Arkansas Grown 2021

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

It's All About the Grade Local Food for Local Tables 2021 | SPONSORED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

We work for those who feed the world. Representing 190,000 Arkansas families, Farm Bureau is the state’s largest membership organization.


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Arkansas’s Hidden Gem After the Flood Common Ground Family Trees A Homegrown Win-Win A Higher Perspective History in a Glass A Website Against All Weevils The Grow Must Go On Meeting in the Middle High Yield Eradication through Information Positive Impacts

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Local Food for Local Tables

Pandemic opens door for innovative initiative

At the Ready

What the Forestry Division is doing to help prepare for disasters

A Golden Age

Arkansas’s soybean industry reflects on 50 years of success as the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board celebrates its golden anniversary in 2021

MANRRS Program Leads to Careers for Arkansas Students Paving the way for minorities in agriculture

It's All About the Grade

Impartial peanut inspection and grading process evaluates quality and grade

Saving Arkansas’s Tiny Heroes

Helping pollinators benefits Arkansas agriculture

Local Hops Getting Attention Defending Nature Arkansas Beef Upping the Efficiency Keeping a Legacy Alive

ON THE COVER Peanuts from Blackwater Farms of Manila, Arkansas. Photo by Anna Thrash. ARKANSAS GROWN 1


For restaurants, retailers, and organizations that sell and support Arkansas Grown and Arkansas Made products, we introduce the new Supporter membership!


Learn more at! 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” and "Arkansas Made" logos are registered trademarks.

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: Abby Sanders, Anna Thrash, Cami Davis, Cynthia Edwards, Evette Browning, Karen Reynolds, Sarah Lane, Stephanie Lewis, Department; Carson Horn, Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program and Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board; Aaron Sadler, Arkansas Press Association; Kelly Robbins, Arkansas Rice Federation; Grant Boyd, Freelance Writer; Dr. Amanda McWhirt, Dr. Renee Threlfall, University of Arkansas System GRAPHIC ARTIST: Joby Miller, Department PHOTOGRAPHERS: Abby Sanders, Anna Thrash, Forestry Division, Karen Reynolds, Russell Summers, Stephanie Lewis, Department; Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program; Arkansas Beef Council; Arkansas State University; Pel-Freez; Tyson; United Soybean Board; University of Arkansas System COVER DESIGN: Cynthia Edwards, Amy Lyman, Department 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 2021 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.


AGRICULTURE An overview of Arkansas’s leading agricultural products




Arkansas ranks in the TOP 25 nationally in the production of 15 different agricultural commodities

Agriculture is our largest industry, contributing more than $21 Billion annually to the economy



98% Arkansas is nationally ranked #1 in Rice production, valued at $1 Billion dollars annually

Arkansas boasts 42% of land comprised of farms 56% comprised of forestland

$4,000 $3,000

Arkansas’s top agricultural commodities in terms of 2019 cash receipts (Millions)

$2,000 $1,000 $0 Broilers $3,610

Soybeans $1,151

Rice $986


Arkansas Rice All other states combined

Arkansas rice accounts for 46% of total U.S. Rice Production and 56% of U.S. Long Grain Production

Eggs $504

Corn $495

Timber $445

Cotton $413

Cattle $361

Turkey $334

Hay $299






33,000 acres of Arkansas Peanuts harvested

171,600,000 pounds produced

$33,977,000 value

ranked nationally

#1 #2 #3 #4 #4 #5 #7 #10 #11 #11



Source: 2020 University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas Agriculture Profile 2020, USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service 2020


A Message from the Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson Agriculture sits at the top of Arkansas’s economy as our Number One industry, driven by crops such as rice, soybeans, timber, corn, peanuts, and hay, as well as cattle, pork, poultry, and farm-raised catfish and minnows. But there are smaller elements – much smaller, in some cases – of agriculture that are vital even if less known than the celebrities. Consider the pollinators, as they are known – bees, butterflies, humming birds, moths, and bats. As you will read elsewhere in this terrific edition of Arkansas Grown, a farmer's livelihood depends to a large degree on pollinators. As much as a third of the food on your plate is there because these friends of agriculture carry pollen from one plant to another. Honey bees produce a treat of their own, and the graceful monarch butterflies are simply a treat to watch as they flit from flower to flower. Agriculture, of course, also depends on water. Sometimes there's not enough, sometimes, as we saw in the historic flood of 2019, there is way too much. The flood destroyed 20,000 acres of farmland and exposed the weaknesses in our system of levees. I created the Levee Task Force and asked the members to report the condition of levees across the state. The Task Force recommended 17 ways for Arkansas to manage its levees so that Arkansans are confident that our levees will hold. I grew up on a small farm in Northwest Arkansas. I understand and appreciate that successful farming requires a loss of sleep, work in extreme temperatures, and the risk of setbacks that are beyond anyone’s control. Ryan Pace is a fifth-generation cattle farmer who retired from the Army National Guard. I like what he said about farmers who are veterans in the Farmer Veteran Coalition in the story on Page 23. “I see a lot of similarities between the military and farming because you've got to be courageous to be a farmer, be willing to accept a challenge. You have to be willing to serve others. There is something real about working with animals, putting your hands in the dirt, and trying to tend to God’s plan the best that you can.” Well said, Ryan Pace. You and all our farmers make life in Arkansas the best. Respectfully,

Governor Asa Hutchinson State of Arkansas ARKANSAS GROWN 5

Welcome to the 2021 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 42,300 Arkansas farm families and the many related businesses that make agriculture the largest industry in Arkansas. Arkansas’s agriculture industry is broad, diverse, and strong. Our agricultural production includes livestock, poultry, aquaculture, row crops, specialty crops, and forestry. It touches every corner of our state and impacts the lives of every citizen, every day. As our largest industry, agriculture contributes more than $21 billion to the state’s economy annually and provides one of every six jobs. Arkansas consistently ranks in the top 25 in the nation annually in the production of more than 15 different agricultural commodities. Resiliency and innovation are bedrock traits of Arkansas agriculture and this has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry has pulled together, adapted where necessary, and kept the food supply chain moving. We are proud to have many Arkansans serving as leaders at the local, state, and national level that are at the forefront of identifying and addressing challenges and adopting innovative strategies that move our industry and our state forward. This edition of Arkansas Grown highlights the achievements, the attributes, and the individuals that make our state and our agriculture industry great. It is an honor and a privilege to serve Arkansas agriculture, an industry that even during the midst of a pandemic never stops providing the food, fiber, fuel, and shelter that we all depend on every single day. You have my assurance that the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is committed to being the strong and effective resource and partner that our agricultural producers, businesses, and rural communities deserve and expect. Respectfully,

Wes Ward Secretary of Agriculture State of Arkansas


POULTRY IS THE LEADING AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY IN ARKANSAS. Poultry is the largest agricultural product produced in Arkansas in terms of cash receipts, providing over 50% of the state’s total agricultural cash receipts.

3rd in the nation in the value of broiler production. In Arkansas 1.10 billion broilers were raised with a production value of $3.61 billion.



3rd in the nation for turkey production. In 2019 Arkansas raised 30 million turkeys. That is equal to 10 turkeys per person in Arkansas.

5th in the nation for egg production value. In Arkansas, 3.6 billion eggs were produced in 2019 with a production value of $504 million.

Over 6,500 farms in Arkansas produce poultry. Benton County is the number one poultry producing county in the state.

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


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.




Arkansas’s Hidden Gem Pel-Freez expands availability of rabbit meat A New England entrepreneur spent two years trying to find a “hidden gem” in the life sciences industry. Now that he’s found one in Arkansas, it likely won’t stay hidden for long.

availability of rabbit at retailers. The company is in the process of completing a major packaging and rebranding initiative to better serve modern retailers as well as smaller, specialty grocers. Pel-Freez is also actively collaborating with local Northwest Arkansas chefs and restaurants.

