local county conservation district and to the Natural Resources Division before construction begins. Brantley Farms of Lonoke County has participated in the tax credit program and has seen the benefits firsthand. “We used the state’s tax credit program to help offset the cost of land leveling and building a reservoir,” said Dow Brantley. “Producers want to do their part to conserve groundwater but the upfront costs of installing conservation practices are expensive. The state’s tax credit program helps make them more affordable.” Stewart understands concerns about the upfront expense of instituting conservation practices but warns that the long-term impact could be more significant. “Arkansas farmers understand better than almost anyone the importance and value of water, and some have learned it the hard way when they turned on their well and nothing came out,” Stewart said. “We want to help producers take steps now to conserve the state’s groundwater so future generations can participate in Arkansas’s great agricultural history.” Arkansas Department of Agriculture staff will have information about the Water Conservation Tax Credit Program available at meetings across the state and are available to make presentations about the program. For more information about the tax credit program or to schedule a presentation, contact Stewart at (501) 682-3972 or email More information about the program also can be found at



From Work Boots to High Heels Local Women are Making a Big Impact in the Field and the Boardroom Women have always had a place at the table in Arkansas agriculture, and they are moving themselves to the head of the table in increasing numbers. In just a few years, the number of female principal farm owners has increased significantly, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Overall, the total number of female agricultural producers in Arkansas jumped from 22,258 to 25,396 over a five-year period. In the United States, 36 percent of all farmers are female. “Agriculture is changing. We’re seeing many more women involved in farming and in more leadership roles,” said Barbie Johnson, a board member for Arkansas Women in Agriculture and a partner in Gilliam Farms, a 135-year-old family farm in Desha County. “I don’t see us doing more than our mothers or grandmothers did. We’re still working in the same roles on the farm, but now in more leadership roles,” Johnson added. Johnson and others believe that percentage is higher, since many women still work behind the scenes or in non-farm jobs that support the overall operation of a family farm. “My view is that women who are involved in farming are part of an overall farm team,” Johnson said. “There is a variety of roles out there.” Johnson noted that she was the farm’s bookkeeper for many years while holding a full-time job as a professor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. “Women in Arkansas are being encouraged to pursue careers in the agricultural industry

by a strong group of female farmers,” added Johnson. Arkansas Women in Agriculture offers a significant networking component with professional development and mentoring opportunities. Those opportunities came at the right time for Lindsay Holtzclaw, 2nd vice president of the organization. Holtzclaw is a communications specialist for Farm Credit of Western Arkansas. She became engaged with the group while she was a student and credits other women in agriculture for support. “There is pressure being in a group that’s tasked with feeding and clothing the world,” Holtzclaw said. “It’s uplifting to be a part of so many women who have made strides in agriculture. It’s special to see all these women who were role models for me. It’s a great group to be a part of.” Holtzclaw majored in agribusiness and public relations at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. Her role is one of many nonfarm roles for women in agriculture that are increasing in numbers. Holtzclaw listed a litany of agriculture occupations, like hers, that are ideal: “it could be a position in credit or finance, food technology, agriculture educators, the extension service… any type of industry you want to go into can be related back to agriculture.” There are many opportunities for women in state and federal government agencies, including the Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency, that work with and support the ARKANSAS GROWN 69

agricultural industry. Evette Browning has worked at the Department since 2002, starting in the Forestry Division and is now on the fiscal staff. Browning also serves as the Department’s minority outreach coordinator and is 1st vice president of Arkansas Women in Agriculture. “While some women have chosen to go into agriculture, others have found themselves in the forefront of operations that had been managed by fathers, husbands, or brothers,” Browning said. “Annie’s Project courses are a great way for women to get extensive hands-on training on how to lead their operations with confidence. I believe that women are strong, resilient, capable, and should be taken seriously as farmers, forest landowners, producers, and other agriculture professionals.” Women have also been moving toward technologybased jobs in precision agriculture, which relies on GPS and other technological advancements to manage and improve farm output. Further, advertisers and marketers are finally recognizing that women have long been decisionmakers in the industry, and they are tailoring their messages accordingly. “Even our big companies and manufacturers are marketing toward women involved in agriculture,” Johnson said. “They know that women have great influence over some of the decisions that are being made.” Arkansas Women in Agriculture hosts a conference for the state’s female leaders in the farming industry every spring. To learn more about the organization, visit


TOMMY YOUNG and his nephews, Blake and Jim Young, farm more than 7,000 acres of row crops near Tuckerman. Tommy’s father, Norman, began their family farm in 1943 with just 40 acres.