A private investment partnership headed by Dr. Brian Bonk of Boston acquired Pel-Freez in Rogers in early “My dream is to be in “Rabbit is delicious, 2020. Bonk, Pelevery major retailer in highly sustainable, and the country,” Bonk said. Freez’s president and CEO, relocated there are many ways you “Rabbit is delicious, can prepare it.” to Rogers to take highly sustainable, and over the company there are many ways after an exhaustive cross-country you can prepare it. It has a unique flavor search for an organization that most profile and unique nutritional benefits. fit his investment needs. He found it It’s leaner than chicken and has a in the century-old, third-generation slightly lower fat content. There are a lot family-owned company that is both a of people in this country that love rabbit major supplier to the global life science and it’s just not in stores.” research community, as well as the Under Bonk’s leadership, the company largest processor of rabbit meat in the has started selling rabbit to individuals United States. out of a modest storefront at one of its “We wanted to find an under-theshipping warehouses. Pel-Freez will also radar, enduringly profitable life science ship frozen rabbit meat to those who company and zeroed in on Pel-Freez request it. because it was an attractive investment “If you want rabbit in your restaurant or for a lot of reasons,” Bonk said. “The store, just contact us,” said Bonk, who business is 100 years old and it’s rare for said Pel-Freez utilizes both national and a life sciences company to be around regional distributors. that long. It shows the strengths of the customer relationships.” Pel-Freez processes about 250,000 to Pel-Freez’s long-time relationships extend from its wholesale distributors to its farmers to consumers. Bonk said many people who eat rabbit meat will do so because it was served at mealtime at their grandparents’ house, for instance. His goal is to expand the

300,000 rabbits every year, making it far and away the country’s largest rabbit processor. It’s the only rabbit processor of any significance in the United States with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected products. Pel-Freez has a USDA inspector on-site. ARKANSAS GROWN 11

Unlike poultry, pork, and beef, rabbit meat is not required to be inspected or graded by the USDA, though Pel-Freez voluntarily ensures that its USDA inspector evaluates every rabbit on the line. Bonk said the company’s grower base is about 250 family farmers throughout the Midwest, with most of its growers located within a two-hour drive of Rogers. About 90 percent of farmers are in Arkansas, Missouri, or southern Kansas. Uniquely, Bonk said, most of the growers who sell to Pel-Freez are Amish.

“Pel-Freez is truly a hidden gem. It was off the radar of many people who invest in life science companies.” Pel-Freez got its start in California in 1918 when Herman Pelphrey established the H.F. Pelphrey Company and later changed the name to Pel-Freez when frozen foods became popular in the United States. The family business moved to Rogers in the 1950s, and the company’s food and biologicals divisions expanded under David and Paul Dubbell, who acquired Pel-Freez from their father, Robert, in the 1970s. According to Bonk, the biologicals from a “broad range” of animals are “used by thousands of vaccine developers, diagnostic companies, and life science researchers around the world.” “Pel-Freez is truly a hidden gem. It was off the radar of many people who invest in life science companies, but both the rabbit meat side and the biological side have significant growth opportunities in their own right,” Bonk said.


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Local Food for Local Tables Pandemic opens door for innovative initiative It is no secret that the northwest corner of the state is one of the fastest-growing areas of the country. It may be a surprise to some, though, that this growth has resulted in a decline in the number of acres farmed in the region. This is a trend the Walton Family Foundation is working to change. The Walton Family Foundation established the Northwest Arkansas Food Systems Initiative (Initiative) in May 2020. Tom Walton, Home Region Program Committee Chair at the Walton Family Foundation, wrote in a May 4 blog, “the vision for this work is to build a food system in Northwest Arkansas that can serve as a national model for food grown locally in healthy soil while also supporting the local economy and providing access to healthy food for all.” Walton writes, “The authenticity of Northwest Arkansas’s farming heritage is inspiring our family’s new effort to strengthen the region’s capacity to grow more local food for local people.” As part of the Initiative, the Foundation brought in Diana Endicott, founder and director of Rainbow Organic Farms and Good Natured Family Farms where she received multiple honors and awards for her work in St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas. With over ten years’ experience in local food systems, Endicott has made an impact in Northwest Arkansas in a short time. The Food Conservancy (TFC) started as a food hub that aggregates and distributes locally grown produce to meet the demand of wholesale markets. When restaurants and institutions closed due to the pandemic, TFC worked with the Walton Family Foundation

to develop a concept that would allow TFC to purchase what the farmers had produced so that they would continue to grow. This pandemic pivot opened the door to a direct-to-consumer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.

Working with about 40 farmers from Northwest Arkansas to the River Valley, TFC found themselves teaching the small-scale farmers about packaging and standardizing the process along the way. There were no formal classes or training, only organic conversations as the need presented itself. Endicott believes that showing these farmers step by step how the process works was heartfelt. She tells a story where a farmer purchased scales with the payments from TFC. Endicott said, “to most people, this may seem insignificant, but to grow a good system it is vital. These tiny baby steps that we overlook sometimes are the true drivers, the underlying drivers, that are going to make this successful in the next 10 to 20 years.” In addition to the food boxes available for consumer pick-up, TFC partnered with ARKANSAS GROWN 15

Harps Food Stores to offer a Farm Bag program in select stores. The Farm Bag is an assortment of food in a shopping bag, all local, and includes a newsletter with information on the farmers. Harps has a mission to offer locally grown produce and help small family farms. With over 90 percent of food shopping conducted at supermarkets, the opportunity for local farmers to sell to Harps is significant for the farmers and makes local food available to more people. “The Farm Bag Program has been a hit and a big success this summer,” said Clay Williams, Produce Manager at Harps. “Everybody’s been ecstatic about it. When the products come here and the customer sees what’s in the bag, it is one of the fastest moving items in our department.” The Northwest Arkansas Food Systems Initiative’s mission capitalizes on two key areas – supporting small scale farmers and improving their access to local wholesale fresh produce markets. Karin Endy, advisor to the Walton Family Foundation, attorney, and chef, is passionate about the Initiative. Her work with the Walton Family Foundation started several years ago with a comprehensive research initiative to identify how to make the food system function effectively. The Initiative includes two other grantees to support local farmers – the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust Farmlink which connects landowners with experienced farmers interested in leasing or purchasing land, and the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food which offers education and apprenticeship opportunities for novice farmers. Endy said, “The ten-year goal for the Initiative is to add 1,000 acres of farmland and 75 new farmers to Northwest Arkansas. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2017 Ag Census, the number of acres of vegetables, potatoes, and melons farmed in Benton and Washington Counties dropped to 270 acres. The number of acres farmed in fruits and nuts is even smaller.” “It’s been a journey,” said Endicott. “We have learned a lot. I feel that right now the TFC facility has given the farmers a home. If it can be done here successfully, then the hope is that it can be replicated and become a means of economic viability for areas of rural America.” ARKANSAS GROWN 16

LIVESTOCK & POULTRY Food Safety, Regulatory Compliance, Animal Health

Arkansas ranks #2 nationally in the production of chicken broiler meat

Arkansas is the fifth largest producer of turkey meat

1.57 Billion chicken eggs graded in fiscal year 2020

Arkansas is ranked #10 in the nation in the production of beef cows

Visit to learn more about Arkansas livestock programs.



calfhood vaccinations by livestock inspectors


Health Certificates processed


pounds of chicken meat inspected

equine infectious anemia (EIA) tests performed


Animal Movement Permits issued




hours worked at 85 livestock events

1.33 MILLION pounds of rabbit meat inspected


Diagnostic Procedures performed


15,487 certified flocks in the National Poultry Improvement Program

736 MILLION pounds of turkey meat inspected

cattle tagged for disease traceability

ranked nationally


The Department assisted the Arkansas Department of Health in the approval of over 130 COVID-19


Ag-related event plans



Information provided by the Livestock and Poultry Division 2020 INFOGRAPHIC PROVIDED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE | Visit for more information.


After the Flood Rebuilding levees after historic flood requires strategic planning The damaging, widespread flooding of 2019 was an experience that farmers in Dardanelle had not faced since the first levees were constructed on the Arkansas River in 1948.

Governor Hutchinson, with the Arkansas General Assembly’s approval, also provided $10 million for levee rebuilding.

“Everything that was underwater was pretty well destroyed,” Thone said. “I know the farmers took a major hit. And when it finally did dry up, they had to start over.”

Thone, a member of Hutchinson’s task force, said, “The levee repairs would not have been possible without the funding from Governor Hutchinson that was administered by Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Division. I was blessed to be able to serve on the Levee Task Force to help figure out the needs up and down the river, and I think we’ve done some good.”

The task force issued a report that included 17 total recommendations, Although rainfall was normal in all related to the federal, state, and Arkansas, relentless spring rains upriver local management of levees. The task in Oklahoma and Kansas led to a deluge force’s recommendations included a of water for several days. Eventually, the state-maintained inventory of all levees, Arkansas River rose to unprecedented improved reporting on maintenance levels, overtopping issues, consolidation of levees all along the some levee districts, and river and causing “I know the farmers took a state grant program extensive damage. a major hit. And when to incentivize levee districts’ participation it finally did dry up, they in the federal levee Mark Thone, Yell County Judge, grew had to start over.” rehabilitation and up in the Arkansas inspection program. River bottomlands around Dardanelle and thought he At the time the report was issued, would never witness anything quite like Hutchinson said the task force members he did in 2019. were, “dedicated to the effort of making our levees more reliable and giving More than 20,000 acres of farmland, Arkansans the utmost confidence that with the majority planted in corn, our levees will hold in the event of soybeans, and wheat, were ruined. another catastrophic flood.”

The devastation from the flooding prompted Governor Asa Hutchinson to establish a 26-member Levee Task Force to analyze conditions of levees across the state and identify methods for funding repair and maintenance. The Levee Task Force was also asked to consider whether the state needed to update its laws on levee funding and oversight.

Sixteen levee improvement and repair projects were funded, including the Dardanelle levee project that received ARKANSAS GROWN 19

$1,515,700. Two of the 16 levee projects, the Dardanelle project and the Tupelo Bayou Irrigation and Watershed District project, have been completed. Engineering work and construction are ongoing on the other levee projects.

“I was blessed to be able to serve on the Levee Task Force to figure out the needs up and down the river, and I think we’ve done some good.” Levee construction began in Arkansas nearly a century ago after the Great Flood of 1927 and its devastating impact on agriculture and communities. Farmers were particularly prone to widespread flood damage because the fertile soils near rivers are ideal for crops. Until the 1948 construction of the Dardanelle levee system, Thone said farmers there, “were at the mercy of the weather.” With the Dardanelle levee repair complete, Thone said, “Local officials will take a focused effort to improve levee maintenance and protect the region against future flood events.” The Arkansas General Assembly is considering several bills related to the Levee Task Force's recommendations in the 2021 legislative session.




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TO YOUR TABLES More than 70% of the CORN grown in the state of Arkansas is used to feed the local poultry market. SORGHUM offers a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.

The Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Board was established to provide Arkansas’s growers with the tools and resources necessary to improve profitability and sustainability. Arkansas farmers grew 605,000 acres of corn with production of 111,000,000 bushels. Approximately, 70% of Arkansas corn is used in state for feed grain purposes primarily for poultry.

Arkansas Corn & Grain Sorghum Board w w w



c o r n


s o r g h u m


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Common Ground From fighting for their country to feeding it Arkansas is home to over 200,000 military veterans. The state has a long history of supporting our veterans, evident by the many programs and initiatives available to them. One such program is the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national, non-profit organization that connects veterans returning from military duty with the state’s largest industry, agriculture. The Farmer Veteran Coalition holds the belief that veterans return from duty with unique skill sets needed to become successful farmers. Both careers work outdoors and require self-discipline, drive, a strong work ethic, attention to detail, adaptability, and a servant’s heart. “Our nation was built on farmers and soldiers, and often times they were one and the same,” said Ryan Pace of Wholly Cow Farm, a fifth-generation cattle farmer and a retired colonel in the Army National Guard. “Our founding fathers were fighting for our country as well as trying to feed it.”

to be a farmer, be willing to accept a challenge. You have to be willing to serve others,” said Pace. “There is a real thing called agri-therapy and I think there is something real about working with animals, putting your hands in the dirt, and trying to tend to God’s plan the best that you can.” The FVC launched the new Arkansas Chapter in May of 2020 after months of planning and coordination. Jason Smedley, a Marine, and Michael Sparks, a member of the Army National Guard and owner of Honeycomb Ridge Farm, were the primary forces leading the planning committee to establish the new chapter. The planning committee included representatives from the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. “The goal for the new chapter is to bring more resources and more mentorship and guidance to farmer veterans in the state,” said Smedley. “When you leave service, that desire to serve remains. Agriculture serves everyone in basically the same way,” said Michael Sparks, Arkansas Chapter President. “[Veterans] are very driven and most of them are very detail-oriented. They just want the training and mentorship.”

“When you leave service, The FVC recognizes that desire to serve remains. that veterans face many Agriculture serves everyone in challenges as they transition basically the same way.” to civilian life. Farming can offer a sense of purpose as well as physical and psychological benefits.

“There are a lot of veterans who don’t come back quite the same as they were when they went. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 years old or 85 years old, there is an instant bond between veterans. You are never going to come back quite the same way you left, and we all understand that,” said Pace. Like the military, farming is not a 9:00 to 5:00 job where you clock in and clock out. “I see a lot of similarities between the military and farming because you’ve got to be courageous

“We are excited and humbled to serve the farmer veterans of Arkansas and come alongside the national organization as we become a voice and source of support for an incredible community of Americans,” said Sparks. The chapter hosted a Veterans Day Celebration, the first official meeting of the Arkansas Chapter, at Windy Hill Farm in Searcy, on November 11. The chapter currently represents over 400 members. The event enabled members and veterans ARKANSAS GROWN 23

interested in joining to network and learn more about the support offered by the organization. Developing a sense of community among farmer veterans is an important element in FVC’s mission. Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward addressed the crowd and expressed the Department’s appreciation for the state’s farmer veterans. Ward has served in the United States Marine Corps for more than 20 years and has completed deployments and training exercises in Afghanistan, Jordan, and Japan. Secretary Ward presented Sparks with a proclamation from Governor Hutchinson announcing Arkansas Farmer Veteran Week and presented signs to new members of the Arkansas Grown Homegrown By Heroes program during the event. Homegrown By Heroes is the national marketing program of the FVC, and the state's affiliated Arkansas Grown Homegrown By Heroes program was launched in 2015 by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. The program enables farmer veterans to market their local agricultural products by labeling them as veteran produced. Arkansas Grown Homegrown By Heroes is funded by Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas and is free to FVC members. “When consumers see an Arkansas Grown Homegrown By Heroes sign or logo, they know the food they are purchasing was grown in Arkansas by an Arkansas veteran,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “The Arkansas Department of Agriculture appreciates Farm Credit’s support of this important program, and we are proud to honor all of the Arkansas farmer veterans.”


Arkansas agriculture contributed over $20 billion to the state’s economy in 2019. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2017 census data reports that 7,835 Arkansas farmers served in the military. The average age of an Arkansas farmer is now over 57 years old. The Arkansas Chapter of FVC is concentrating on recruiting veterans to offset the aging farmers who will soon retire. Members of the Arkansas Chapter of FVC and Homegrown By Heroes want to help veterans transition into farming. “We want members to know there is an avenue for them to contact us to help veterans in agriculture,” said Levi Sortomme, member of the U.S. Air Force and owner of Sortomme Family Farms. “Knowing other veterans who have gone through the same thing and are doing the same thing, to network with them and talk to them has been a big help for us. For me it is about the brotherhood as well as the military, knowing that there are a brotherhood and a community that is going to be there for us. We know that the Arkansas Grown Homegrown By Heroes program is a huge community of other farmer veterans. It really is nice to know there are folks out there like us who are going to support us and ask the same questions we have,” said Sortomme. “One thing that will never go away whether it’s in the United States or anywhere else, is the demand for agriculture. People gotta eat.” The Arkansas Chapter of Farmer Veteran Coalition works with the agricultural community, partners, and sponsors to support those who served our country once by defending it, and now serve a second time as farmers feeding it.


“Being inducted is an honor and acknowledgment of the strength and pride our ancestors had to land ownership and agriculture.”


Family Trees 124 years of heritage Family has been the focus of the Ransom “Tack” Adamson Estate since the beginning. The farm was established in Howard County in 1896 by Ransom Adamson and his wife, Nancy Whitmore Adamson, who used the land to raise vegetables and livestock to feed his family and generate income. Over the years, the Ransom “Tack” Adamson Estate (Adamson Estate) came to be a place to unite, gather, reside, and socialize. In later years, the family has shifted focus to timber farming, but the strong family roots still run deep. The Adamson family has actively managed their forestland since 1993, planting loblolly pines and working closely with the Forestry Division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its forestry and conservation incentive programs. In recent years, Shawn Boler – great-grandson of Ransom Adamson and manager of the estate – reached out to the Department about the Keeping It In the Family Program administered through the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Through this program, the Adamson Estate has implemented management practices that will ensure the estate’s legacy will live on for many more decades. Numerous awards and certifications have been bestowed upon the Adamson Estate during its long history. The estate has been certified as an American Tree Farm by the American Forest Foundation, designated as a Stewardship Forest by the Department's Forestry Division, and certified as a Centennial Family Forest by the Arkansas Forestry Association. The most recent designation came in December of 2020 when the estate was designated as an Arkansas Century Farm by the Department. The Arkansas Century Farm program recognizes farm families who have owned and operated the same land for at least 100 years.