More than 70% of the CORN grown in the state of Arkansas is used to feed the local poultry market.

FROM OUR FARMS TO YOUR TABLES SORGHUM offers a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.

SORGHUM CROP St. Francis County

Arkansas Corn & Grain Sorghum Board

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Conservation Districts are committed to locally led cooperative conservation to promote productive soils, clean abundant water, healthy plant and animal communities, clean air, and efficient usage of water and energy. Conservation District offices are located in every county to provide technical and financial assistance for conservation in partnership with universities as well as state, local and federal agencies. They help landowners, farmers and ranchers develop conservation activity plans and provide advice on the design and management of recommended conservation practices. Please contact us with the information below on how to get started with water quality, soil health, irrigation, wildlife habitat, pesticide risks, and sustainability by using the contact information below.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: contact (501) 904-5575 or visit us at


FORESTRY OVERVIEW Forest Health, Development and Conservation, Wildfire Suppression



tons of forestry products and timber produced













461 WILDFIRES IN 2019 burning over 6,000 acres! 6,882,925 SEEDLINGS PLANTED AT BAUCUM NURSERY (hardwood & pine)

3,347 LANDOWNER ASSISTS (supporting forest management plans and general forestry needs)

41 TREE CITIES (reaching more than 837,836 Arkansas residents)

Information provided by the Forestry Division 2019


To Protect and Serve Law Enforcement in the State’s Largest Industry The law enforcement officers of the Arkansas “We value our partnership with local law enforcement Department of Agriculture (Department)devote their and are proud to be another tool for them to use in careers to protecting the top industry in the state-addressing agricultural crimes in rural areas across the agriculture. These fully-certified officers investigate state,” said Black. crimes that affect any part of Arkansas agriculture, The law enforcement team has and they help enforce also worked cases that cross state regulations promulgated by “We value our lines. Investigators have partnered the boards and commissions partnership with local with the Ashley County Sheriff’s within the Department. Office and Louisiana authorities, law enforcement and But two years ago, the team including the Louisiana Department are proud to be another had a much narrower focus. of Agriculture and Forestry, to stop tool for them to use in an arsonist responsible for setting Billy Black, the Chief of addressing agricultural fires in Arkansas and Louisiana. Law Enforcement for the Charges are currently pending in the crimes in rural areas Department, was first an case where 70 acres were burned across the state.” officer for the Arkansas in Arkansas and more than 27 were Forestry Division. He and burned in Louisiana. other law enforcement officers were responsible for investigating wildfires, arson, dumping, and timber “I want people to know that we are here. We’re a and equipment theft, until the duties of the law specialized unit that’s made for them,” said Black. enforcement team were expanded in 2018 to cover a “Farmers and ranchers work hard every day to feed, wider range of agricultural crimes. He and his team clothe, and shelter the rest of us, and we want to be of three additional officers are now part of the Shared helpful in every way we can when they are the victims Services Division of the Department and serve all of crime.” producers and all divisions within the department. Victims of agricultural crimes should contact their “We stay busy,” says Black. local authorities first to start the process, then contact the Department by calling or submitting a complaint The department’s four law enforcement officers cover form through the Department’s website. One of the the entire state. Their biggest caseload remains Department’s law enforcement officers will contact timber theft, but as word of team’s expanded duties the victim and local authorities. The Department’s spreads, cases dealing with livestock theft and other officers and local authorities will then decide the best agricultural crimes are increasing. course of action for the case. Before the expansion of duties for the Department Just because agriculture-related crimes aren’t the most law enforcement team, local law enforcement was heinous doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Black the sole source of assistance for victims of agricultural says he’s seen a family lose their entire retirement crimes that were not forestry-related. Now, the because of timber theft. Luckily, his officers were able department’s law enforcement team is available to to catch the person responsible and the family got assist local law enforcement entities in responding to their money back. On average, the law enforcement all agricultural crimes. ARKANSAS GROWN 74

team has returned about half a million dollars in restitution to victims annually. Black said, “Helping people recover their losses makes it all worthwhile.”

Take precautions to protect your farm from CRIMINALS! There are several precautions you can take to make your farm less vulnerable to criminals according to law enforcement. Officers say you should: 1. Lock your gates 2. Take your keys out of equipment 3. Don’t build animal corrals next to the road 4. Post no trespassing signs 5. Put up a game camera so authorities have some evidence to use

To learn more about the Department’s law enforcement service or to file a complaint, go to


Food Safety: Adventures in Grading Arkansas Food Safety Poultry Inspectors Ensure Quality Foods The poultry industry is the largest sector of Arkansas agriculture, providing more than $4.9 billion in cash receipts in 2018. Arkansas nationally ranked second in broiler chicken production and fifth in turkey production. With that production comes a need for grading, inspection, and certification of poultry products. In 2019, 1.73 billion pounds of chicken meat, 776 million pounds of turkey meat, 1.34 billion pounds of rabbit meat, and 1.52 billion eggs were inspected by the Food Safety / Egg and Poultry Section of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Livestock and Poultry Division. The Food Safety Section has 36 employees, graders, and inspectors that provide commodity grading, inspection, and certification of poultry, turkey, eggs, and rabbits under a Cooperative Agreement with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and in compliance with the Arkansas Egg Marketing Act. Thirty-five of the employees are licensed by the USDA. “Every day is an adventure in grading,” said Sara Overton, an Agriculture Commodity Compliance Specialist, better known as a grader, with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. “You have to be flexible, and spontaneous, and a person who can figure things out by themselves.” The Food Safety Section strives to protect consumers and the agricultural industry by ensuring that poultry, eggs, and rabbit products offered to the public are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. Graders provide service at processing plants to assure food safety and food quality. Inspectors provide auditing services at retail outlets for regulatory compliance on eggs, ensuring the products are properly graded and labeled according to State and Federal guidelines. “People need to feel safe and understand that there are people looking out for them when it comes to the food they eat, I like to reassure people of that,” said Overton. Overton works as a relief grader who fills in vacancies at poultry plants. She travels between plants, like Tyson and Butterball, to ensure quality. She even inspects at Pel-Freez in Rogers, the largest processor of rabbit meat in the United States. The job for her is different every day, but she says she likes getting to see how each company makes their products. She is certified in all four licenses available in Arkansas: chicken, turkey, eggs, and rabbit.


“I’m never short of work. I’m always needed somewhere,” she said. Graders and inspectors provide an additional layer of quality certification for consumer food products. A product that is USDA Shielded means a third-party person pulled it off the line at a processing location or freezer facility and verified its quality. “It’s kind of like having a third-party impartial person to go ‘yes those are the best eggs you can buy,’” said Overton. “I want people to know there are people out there taking care of them. How many people do you meet every day who know how to tell if their eggs are shaped correctly? Everyone still eats them and trusts they’re good. They can trust that because there are so many different types of accountability going into the food system. You have government going in and checking the quality, and you have corporations going in and checking the quality too.” Staff within the Food Safety / Egg and Poultry Section participate in government food inspection programs. In 2019, under the Child Nutrition Labeling Program (CN), staff performed 12 audits on manufacturers producing CN products, and inspectors graded and certified over 13 million pounds of CN products. Certified auditors performed 44 audits under the Food Defense Program on manufacturers and off-site storage facilities. Section inspectors inspected 36 processing locations and examined 30.7 million eggs under the Shell Egg Surveillance Program. “Our Food Safety staff takes their responsibility seriously,” said Overton. In 2018, one billion broilers were raised in Arkansas and processed for distribution across the nation. Demand for poultry continues to increase domestically and globally. “The need for grading, inspection, and certification will increase as production and demand for poultry increases. We will be there and continue to do our part to reassure consumers that they are getting safe and quality products,” said Overton. Learn more about the Food Safety / Egg and Poultry Section at


NATURAL RESOURCES OVERVIEW Soil Conservation, Nutrient Management, Water Rights, Dam Safety, Water Resources Planning and Development

In 2018, more than 1,500 new water wells were constructed and reported to the Ground Water Section.

Floodplain Management Section

Conservation Section


Nine-Element Watershed Management plans were developed intended to help reduce sediment runoff


More than cities & towns were equipped and trained to address floods

The Natural Resources Division is guided by the Arkansas Water Plan, a long-term strategy designed to lead the conservation, development, management, and use of water for all citizens. The Plan brings data, science, and public input together to define water demands, water supplies, issues, and potential solutions to meet our future needs.