When asked what being inducted into the Arkansas Century Farm program means to the family, Boler said, “Being inducted is an honor and acknowledgement of the strength and pride our ancestors had to landownership and agriculture. This would be a galvanizing incentive for current and future heirs to continue the heritage and legacy the family will be known for as the land anchors the generational wealth opportunities ahead.” Boler added that their participation in the Keeping It in the Family program made applying for the Arkansas Century Farm designation even easier. “The prework done with us on other initiatives to strengthen our heir property structure made applying [with the necessary documentation] a breeze.” One of the goals of Evette Browning, minority outreach coordinator for the Department, is to talk about the Arkansas Century Farm program during interactions with landowners. African American landowners are underrepresented in the programs, especially considering many African Americans began owning land in the 1800s, making their farms well over the centennial mark. The Century Farm program is an important way for minority landowners to honor those who worked so hard to obtain and hold onto their land. Over the past century, African American land ownership has decreased from an estimated 12 million acres in 1900 to approximately 2.6 million acres in 2017. Despite the challenges of landownership for minority populations, the story of the Adamson Estate offers a glimmer of hope and serves as a symbol of resiliency. The estate’s commitment to development, growth, pride, and productivity means that the sky is the limit for this determined family.


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The Arkansas Century Farm Program recognizes Arkansas farm families who have owned and operated a farm 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.

Congratulations 2020 Century Farm inductees!

Number of Century Farms by Region Since the program began, 494 farms have been inducted. In 2020, 30 additional farms were inducted.


Biram Farm Bradford Family Farm Cole Farm

30 IN 2020

DeShazo Family Farm FloRa Farms LLC Fowler Farm Hearst/Brownfield Farm Hoggard-Stevenson Union Valley Farm Hoover Farm Hughes and Hughes Farm Hughes Farm





Long-McGehee Farm





Madden Farms Martin Cattle Company Moreton Farm N-W Farm Properties, LLP (O.L. Johnson Estate) Oscar Clark Farm Ransom "Tack" Adamson Estate-Timber Farm Rob Scroggins Farm





S4 Cattle Company Siebenmorgen Family Farm South Parks Ranch Strasner Family Farm The Massey Family Farm Thomas Family Farm

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 2020.

Trett Hulett Family Farm W 7 Farm Walthall Tree Farm Wesson Family Farm Wright-O'Neal-Massey Family Farm ARKANSAS GROWN 29


A Homegrown Win-Win Tyson Foods sources corn close to home An Arkansas-based global food company has found real value in buying local corn with a program that benefits in-state farmers and consumers. Tyson Foods established its Local Grain Services program in late 2015 to connect directly with farmers to purchase feed for its poultry operations. The program helps keep money in local communities, while potentially easing logistical concerns and helping to ensure the best quality feed for Tyson. It’s a “win-win,” according to Tyson’s Maggie Jo Hansen, senior commodity manager.

flexibility to sell their grain directly to Tyson up to 18 months in advance. The company works with thousands of farmers across the Southeastern United States, many in Arkansas, and buys from local farmers at almost all of its feed mills. Many of its locations can now bring in 100 percent local corn, Hansen said. From Tyson’s mills, the “highest-quality and locally sourced” feed heads to nearby poultry farms. “It benefits our poultry because it’s fresh corn. It’s not being railed in from Iowa after being in a bin for eight months,” Hanson said. “It’s right off the farm.”

“We hope it’s a better experience for the farmer and that’s what we hope to bring to our communities,” Hansen said. “It’s “It’s meaningful for us meaningful for us to see our checks go to see our checks go through through a local bank a local bank in Arkansas, in a in Arkansas, in a farmer’s town.” farmer’s town.” With Local Grain Services, farmers have many options to sell their grain to Tyson, including through the company’s user-friendly website and mobile app. Farmers can manage their contracts within the app, which provides all contract information in one place. The program is designed to help farmers manage their own risk exposure and help them customize how they sell their grain. The website and app offer a way for farmers to see their transactions, view bids, and sell grain anywhere as long as they have internet access, “at the farm, in the field, or on the road.” Some farmers may also have the

A number of factors led to the launch of Local Grain Services. It was becoming more difficult to rely on railroad shipments from the Midwest to Tyson's mills in Arkansas and the Southeast; at the same time Arkansas farmers began planting more and more corn acreage near Tyson feed mills. “We can’t run out of feed,” Hansen said. “We saw a need to source more locally just for logistical reasons alone, and luckily the supply was there.” Initially, farmers were responsible for getting their grain to Tyson’s feed mills, which prevented some Arkansas producers from being able to use Local Grain Services. Now, Tyson offers on-farm pickup so farmers across Arkansas can participate in ARKANSAS GROWN 31

the program, even if there aren’t any feed mills nearby. Hansen said the on-farm pickup option has opened up opportunities for Arkansas farmers the company had never been able to partner with until recently. “The most meaningful aspect about the way we buy grain is that it not only supports Arkansans and other local corn farmers but also supports the local communities, poultry growers, and consumers in our great state,” she added.


FARMERS MARKETS and other direct to consumer sales


1,500 A farmers market is a place where producers from a local area gather to sell their own product directly to the local consumer

In Arkansas, there are more than 1,500 farmers selling directly to consumers

80% of all Arkansas counties have an active farmers market



dollars in sales were generated by direct sales to consumers in 2019

active farmers markets in operation across the state






A Higher Perspective Military technology helping water conservation efforts Using a concept rooted in biblical wisdom, Arkansas State University (ASU) researchers and a U.S. Department of Defense contractor are working together to preserve an ancient resource in the Arkansas Delta.

images that will help in irrigation planning during the 2021 growing season, said Dr. John Nowlin, an ASU agriculture professor and SPADE project head. “What this whole project helps us do is know the surface of the ground precisely so that we can then model for irrigation,” Nowlin said.

Scientists launched a pilot program in 2020 designed to provide advice to rice farmers about how to conserve water and promote crop health. The tools used are airplanes, “We have been pulling laser-based sensors, water out of the ground and radar equipment intended for use in and we haven’t been military intelligence able to replace it.” and surveillance. The program, known as SPADE (Swords to Plowshares Agro-Application, Development, and Exploration) takes its name from a passage in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 2:4, “….they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks….” ASU and the Delta Water Management Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service (USDA ARS), located at the ASU campus, partnered with Oklahoma-based Meta Aerospace to capture aerial imagery in a seven-county region. Meta’s surveillance aircraft are equipped with LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology and SAR (synthetic aperture radar) technology that evaluated the topography of Craighead, Mississippi, Poinsett, Cross, St. Francis, Lee, and Crittenden Counties. Eleven farmers participated in the initial research in late 2020. Those farmers can glean important information from the

Groundwater conservation is an urgent priority in the Delta, where groundwater has been rapidly depleted over the last few decades. The water level of the aquifer supplying groundwater for parts of Poinsett County, for example, has declined from about 35 feet below ground to around 160 feet in some areas, Nowlin said. “You can call this fossil water, and it’s not going to come back on a human time scale,” he said. “We’ve been following that water downward for three decades, and it hasn’t been able to replace itself. The USDA ARS Delta Water Management Research Unit and researchers like me are doing work in the region to find ways to be more efficient with that water.” Because rice production requires extensive amounts of water, Nowlin said the highresolution imagery may give farmers and researchers insight into learning how to use the least amount of water in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Rice farmers use a poly-tubing system to irrigate their crops. The elevation surfaces ARKANSAS GROWN 35

should help growers determine where exactly to place the tubing for use in their fields, resulting in a benefit of less water and less tubing. “We have been pulling water out of the ground and we haven’t been able to replace it,” Nowlin said, adding that farmers may typically need 30 to 50 acre-inches of water a year for their crops, though they may only get 20 inches of rain during the growing season. “If we could characterize how well the fields are leveled, we can give advice about the most efficient place to put that polytubing. We could use surface water instead of groundwater for irrigation.” As part of the project, researchers also considered whether the LiDAR and SAR technology has additional benefit to farmers and answer what Nowlin described as “big questions.”

“We could use surface water instead of groundwater for irrigation.” Potentially, LiDAR could be collected throughout the year to tell farmers the exact height of their crops. With that information, growers can measure in-field variables they’ve been unable to measure before. Because soil and crop health vary, Nowlin said LiDAR may indicate whether certain acreage needs more or less seed, more or less nutrients, or more or less pesticides. Nowlin said the technology has potential for benefits across the agriculture spectrum. He praised Congressman Rick Crawford for facilitating the partnership between the defense contractor, researchers, and Arkansas farmers.


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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:


History in a Glass Fishing town inspires new brew “Norfork, a place you hear about but seldom have the opportunity to see,” says The City of Norfork, Arkansas’s official website. Norfork is tucked away in north-central Arkansas where the White River meets the North Fork River and is becoming known for the beer produced there.

limestone aquifers of the Ozark Mountains. Jason said, “Beer is a product of the place where it comes from.” He is especially proud of the Woodsman Pilsner fermented with a yeast isolated from the fruits of the Paw Paw trees that grow along the banks of the Norfork River. “It is unique – a rich and flavorful pilsner – a truly rustic beer that reflects the old west. We craft our beer to taste like something you might have had at the Wolf House in the 1930s.” He explains that 70 percent of the flavor of beer comes from the yeast, but the grains play an important role, too. “The smells of the dried grain remind me of the farm that I grew up on.”

Well-known as one of the finest fishing areas in the country, Norfork boasts one of the oldest public structures in Arkansas, the Jacob Wolf House, circa 1829, which established the town as a trading post for thousands of early settlers traveling the White River. Norfork is part of the ‘old west’ and the feeling of those roots remain. Now the town is the home to a brewery that is tapping those old west “The sun shines here an roots and its Ozark setting awful lot. It makes you as “Nature’s Beer®”.

Originally designed to be a one-barrel taproom, Norfork Brewing Company evolved into a production brewery, feel good.” partly due to COVID. “To keep Jason Aamodt, the the business alive, we began brewery's founder, was packaging the beer for retail sale and added a pizza raised near Lake Placid, New York, where it is kitchen.” Community support, including a local as rural as the Ozarks. After earning degrees in Arkansas bank, Anstaff, is essential to keeping the chemistry and biology, Jason completed law school brewery alive. “We went all-in,” Jason said. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While working for a Dallas law firm, Jason was invited to a fishing trip on the The ‘we’ of Norfork Brewing is a talented team. Ben White River in Arkansas by an appreciative client. Folta, a chef trained at the New England Culinary Immediately, Jason was hooked (pun intended) Institute, joined the team early. He is now the and became a regular at McClellan’s campsite at brewer, making the sweet ‘wort’ that becomes Norfork, where legends such as the ‘world’s largest Norfork’s tasty beer. Norfork native, Joe Dobson, brown trout’ are told. manages the packaging for the variety of beers brewed. For years Jason commuted to McClellan’s with his tent and fishing equipment in the trunk of his car. Arkansas native, Kristy Wilson, left the healthcare Jason invested in Norfork in 2015 by buying a longindustry and now manages sales and marketing for empty building. Working with the community, he the brewery, growing into a leadership role from a opened the Norfork Brewing Company in 2018. part-time position. Kristy remarked, “I love what we’re doing, and the people who are a part of our The brewery began crafting beer from locally journey. We make the best beer– and the best foraged wild fruits and other key ingredients, using friends– in Arkansas!” the White River’s crystal-clear water from the


Mitch Krauss joined the brewery from Burlington, Vermont. Previously with IBM and Burton Snowboards, Mitch served as the Chairman of the Outdoor Apparel Industry Sustainability Committee, leading efforts to make our world a better place to live. Mitch said, “My wife and I are empty-nesters. So, we just decided to go on an adventure from Vermont to Arkansas.” Susan Folta retired to Norfork, bringing her experience with the New Jersey’s Grown in Monmouth program, much like the Arkansas Made program. Susan manages social media for the brewery and explained, “People want to support their neighbors. If something is made by their neighbors, it's affordable, and it’s a good product, consumers want that product over something that came from somewhere far away.” The taproom is a meeting place for locals and town guests. “It is a nice community,” said Jason. “Even though I am not from here, the folks have been welcoming and have given us every opportunity and kindness.” “This area feels a lot like Vermont and northern New York did 20 years ago,” said Krauss. “The sun shines here an awful lot. It makes you feel good.”

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Arkansas ranks #2 nationally in the production of chicken broiler meat

145,726 individual tests conducted for avian influenza

Arkansas is the fifth largest producer of turkey meat


Benton County is the number one poultry producing county in the state

broilers were raised and processed for national distribution


Poultry is the largest sector of Arkansas agriculture

6,500+ farms in Arkansas produce some type of poultry

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.




At the Ready What the Forestry Division is doing to help prepare for disasters In Arkansas, over 80 percent of wildfires are caused by humans. With about 56 percent of the Natural State covered in forest, or 19 million acres, an errant wildfire could be potentially disastrous to residents and property. For example, an arson fire in 2016 near Gatlinburg, Tennessee killed 14, injured 175, and destroyed 17,900 acres and 2,460 buildings costing over $2 billion in damages. Several areas in the Ouachita and Ozark mountain regions of Arkansas have many similarities to the Gatlinburg region prior to the fire. Fortunately, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division has an effective system in place for preventing, detecting, and containing forest fires. Controlled Burns “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly rings true when it comes to wildfire prevention. Smokey Bear would be happy to know that there are practices in place that help to prevent forest fires. These include controlled burns, which reduce the amount of dried grass, tree limbs, leaves, and undergrowth that fuel a fire. James Still, the Forestry Division’s Aviation Manager, says, “The prime conditions for forest fire occur generally during two periods. First, in late winter and early spring, we typically have a period of no precipitation that occurs before spring green-up. The dead grass and other cured fuels from the winter are easily ignited. This, coupled with the passage of dry cold fronts and high

winds, provide a perfect scenario for large fires. Secondly, in late summer and early fall, we typically see less moisture and high temperatures which increases risk for fires.” Finding Fires Arkansas operates 14 aircraft, with four full-time and 15 part-time pilots flying in search of fires across the state. These pilots fly predetermined routes that can vary depending on weather and fire conditions across the state’s seven forest districts. They typically fly about four or five hours a day at an altitude of 1,500 feet, where they have a good vantage point to see any possible fire or smoke. Once a fire is detected, the pilots will call it in to a dispatcher, who will then notify the appropriate parties to contain it, while the pilots continue supporting from the air as needed. Containing Fires Last year was a below-average year for the state in terms of the number of fires and their sizes. According to Robert Murphy, Emergency Services Director at the Department, there were 573 fires in 2020 that burned close to 11,010 acres. Historically, Arkansas averages 2,883 fires in the state that total 59,531 acres burned. Most fires are located and contained prior to becoming too large, with an average wildfire being anywhere from a few acres to a few dozen acres. The largest fire the state has seen in recent years happened in September of 2013. The fire was four miles southeast of Hermitage in Bradley County ARKANSAS GROWN 43

and burned 1,575 acres before it was contained. Blazes are controlled through a combination of “boots on the ground,” fire lanes pushed by bulldozers, and support of aircraft that drop a water and foam mixture. In addition to the state’s aerial assets assisting with wildfire detection and containment, they also help foresters promote rural and urban forest health, stewardship, development, and conservation for all generations of Arkansans. When not on fire missions, the aircraft are used to fly observation flights for forest pests like insects and disease. Flights are conducted annually to look for Southern Pine Beetle outbreaks or any time a pest is suspected on a landscape scale. Flights are also used to record and monitor natural disasters that affect forest health, such as tornados, hurricanes, and ice storms. For more information about wildfires, forests, and related information in Arkansas, please visit:


PLANT INDUSTRIES Pesticides, Regulatory Services, Quality Control, Bureau of Standards, Inspection Services

14,245 14,245 pesticides registered and monitered by the Pesticide Section

More than 20,000 pesticide applicators certified statewide in 2020


Inspections conducted on 864,465 pounds of fruits and vegetables


export products certified free of pests, weeds, and diseases

119,917 tons of peanuts graded


quality assurance tests on seeds for more than 100 different crops

N-P-K tests performed on 1,072,549 tons of fertilizer

BUREAU OF STANDARDS performed inspections and testing at


motor fuel dispensers


retail businesses


scale inspections

Visit to learn more about the Plant Industries Division.


registered bee colonies



pounds of unwanted pesticides across Arkansas safely disposed of since 2015


registered beekeepers

Arkansas certified 4,949 acres of Sweet Potatoes Information Provided by the Plant Industries Division 2020 INFOGRAPHIC PROVIDED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE | Visit for more information.


A Website Against All Weevils Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program debuts new website to better serve cotton growers If cotton is King, then Regina Coleman is without question, Queen.

wide cooperation across the Cotton Belt. Without this intervention, it’s possible the thriving American cotton industry might have been the one eradicated.