State Water Planning Section

Ground Water Section

Nonpoint Source/ Unpaved Roads Section

Water Resources Development Section

137 dam inspections over the past year provided details to dam owners on deficiencies and how to address them


Nutrient Management Plans for communities across Arkansas were developed

Dam Safety Section


municipalities were assisted in their mission to obtain safe drinking and sewer water

140 applications were received and 70 certificates of project completion were issued over the past five years

Information Provided by Natural Resources Division 2019



Homegrown By Heroes: Boots On The Ground Recognizing Arkansas Veterans Who Work in Agriculture The transition from soldier to farmer was an Veterans who are farmers and would like easy choice for Damon Helton. the Homegrown by Heroes designation on their products must first become a member “Veterans do not mind getting dirty. of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. After Veterans are familiar with getting up early, that, they may join the program through and following directions really well. But the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. we also have the ability to think on our The Arkansas Agriculture Board welcomes feet to find quick solutions,” said Helton, Helton as the first Homegrown by Heroes who raises livestock, poultry, and produce member to serve on the board. on 165 acres in rural Saline County. Helton applies the label on “There is an amazing all products he produces, “It’s a phenomenal healing aspect to working including 100% grass-fed opportunity for the land you fought and beef, forested pork, and cared for and growing veterans. It is a pastured poultry. Helton things on the land you marketing tool that quipped that his hogs are have sweat equity in,” “like employees of the farm we have paid for he said. because they help in timber with our service.” management.” Helton is a former Army Ranger who served five tours of duty in Helton’s beef, pork, and poultry along with Afghanistan and Iraq. A member of the eggs and a variety of vegetables produced nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition, Helton on his family’s farm are sold at three Olde is one of 49 participants in the Arkansas Crow General Store locations operated by Department of Agriculture’s Homegrown Helton and his wife, Jana. The Helton’s by Heroes Program. Homegrown by Heroes opened the first Olde Crow in October, identifies agricultural products grown or 2015, at the intersection of Arkansas raised by veterans with a special retail label. Highway 9 and Arkansas Highway 5 in the To Helton, the “Homegrown by Heroes” label is a honor fitting of the men and women who served our country and an appropriate marker for consumers who seek to honor their service. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity for veterans. It is a marketing tool that we have paid for with our service,” he said. “The Homegrown by Heroes label allows the veteran a platform for their products and the consumer an opportunity to show their support.”

Crows community. The specialty store and café sits at the former site of the Crows gas station. They have added locations in Benton and Hot Springs.

Helton refuses to take credit for the success of the stores. He said farmers, vendors, and consumers in the community need an alternative to only purchasing locally farmed and raised goods than just a seasonal farmer’s market and local consumers craved quality products.


“We’re producing animals year-round and vegetables in the summer and into the fall. I knew people wanted access to good, local products 365 days a year, and I just needed to give them a place to get it,” Helton said. “Arkansas has so many talented artisans right here in our own communities.” Not long after Helton opened his first store, a local man came into the store boasting that he grew “the best tomatoes you’ve ever had.” The next growing season, Helton was buying tomatoes from the man to sell at the store. He gets contacted by area residents who make salsa or pickles or soaps.

“There’s an amazing healing aspect to working the land you have fought and cared for and growing things off the land you have sweat equity in.” “Similar situations happen on a daily basis,” he said. He added that the store’s initial offerings of a few Arkansas-made goods and Helton’s own products have made way for “a tidal wave of local producers who are looking for places to sell other than a farmer’s market.” Helton understands the parallels between how he and his family are helping others in the community and how that service started with his military career. “Agriculture takes a servant’s heart,” he said. “We are feeding our communities and feeding the world.”









Fiscal, Human Resources, Marketing, Information Technology, Legal, and Law Enforcement


$3 Million

$11 Million

Vendor Invoices Processed

in Federal Grant aid payments processed

in Federal Grant aid reimbursements requested

506 positions filled



press releases issued

proclamations promoted

Upgraded to one gigabit fiber optic connection

Agency-wide upgrade to Windows 10

Assisted in drafting proposed rules and monitored legislation throughout the legislative session

ACT 781 repeal resulting in the removal of 26 outdated rules





Law Enforcement Cases Closed

Restitution returned to land owners

Received in fines

Law Enforcement assists performed

Information Provided by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture 2019


Shared Kitchens are a Hot Commodity Farmers, Food Entrepreneurs All Find Room to Work at Share Grounds As communities work to grow their local food scenes, food hubs are a tremendous resource for food entrepreneurs needing commercial kitchen space and farmers needing aggregation space to wash, package, and store their produce before distribution. The question has been where to find that space? The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service (Extension) found an answer at county fairgrounds across the state.

determined by the needs of initial clients. Each site has a local advisory board, and the goal is to have five food businesses and a connection to 15 farms per site in 2020. “We are confident we will meet this goal,” Perez said. Extension received a USDA Local Foods Promotion Program grant for the program and received additional grants, including a $45,000 grant from the Arkansas Community Foundation.