In the 1920s the boll weevil had migrated from Central America to the United States and infested all U.S. cotton-growing areas, “The cotton industry has always been a part devastating the industry and the people of my life,” Coleman remembers. “I knew I working in it. Boll weevils have the ability to wanted to do something to help the farming completely destroy a cotton crop. This past industry and was fortunate enough to begin year, the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication a career with the Boll Weevil Eradication Program (ABWEP) Program. I wanted marked its greatest to be a part of this “I knew I wanted to do milestone since it program because of the something to help the officially declared benefits the growers farming industry.” Arkansas boll weevil would receive from the free in 2008. Last accomplishments of the summer, the program’s program and because, governing body, the Arkansas Boll Weevil having always been interested in history, I Eradication Foundation (ABWEF), launched knew we would be a part of history when we a modern iteration of its website. The new eradicated the boll weevil from our state.” now offers cotton producers in Faced with the looming consequences of Arkansas unprecedented access and remote failure, the one thing cotton producers could capabilities to conduct their business. count on was Coleman’s resolve to get the job Additionally, the new site has propelled done. She envisioned her goal, and with the ABWEP to the forefront of similar state tireless help of her team, time, tenacity, and a programs around the country in terms of plan, Coleman led the ABWEF toward history innovation and advancement. Behind both – total eradication of the most devastating of these landmark achievements is ABWEP force ever known to the cotton industry. Executive Director Regina Coleman. After achieving her first goal, she set her Coleman began her career with ABWEP 22 sights on making sure Arkansas cotton years ago as a zone supervisor, working her growers would have a completely weevilway up the ranks of the organization and free production environment for the serving in her current leadership position since 2012. Through the years, she has taken foreseeable future. Maintaining a weevil-free environment is now Coleman’s sole directive immense pride in her job – often remarking and one she takes seriously. With that on her enthusiasm to be a part of Arkansas directive comes significant administrative history. Eradicating the boll weevil was responsibility. Each year, cotton producers no easy feat. The eradication of the crop are required to report their acres and are devastation wrought by the weevil involved subject to an assessment that is used to massive coordination and years of industryARKANSAS GROWN 47

fund the program’s maintenance efforts. Coleman, with the assistance of her staff, manages this process on behalf of the Foundation. With a mission to improve the customer experience of ABWEP stakeholders, Coleman set out to create a website that would allow growers to manage their reporting and assessments with autonomy and online convenience. “Life today is so much busier for cotton growers than it used to be. I finally decided there just had to be an easier way,” she said. “We eradicated the boll weevil, now we’re in the maintenance phase of that. I wanted something that reflected that level of achievement. I had this idea and I knew what I wanted and what would work best for our cotton growers.” In June of 2020, Coleman joined her board members and Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture to dedicate the ABWEP’s new website. This state-of-the-art site offers growers the ability to securely pay their annual assessments online and access reporting information relevant to their entities or operation. In addition, Coleman and the Foundation’s board of directors unveiled new Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program branding for the program at the website dedication. Coleman says her vision is yet to be complete and continues to work on advanced functionalities to be integrated into the site to further improve user experience and capabilities. Even though Coleman has been a part of Arkansas history, her passion for improving the state’s cotton industry keeps her dedicated firmly to the future. “We have to stay vigilant. We have to stay focused. As long as the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program is around, Arkansas cotton farmers know they will have a partner in keeping their operations weevilfree,” says Coleman. To learn more about this important Arkansas agriculture program, visit the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program at By Carson Horn, Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program Photos courtesy of the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Program.


Celebrating 50 Years of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board

#1 Row Crop

in Arkansas

This year, the industry is celebrating 50 years of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. Since 1971, the farmer-leaders of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board have volunteered countless hours promoting the Arkansas soybean industry and supporting their fellow producers. Today, Arkansans recognize soybeans as the top row crop in the state, with producers planting 3 million acres and generating a $2 billion economic impact annually. Join the celebration this year by following the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board on social media. Learn more about the Arkansas soybean industry by visiting

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The Grow Must Go On Farm to School program adapts to COVID challenges Healthy kids, healthy farms, and healthy communities – that is what farm to school is all about. Every year in October, children and communities across the nation participate in farm to school month. This recognition, initiated by the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) in 2010, is part of nationwide efforts to connect schools, early childhood education sites, and others with farms to help bring local, healthy food to children. Governor Asa Hutchinson first proclaimed October as Arkansas Farm to School Month in 2015. Every subsequent year, more and more Arkansas students have dug in the soil, crunched into locally grown apples, and learned about how food is grown through nutrition and garden-based education activities. In 2020, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Arkansas Farm to School Month looked a little different. School districts developed alternative school meal plans to work with the variety of virtual and in-person styles of instruction, childcare centers planned new ways to learn about local food, and alternative learning environments brainstormed ways to still provide the opportunity for students to tend a garden while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Fayetteville Public Schools (FPS) normally hosts a local harvest lunch where legislators, school board members, agency partners, and families all join together to eat a locally sourced meal. Adjusting to the challenges of the pandemic, the district continued a slightly different version of the harvest lunch tradition under the leadership of Child Nutrition Director Ally Mrachek. Mrachek has prioritized spending money on local food in the state by buying directly from farmers. This year FPS Child Nutrition served up a locally-sourced

lunch made with ingredients from farms and small businesses in Northwest Arkansas, but due to COVID-19 precautions, this special event was only for students and didn’t include other community members or families. The featured menu included:

● Beef and Cheese Tostada with grass-fed beef from Classic Grassfed Beef Co. (Fayetteville) and a fresh corn tostada produced by Herradura Foods (Springdale) ● Rainbow Salad which included shelled edamame from Greenwave Foods (Mulberry) ● Apple Empanada made with apples from Vanzant Fruit Farm (Lowell) ● Watermelon Triangles featuring melon from Dickey Farms (Tontitown) with a side of Tajín chili lime seasoning ● Salsa from Scratch crafted with poblano and jalapeño peppers from Dickey Farms ● Icy Cold Milk and Sour Cream from Hiland Dairy (Fayetteville) “Due to COVID precautions, we could not invite guests to our special meal or provide in-person education to students. However, we were able to refocus our efforts on a social media campaign called FPS Seed to Student: Decade in Review which allowed us to highlight the dedication of local farmers, non-profits, volunteers, and teachers who helped build the robust farm to school program we have today,” said Ally Mrachek. On the other side of the state in the El Dorado School District, Hugh Goodwin Elementary celebrated Arkansas Farm to School Month by having a weeklong celebration full of learning about local food, growing a new sensory garden, and much more. ARKANSAS GROWN 51

Kicking off the week, students cooked local food with guest speaker Lily Ellen, Director of the Culinary Department at the South Arkansas Community College. Julie McGee, a local El Dorado beekeeper, stopped by on Tuesday to teach about bees and baking. Wednesday, Union County Extension agents assisted students as they planted cool-weather seeds in their school garden. Activities for Thursday included a final bee lesson from Jason and Griffin Reed, also local El Dorado beekeepers. In addition to learning about local food and seeing the hives brought by the Reeds, students also had the opportunity to taste the family’s local honey during a cafeteria taste test. Some local goats from Block-R-Feed, a local feed store, even made a stop by the elementary school and Elizabeth Young, a local farmer, shared about farm animals. The school administration topped off the week on Friday by presenting the morning announcements while wearing full beekeeping suits. Throughout the whole week students learned about farm to school and why local food is so special. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program team also wanted to find a way to bring Arkansans together to celebrate local food. The Department partnered with Heifer USA and the Heifer Ranch in Perryville to offer a virtual farm field trip that was live streamed on YouTube so that farmers, schools, kids, teachers, parents, and others could join in to celebrate local food. More than 2,000 people registered for the event and many viewers, including classes of students, tuned in live on October 30, 2020, to tour Heifer Ranch and to ask questions in real-time about eating and growing local food. From eating locally grown food, to sowing seeds in a school garden, and learning about our local environment and agriculture – in spite of the challenges brought on by the pandemic – there was a way for many of Arkansas students and communities to participate in Arkansas Farm to School Month in 2020.