Extension staff hosted introductory workshops at “We realized they had commercial kitchens, each site in the fall for interested entrepreneurs to warehouses, and roads accessible to large trucks - the learn more about the program. basic infrastructure needed for “We want to work with people food hubs,” said Amanda Philyaw “We want to work with interested in using fresh foods to Perez, assistant professor and create value-added products,” extension food systems and people interested in Perez said. safety specialist. Outside of using fresh foods to county fairs and rodeos, some An example might be a grower who create value-added of those fairground facilities uses surplus peppers, onions, and products.” are underutilized, and their tomatoes to make salsa. associations are open to ways of “That’s hard to do at home,” Perez generating more revenue. said. “You can make it and give it away for free, but Thus, the idea for Share Grounds was born. you can't sell that product out of your kitchen due to the food safety risk. Anyone interested in scaling up a “The name is a clever spin on what we intend to do, recipe can use our kitchen to do that.” and that is to work with each of the sites to modify and update their kitchens so they can move from a retail space designed for concessions sales to a food manufacturing kitchen,” Perez said.

Share Grounds is operating in Cleveland, Searcy, and Woodruff counties this year where fairground facilities have been upgraded, equipped, and inspected. New stoves have been installed along with three-compartment sinks, produce-washing sinks, and washable walls. Electrical and plumbing upgrades have been made, and larger floor drains were installed. Future equipment purchases will be ARKANSAS GROWN 84

Each shared kitchen site will have a part-time manager who will assist with recipe testing, product development, regulatory assistance, kitchen rental, and cold and dry storage rental. The centers will be open 20 hours per week initially, and clients will pay an hourly rate of $30 or less for use of the facility, depending on the service used. Share Grounds also will benefit farmers and growers wanting to supply produce locally to farm-to-school programs or mom-and-pop grocery stores. The aggregation centers will provide space for producers

to wash, package, and store the produce until distribution. “Buyers had rather go to one central place than multiple farms,” said Angela Gardner, program associate in produce safety and local foods with Extension. “That is the link between rural and urban.” Share Grounds is a partnership between the Cleveland, Searcy, and Three County Fair Associations, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and several regional partners. The concept is modeled after the Arkansas Food Innovations Center, which is part of the Food Science Department within the Division of Agriculture.

For more information visit


One Bean, Infinite Possibilities The Soybean Promotion Board Aims to Invest in the “Miracle Bean” Arkansas currently ranks 10th in the nation in soybean production, producing more than 150 million bushels annually valued at more than $1.5 billion. Every year, millions of dollars are entrusted to the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board to improve the sustainability and profitability of the soybean industry in the state, but exactly how do they disperse it? The board aims to answer that question with the Arkansas CheckoffFunded Research Report, first created in 2019. The Arkansas Board divides its funds into research, market development, promotion and expansion of soybeans throughout the state. The new annual report aims to show what projects these funds are affecting and how this can help producers. “We work to maximize the return of every checkoff dollar spent. Whether it’s for research or promotion, there is no room for error,” said Rusty Smith, the chairman of the board. “We are also doing our best to reach out to the younger generations and consumers about career opportunities and the benefits of consuming soy. We’re on the right track.” The report highlights each project the board funded that year and explains the goal and value to the soybean industry. Each board member is featured, and statistics are shown on how the money is broken down into categories from breeding to weeds to entomology. Funds are used primarily for research projects conducted by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service. The board’s money comes from checkoff dollars paid by Arkansas soybean producers. Producers invest 0.5% of the market price per bushel for soybeans, known as a checkoff, into a fund. The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board receives half of the checkoff dollars collected in the state, and the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board (USB) to manage and invest. According to the board, for every $1 invested, $6.40 is returned to the farmer. “It’s a good reporting piece on how checkoff funds are spent,” said Brent Miller, the associate creative director for Communications Group and designer of the report. “I want to get that valuable production data in front of our growers.”


“It was information wrangling in the beginning, but it wasn’t hard. It turned out to be a nice piece,” said Miller. He said they already had relationships with the researchers, farmers, and extension agents benefiting from the funds, so the next steps were to compile the information.

“We want to show that there is a lot of room in the industry and people need help.”