CONGRATULATIONS 2020 Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year Contest Winners

Best Overall School Garden West Arkansas Child Development Inc., Alma

Best Education Based School Garden ACCESS Group Inc., Little Rock

Best Harvest Partnership School Garden Fayetteville Public Schools, Fayetteville

Best Community Collaboration School Garden Hugh Goodwin Elementary, El Dorado

Best Start-up School Garden Proposal Fairview Elementary, Texarkana

Champion of Sustaining School Garden Carolyn Lewis Elementary, Conway

The annual Arkansas Grown 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. The contest was available to public and private K-12 schools, early care and education facilities, and alternative learning environments. Awardees were schools that had a school garden open during the 2019-2020 school year or planned to start a garden in 2020-2021 school year. Program details are available at: ARKANSAS GROWN 53

A Golden Age Arkansas’s soybean industry reflects on 50 years of success as the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board celebrates its golden anniversary in 2021 The year is 1971 and The Information Age in America is just beginning. In Washington, Congress ratifies the 26th Amendment, lowering the legal voting age to 18 years of age. On Wall Street, stock traders are introduced to a new index called Nasdaq. Meanwhile, National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasts its first transmission as computer pioneer Ray Tomlinson sends the very first electronic letter – what he calls “E-Mail.” In The Natural State, the Arkansas General Assembly passes Act 259, establishing the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board (ASPB), providing producers in the state with an organization that will work to improve the soybean industry. Fifty years later, soybeans reign as the top row crop in Arkansas, covering 3 million acres between the state’s eastern border and Pope County in the Arkansas River Valley. Since the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board’s creation, the annual economic impact of soybean production in Arkansas has grown to $2 billion, with approximately 50 percent of the industry’s crop exported each year. As the state’s soybean industry celebrates the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board’s 50th anniversary this year, its members are reflecting on the role the board has played in the enhancement of communities across our state and nation that have benefited from the soybean industry’s success over the past half-century. This success has earned Arkansas a place among the top ten soybean producing states in the nation. ARKANSAS GROWN 54

Arkansas growers have consistently represented Arkansas’s soybean industry on a national and global stage. As markets have ebbed and flowed in recent years, Arkansas has emerged a leader within the U.S. soybean industry. Jim Carroll of Brinkley, a fourth-generation soybean producer and former ASPB member, served in 2020 as chair of the United Soybean Board (USB). The USB administers soybean checkoff activities focusing on research and market development and expansion. “The Arkansas soybean industry is producing some of the best quality crops we’ve ever seen. Our farmers are doing a lot of things right, and it’s important that we share those things with our industry,” Carroll said. “I’m proud of our farmers and I intend to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.” Poinsett County producer Brad Doyle has long been an advocate for the soybean industry, representing the interests of Arkansas growers in his role as board member of the American Soybean Association (ASA). Among other roles on the ASA board, Doyle serves as the organization’s vice president and co-chairs the Commodity Classic Committee. “Serving Arkansas’s soybean producers is an honor I’m proud to have,” Doyle said. “It is important our producers know their voice is being heard. While the business of the association remains separate from

the checkoff’s, we work in tandem to ensure the interests of U.S. soy are advanced. We congratulate the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board on this significant milestone that producers across the state can celebrate together.” Meanwhile, producer Derek Haigwood of Newport has been tapped for an appointment to the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Grains, Feed, Oilseeds and Planting Seeds for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Haigwood also serves as a director on the United Soybean Board and former chairman of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). In this capacity, Haigwood helps advance the expansion of the U.S. soybean industry into untapped foreign markets. His role has become increasingly significant to the soybean industry as grain stocks have grown during a period of suppressed activity in the global marketplace. “I’m very optimistic about the future with our leaders making significant headway in trade relations,” Haigwood remarked. “I believe we’re seeing positive movement in areas that will have long-term benefits for soybean producers in Arkansas.” Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board Chairman Donald Morton of Prairie County shares Haigwood’s optimism for the industry’s future. He invites soybean producers and consumers alike to join ASPB in this year’s 50th anniversary celebration. “A lot has happened in the last year, not to mention the last 50 years. But one thing has never changed. We’re still farming and we always will,” Morton said. “I continue to be amazed by the resiliency of our farmers. I encourage everyone to take time this year to reflect on how far we’ve come as an industry, and celebrate our collective achievements.” Stay connected with the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board this year by following ASPB on social media or by visiting Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook: Arkansassoybeans Twitter: @Arkansassoybean Instagram: @Arkansassoybeans By Carson Horn, Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board Photos courtesy of the United Soybean Board.

About the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board is led by nine volunteer farmer-leaders nominated by various producer organizations in Arkansas and appointed by the governor. Soybeans are Arkansas's top row crop with approximately 3 million acres planted each year, generating an annual economic impact of $2 billion. Arkansas is consistently ranked among the top 10 soybean producing states nationally, exporting 50% of its crop. ASPB invests more than $2.2 million in research each year as part of its commitment to the continued sustainability of the Arkansas soybean industry. Learn more by visiting


Meeting in the Middle Program lends hand to Arkansas farmers The Arkansas Farm Mediation Program (Program) was developed to be an aid to Arkansas’s farmers, lenders, and economy. It impacts the specific actions lenders can take on a wide variety of agricultural loans that meet certain criteria. Agricultural mediation is designed to serve as a confidential and effective way for farmers or producers and their creditors to resolve disputes collaboratively with the guidance of a neutral mediator. Through mediation, creditors and farmers can avoid the burdensome costs and time required for litigation while achieving beneficial outcomes for all parties. Although agriculture lenders are required to notify their Arkansas agriculture borrowers of their right to request mediation, the Program is completely voluntary, confidential, and provided at no cost to participating farmers and creditors. The Program is governed by statutes that set forth the requirements that must be met prior to a creditor taking action against a qualifying loan that is delinquent, distressed, or subject to a monetary or other default. When a creditor sends a completed Creditor Notice to a farmer, a copy must be sent to the Program. The Program Coordinator will create a case file and send the farmer an information packet that notifies the farmer of the fourteen (14) day deadline date to request mediation. The packet also includes the forms necessary to request the mediation. If the 14 days expires and a request for mediation has not been received, a Release will be issued to the creditor. The creditor has at that point met the State’s mediation requirement. Whether the farmer wants to sit down with the lender to see if they can work out a plan together or if he or she has a plan to resolve the issue(s) with the loan, mediation can assist with that. A plan might include such things as selling crops, some cattle, or refinancing with another lender. Sometimes the borrower needs a little time to develop their plan to bring it to completion. Because there is a sixweek window from when the request to mediate is ARKANSAS GROWN 56

received and the time that it is required to occur, that space of time can be beneficial. The Program staff will arrange for the mediator and the venue. The meeting time will be scheduled for a time that works well for all involved. If the farmer has additional qualifying creditors, these creditors have a right to be notified, attend, and participate in the process but will not receive a release at the end of the mediation. Mediations are relatively quick. Two hours is usually scheduled for the meeting, but they rarely take that long. If the parties have advocates, they may also attend and participate, but the creditor(s) and the farmer are required to personally attend the mediation and have the authority to negotiate. Our roster of mediators are attorneys who are certified through the Arkansas Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission (ADR) program, a division of the Administrative Offices of the Courts. The ADR have defined qualifications and training that must be completed to become certified. The mediators must also receive continuing mediation education every year. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture proudly administers the Mediation Program as an opportunity to support farmers and creditors. Our goal is to promote stability and good financial health for the agricultural industry along with a positive lending environment in Arkansas without the added time, stress, and expense of litigation. To find out more about the Mediation Program, you can contact: Cami Davis, Farm Mediation Coordinator, Arkansas Department of Agriculture, (501) 219-6384 or cami.davis@ or review information about the Program at

FORESTRY Forest Management, Emergency Services, Poison Springs State Forest

TOP 25 44 Million tons of forestry-related products and timber produced



Arkansas is nationally ranked #6 in forestry products valued at over $6.4 Billion




Arkansas has nearly 19 Million acres of forests, with over 12 Billion trees

More than 56% of the entire land mass of the State of Arkansas is forested

15,189 volunteer firefighters trained


total volunteer firefighters across the state

Firewise communities in Arkansas


573 WILDFIRES burned over 10,390 acres!

Trucks and equipment valued at $4.75 Million distributed to rural fire departments

Visit to learn more about Firewise and other Arkansas Forestry programs.


7,341,125 SEEDLINGS SOLD BY BAUCUM NURSERY (hardwood & pine)


landowner assists

(supporting forest management plans and general forestry needs)

The Forestry Division aerially surveyed nearly 10 Million acres for insect, disease, or storm damage; over 41,000 damaged acres found


impacting more than 837,836 Arkansas residents

Arkansas produces timber valued at more than $400 Million each year

Information provided by the Forestry Division 2020 INFOGRAPHIC PROVIDED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE | Visit for more information.

Led by cattlemen, for cattlemen.

Legislation  Education Advocacy  Development



Arkansas Cattlemen’sResources Association 310 Executive Ct., Little Rock, Arkansas 72205 501.224.2114  FI

Economy Economy

ewardship onomy

e Arkansas Forestry ation advocates for the inable use and sound ardship of Arkansas’ and related resources Stewardship efit the state’s forestry unity andStewardship all Arkansans, Call ay and in the future.