Arkansas will be represented by two of our farmers serving as officers on national boards for the soybean industry in 2020. Jim Carroll III of Brinkley, Arkansas, was elected Chair of the United Soybean Board on December 11, 2019. Carroll is a returning member having served ten consecutive years on the national board, where he has represented the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board since May 2010. In addition, 19 new directors, appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, were sworn in by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The full report is available on the board’s website and a printed copy was sent to every soybean producer who grows over 100 acres. The website also features videos and podcasts with experts in agriculture and information that producers can use on their farms. Miller says the bottom line is they want to get information out to growers through multiple platforms such as video, audio, and print.

“We've made great strides to innovate beyond the bushel and infuse every opportunity we can into growing markets and creating new uses for soybeans,” said Carroll. “We have a lot to be proud of but also have tremendous potential to further demand as we continue our progress through wise and strategic investments. One of my priorities as Chair is to recognize the performance and sustainability of U.S. Soy and show our customers its many capabilities as a renewable alternative.”

Another goal of the board is to highlight young, up-and-coming professionals working in agriculture in Arkansas, and the broad spectrum of agri-related jobs available.

USB leadership, with oversight from USDA, guides the activity of the national soy checkoff in accordance with the strategy outlined by the 78-member board. USB continues to focus on three priority areas for investment: meal, oil, and sustainability.

“We want to show that there is a lot of room in the industry and people need help,” said Miller. “We’re trying to cover all those bases and make sure that we get that information to them in every way possible.” The full annual report, videos, and podcasts can be found at

The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board consists of soybean producers nominated by various producer organizations within Arkansas and appointed by the governor.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) elected Brad Doyle of Weiner to serve as secretary for 2020. He has been a member of the ASA Board of Directors since 2017. Doyle grows soybeans, rice, wheat, and cereal rye on his farm, Berger Farms/Eagle Seed Company. He has served as president of the Arkansas Soybean Association and as County Farm Bureau President on the President’s Leadership Council. Doyle will be on the leadership team guiding ASA through its 100th year. For almost 100 years, the American Soybean Association has met the demands of an evolving world and has grown to 26 affiliated state associations representing 30 soybean-producing states and more than 300,000 soybean farmers. ASA represents U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international policy issues that are important to the soybean industry. ARKANSAS GROWN 87

Hemp is Happening Researchers Harvest Arkansas’s First Legal Hemp Crop in Decades Arkansas’s first legal industrial hemp harvest in 80 years was a mixed success in 2019, leaving hemp farmers with some answers but many more questions as they enter the second year of a state-authorized research pilot program. Despite the mixed success, interest seems very high for the next season.

“I want to do my part to help farmers with a new and confusing crop,” he said. “I feel like I have many roles as a program manager: I try to be a reality check to our growers, keep them from unnecessary entanglements with the law, and help them make industry connections where I can.”

The 2014 Farm Bill legalized Farmers growing industrial “This is a brand-new the growing and cultivating of hemp must notify the Arkansas crop that has been illegal Department of Agriculture when industrial hemp for research purposes in states where hemp they are ready to harvest, and in for eight decades. Now growth and cultivation is legal turn, the department’s lab must Arkansas farmers are under state law. In 2017, the measure a representative sample trying to figure out what Arkansas General Assembly of the crop for THC content. Allen, to do with it.” passed the Arkansas Hemp Act as the hemp program coordinator, that authorized the Arkansas makes decisions based on lab Department of Agriculture to develop an industrial results about which crops need to be destroyed hemp research pilot program. In 2019, 125 farmers for program-compliance, and which crops can be and 33 processors were licensed to participate in marketed to a licensed hemp processor. Arkansas’s research pilot program. Of the 1,820 acres planted in the state in 2019, only Industrial hemp, as defined by law, is any variety 842.8 acres were harvested. Growers ended up of the Cannabis sativa L. plant with a delta-9 destroying over 236 acres due to various causes. tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 0.3% or “This is a brand-new crop that has been illegal for lower. Plants with a THC concentration higher than eight decades. Now Arkansas farmers are trying to 0.3% are considered illicit marijuana, a controlled figure out what to do with it,” Allen said. “A lot of substance, and must be destroyed. people see benefits and dollar signs when they think The industrial hemp research pilot program is of industrial hemp. Not everyone saw dollar signs intended to provide Arkansas growers with key this first year. Take the farmer who invested $5,000 in insight into growing industrial hemp in Arkansas’s hemp seed, yet not one seed germinated,” Allen said. unique climate, from identifying the best soils and Farmers licensed to grow hemp through the Arkansas fertilizer to determining the amount of sunlight or Department of Agriculture are required to conduct a heat that may cause stress on the plant. THC levels research project into an aspect of hemp growth and will elevate in the plant as it matures, and stress can cultivation. In turn, Allen and his team will compile cause the levels to spike. THC above 0.3% effectively and share data among licensed growers renders a plant unmarketable. and regulators. Caleb Allen, the hemp program coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, oversaw the first “There’s a lot of planting failure overall because it’s year of the project. Allen says his role as the program new and because we don’t have adequate education and research,” Allen said. “It’s a lot of lessons learned, coordinator has been extensive and quite varied. ARKANSAS GROWN 88

but learning is the point of the program, so that we can move on with commercialization.” Allen is confident that research conducted in 2019 and 2020 will be beneficial toward determining how to manage the state’s burgeoning hemp crop. “Farmers who have years of agricultural experience all say the same thing: ‘Hemp is a different beast.’ They’re stumped and they don’t know what to do at times,” Allen said. “The crop was portrayed as easy to grow, and that it can grow anywhere. Many of our growers found that not to be the case. It turns out hemp is a finicky plant that needs to be carefully maintained and treated to achieve a successful crop. Extensive planning and coordination are required. Hemp farmers must face all the uncertainty with the weather, environment, and market that other farmers do, while also potentially losing their crop if THC levels run too high.” “More than 95% of this year’s hemp crop was grown for use in cannabidiol, or CBD, products,” Allen said. There are other uses for hemp. When growing hemp for fiber, the plant stalk is used instead of the flower. It’s supposedly easier to grow hemp for fiber or grain, but the current market for CBD oil is more lucrative. On October 31, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the Final Interim Rule for the U.S. Domestic Hemp Program, leading the nation into the commercialization of hemp. Under the Final Interim Rule, all states and tribal territories must declare their intent to have oversight of hemp grown in their borders. The USDA will take responsibility for hemp in states and territories that choose not to develop their own programs. All states and tribal territories, including Arkansas, will have until October 31, 2020, to decide whether to administer their own program or forfeit the responsibility to the USDA.


Plants, Pets, and Pellets Plant Industries Division Inspectors Are Protecting Your Pets and Your Food What do the gypsy moth, a bag of dog food, a crepe myrtle tree, and cottonseed all have in common? Each seemingly unconnected item, and dozens more, fall under the purview of Arkansas Department of Agriculture Plant Industries Division inspectors. To hear 31-year veteran David Fort tell it, there’s not much related to agricultural consumer protection that state inspectors don’t touch. “We do a little bit of everything,” Fort said. “The biggest part of it is a consumer protection function.” For instance: ● Inspectors monitor traps in late fall and December for the invasive gypsy moth, often imported into the state on Christmas trees from the upper Midwest. The gypsy moth is a dangerous pest that can be lethal to deciduous trees. ● Fort and his fellow inspectors verify nutrition labels on pet food. ● The Plant Board was established more than a century ago to monitor stock in Arkansas’s plant and landscaping nurseries for diseases. This year, Fort said inspectors are trying to stave off a rash of disease in crepe myrtles, called crepe myrtle scales. ● Inspectors evaluate cottonseed and all other agricultural seeds to ensure the germination rate is appropriate and that the state’s farmers are getting the type of seed they expect. “I think these are all very important functions of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture,” Fort said. “Can you imagine a farmer going in to buy seed and it only germinates at a rate of 10%? They won’t harvest a crop. It’s a very important function to make sure farmers get what they pay for.” Fort is based in the southern part of the state, where he oversees several inspectors and also takes on an inspector role himself. There are about 30 Plant Industries Division inspectors across Arkansas, who along with chemists and lab technicians work tirelessly on behalf of agricultural producers and consumers. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has a seed lab, a chemical lab, and a germination lab at its Little Rock offices.


The labs certify seed that is to be sold in Arkansas, and it tests samples of pet and other animal food to ensure label guarantees are accurate. Fort used the example of a hunting dog – it’s extremely important to a consumer for the protein levels in certain highend pet foods to be the same as on the label. Whether feed or seed, if at any time the product tested in the lab doesn’t match the information on the label, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture issues a “stop sale” order to the retailer and manufacturer, prohibiting the sale of mislabeled items to consumers. When not collecting seed or feed, Fort said inspectors spend a substantial amount of time in the field investigating what they refer to as “misuse of pesticides” complaints. Those complaints arise from other farmers, landowners, or others concerned about whether pesticides applied in nearby fields may affect their crops, produce, or vegetation. The misuse of pesticides investigations “have been a very big deal since 2016. It seems like I’ve worked investigations all summer long,” Fort said. A specific herbicide, dicamba, has been contentious in Arkansas for the last several years. Drift from dicamba application has been blamed for damage to crops, trees, and vegetation. When tasked with a pesticide or herbicide investigation, Fort said inspectors document findings with photography and residue samples. Farmers who apply pesticides or herbicides are asked to follow all label instructions for application. He noted that the “label is the law,” and failing to meet the label requirements could result in penalties or sanctions. Fort said Arkansas has consistently instituted new programs to keep up with changing agricultural trends and to meet challenges as they relate to invasive species. Not all states have had as rigorous and thorough an inspection program as Arkansas, and those states are worse for it, he added. “We’ve had other states who did away with their feed and fertilizer programs years ago, and they figured out that they’ve got to have feed inspectors and seed inspectors,” he said. ARKANSAS GROWN 91

Beasts of Burden: Arkansas's Feral Hogs Addressing the State’s Feral Hog Issues is a Serious Challenge Feral hogs are a threat to agriculture, forestlands, invasive species by partnering with multiple agencies wildlife, waterways, and human health. Damages to implement effective control measures,” said estimates approach $1.5 billion annually to the U.S. Fairhead. “Addressing the feral hog issue will not be and approximately $19 million in Arkansas. Feral a quick fix, but I believe we can make positive strides hogs have been found in every county in Arkansas, to reduce damages if we focus on working together and the damage they cause continues to grow as they to remove these invasive pests.” increasingly find their way onto The Arkansas Feral Swine golf courses, athletic fields, and Eradication and Control Pilot “We can make positive public parks in urban areas. strides to reduce damages Program will involve extensive Arkansas took a huge step collaboration between the USDA if we focus on working Natural Resources Conservation in its efforts to address the together to remove these Service, USDA Animal Plant destruction caused by feral hogs when the Arkansas Health Inspection Service (APHIS invasive pests.” Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services), Arkansas (Department) hired J.P. Fairhead, the state’s first Game and Fish Commission, University of Arkansas full-time employee to concentrate 100 percent on Cooperative Extension, local/individual soil and eradicating feral hogs. One of Fairhead’s primary water conservation districts, the Department’s tasks will be implementing the new $3.4 million Natural Resources Division, and others. The pilot grant recently awarded to the Department through program consists of four project areas including 22 the USDA Feral Swine Eradication and Control total counties. Each project area is comprised of Pilot Program. tier one and tier two counties, with initial efforts beginning in tier one counties with subsequent “J.P. brings extensive knowledge of statewide feral efforts planned to move into the tier two counties in hog control activities to the Department,” said successive years after removal efforts and damage Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “We assessments, have been evaluated. The initial look forward to putting J.P.’s expertise to work as we tier one counties include: Arkansas, Ashley, Drew, implement the new feral hog eradication program in Hempstead, Howard, Sevier, Baxter, Izard, Marion, project areas across the state,” said Ward. Logan, Sebastian, and Yell counties. Fairhead previously worked for the Arkansas The pilot program grants funds will be used to hire Game & Fish Commission as a Natural Resource ten conservation district technicians, and purchase Program Technician and Field Biologist, taking needed equipment, within the tier one counties. The on the additional duty of serving as the Feral Hog district technicians will assist and provide existing Eradication Program Coordinator for the Game and USDA APHIS Wildlife Services personnel with Fish Commission in 2013. He has been involved with feral swine removal efforts to private landowners. the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force since USDA APHIS Wildlife Services also intends to hire its launch in 2017, serving on the Management and one additional technician within each project Control Subcommittee. area. Educational and outreach components of the “I look forward to addressing the unique challenges associated with controlling this prolific, destructive, ARKANSAS GROWN 92

project may include landowner workshops, field days, demonstrations and damage assessments,

and surveys conducted by partnering agencies and conservation districts. Landowners who need assistance with feral hogs on their property should contact USDA APHIS Wildlife Services State Office at (501) 835-2318 for more information. Additional resources regarding feral hogs, including information about the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force as well as hog sighting and removal reporting tools, can be found online at:


Advertising Directory Simmons Arkansas State University The Poultry Federation Arkansas Farm Bureau FarmVoice Political Action Committee Arkansas Cattlemen's Association Agricultural Council of Arkansas Simmons Bank Arkansas 4-H Foundation Arkansas Forestry Association Arkansas Timber Producers Association U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C. Arkansas Women in Agriculture Southern U.S. Trade Association Arkansas Corn & Grain Sorghum Board Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts Arkansas Beef Council Arkansas Rice Council Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas


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