Resources THE voice of forestry. Resources


Resources Benefit

(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 the state’s forestry forests and related resources


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 Brought to you by Arkansas beef farmers and ranchers and the Beef Checkoff

High Yield Putting rice checkoff dollars to work Arkansas continues to rank first in the nation in the production of rice with almost 1.5 million acres planted in 2020 producing a crop valued at over $1 billion. Farmers in Arkansas grow almost 50 percent of all rice produced in the United States.

by industry organizations and appointed by the Governor.

Successful efforts have been mounted on numerous fronts thanks to farmers, merchants, and millers who invest in the continued development of the rice industry by contributing to The state’s rice community has the checkoff program. Arkansas a long history of supporting checkoff dollars are collected research and promotion efforts. through an assessment of 1.35 With the establishment of the cents per bushel of rice paid by Arkansas Rice Research and the grower and an assessment Promotion Board in 1985, there of 1.35 cents per bushel paid have been many advancements by the first purchaser. Annual to improve the profitability collections vary with production, of growing rice in Arkansas but average between $4.5 million through programs aimed at and $6 million. Approximately research, extension, and market one-half of the dollars collected development. The Board consists goes to support research, usually of nine rice producers nominated at the University of Arkansas, and half goes towards promotion and market development through a partnership with USA Rice, the national trade organization for the industry. Measuring checkoff success Although Arkansas is the top rice producing state in the nation, it has the second lowest checkoff investment in the country. Our checkoff dollars have achieved multiple victories even though today’s checkoff is worth just 41 percent of what it was in 1985. There are many tangible results from the wise use of checkoff dollars. Farmers and consumers ARKANSAS GROWN 60

around the world are benefiting from research on variety development, pest control, fertilization, environmental concerns, and economics to market proposals in the domestic and global marketplace. On the farm successes include:

● Enhanced yields of 8.21 bushels per acre through breeding programs and research in soil, water, and pest control and an additional 3 bushels per acre from improved blast resistance. Every dollar invested in the University of Arkansas rice breeding program has resulted in benefits worth $28.49. ● Developed multiple inlet rice irrigation (MIRI) that is currently used on over 30 percent of Arkansas rice acres resulting in increased irrigation for efficiency and decreased water use. ● Developed weed management and enhanced fertilization methods which have increased the state’s average rice yield by at least 10 percent and are saving Arkansas farmers an estimated $40.1 million annually. Marketplace successes include:

● Enabling USA Rice to annually conduct 2,700 promotions in 25 countries around the world. ● Supporting USA rice in the conversion of Taiwan to a 90 percent Arkansas-specific medium grain market. ● Defended against cheap Vietnamese rice flooding into Haiti, protecting U.S. market share valued at $208 million per year. ● Generated more than 22 million consumer impressions in 2017/2018 through USA Rice’s promotion programs at 10 grocery store chains and sponsored the Think Rice Road Trip with events across 15 states reaching more than 4,000 consumers.

“white soils” (Henry Silt Loams) found in this area of the Arkansas Delta. The NERREC will include the Rice Discovery Experience, which will offer a unique educational opportunity for regional youth on all things rice through hands-on activities, a demonstration kitchen, and a working greenhouse with rice at every growth stage. The NERREC will use modern digital technologies to disseminate research-based information and have state-of-theart meeting space to host agri-related educational and corporate events. These are just a few examples of value-added accomplishments made possible by Arkansas’s rice checkoff program. The program is an investment that keeps Arkansas rice competitive, enhances viability, and benefits every farmer. By Kelly Robbins Arkansas Rice Federation

Checkoff dollars are helping to develop the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center (NERREC), a 600-acre farm located in Poinsett County. This University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Experiment Station will provide rice producers with much needed information for ARKANSAS GROWN 61


Eradication through Information Ridding Arkansas of Feral Hogs The cost of damages caused by feral hogs in Arkansas is estimated at $19 million annually. Finding resources to help with control and eradication of this invasive species in Arkansas may have gotten a little easier.

Arkansas Feral Hog Control Survey

Arkansas Feral Hog Handbook

The Arkansas Feral Hog Control Survey, built on a mobile platform called ArcGIS Survey 123, is available at agriculture.arkansas. gov/arkansas-department-of-agricultureservices/feral-hog. It was developed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to track the agency’s efforts in feral hog trapping during the last year.

The newly created Arkansas Feral Hog Handbook began distribution to citizens in October 2020. The handbook was created by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Feral Hog Eradication Task Force and funded through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). It is a guide to resources available in Arkansas to assist with feral hog control and eradication. “The handbook was developed with the mindset that we wanted to produce a user-friendly document that could provide landowners with general information regarding feral hogs, including disease risks to humans and livestock, agricultural damages, and who to contact for assistance,” said J.P. Fairhead, Feral Hog Program Coordinator at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. “There is also an update on laws and regulations pertaining to feral hogs.” The handbooks are being distributed to the public at locations throughout the state with assistance from partner organizations, including the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and Arkansas Farm Bureau. An online version is available on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s website, and physical copies can be requested through the Department.

A new mobile-friendly survey will enable any private landowner or hunter to upload information about feral hog sightings and removal efforts in Arkansas.

After successful field tests, biologists and staff within the task force modified the tool to provide a public interface to help track any feral hog removal efforts throughout the state. Landowners who remove feral hogs on private property by trapping or shooting are asked to help the task force by uploading removal information on the Arkansas Feral Hog Control Survey. Information uploaded to the survey will help the task force better understand how many feral hogs are being removed each month by private individuals, state agencies, and federal agencies. This will guide future management decisions to continue the fight against feral hogs in Arkansas. “We want to make it easier for landowners, state and federal agencies, and the public to report more data on their efforts. This will help us have a better idea of where hogs are, the damages they’re inflicting, and the type of control and eradication efforts underway,” said Fairhead. The Feral Hog Eradication Task Force meets every three months, and Fairhead says they are currently working on improving the ARKANSAS GROWN 63

process for aerial permitting for feral hog removal. The Livestock and Poultry Division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture issues aerial permits to landowners with a bona fide need to protect resources, and the task force is hoping to streamline the permitting process for those interested in obtaining a permit. In April 2020, the Feral Swine Pilot and Control Program in Arkansas was created with grant funding from the USDA as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Ten technicians were hired to assist USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with trapping efforts in 12 Arkansas counties across four project areas. The Arkansas Feral Hog Handbook, Arkansas Feral Hog Control Survey link, additional resources regarding feral hogs, and Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force information can be found online at:

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MANRRS Program Leads to Careers for Arkansas Students Paving the way for minorities in agriculture Dr. Daniel Rainey’s idea of agriculture in Arkansas is a mix of the luxury of a Fortune 500 company executive’s office and the grassy pastures of the rural Conway County farm where he grew up. As an advisor for the MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) organization at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UA), he’s leading his students to recognize the expansive breadth of professional opportunities in agriculture, too. MANRRS has growing chapters at the UA’s Fayetteville campus and at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Students who are active in the professional development and networking organization have landed jobs at Tyson Foods, Walmart, and Riceland, in addition to on-farm and other agribusiness jobs. “I think there’s a misunderstanding about the professional careers available in agriculture, and it’s probably more prevalent in minority communities,” Rainey said. “People always assume if you’re going into an agriculturerelated field, you’re going to be working on a farm, or that there’s a lack of opportunities in the field of agriculture.” MANRRS' mission is to promote academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences with membership open to both students and professionals who are interested in promoting diversity in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences. The MANRRS program is a catalyst for ensuring students in agriculture and natural resources have the necessary skills to obtain jobs in a variety of fields. MANRRS helps students focus on resume writing and job interview techniques. During its events and workshops, MANRRS members may meet with recruiters and human resources representatives from more than 100 agricultural or agricultural-related companies and government agencies. Forming Connections Dr. Tracy Dunbar, chair of the UAPB Department of Agriculture, said that as a MANRRS' advisor she has seen students benefit from traveling to the organization’s career fairs. She also stated that as a student, when she became involved with MANRRS at Penn State, it helped her personally and professionally. ARKANSAS GROWN 66

“Students have networked with different agricultural organizations. They’ve been hired by banks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as received acceptance into graduate school programs,” said Dr. Dunbar. In a nation where seven percent of farmers are minorities, Dr. Rainey said it’s essential to bridge the gap between minority students with an interest in agriculture, farmers, and agribusiness leaders. Many minority students may not have the kind of connections that lead to professional opportunities because of a lack of diversity in agriculture careers. “There’s the old adage that it’s not what you know but who you know,” Rainey said. “It’s important to have events where students can build their networks, put names to faces, and develop those job skills.” Making History Rainey was fortunate to grow up in an agricultural family, he added. He was raised on a small cattle farm near Morrilton. In addition to raising cattle, Rainey’s father was a timber contractor for the Arkansas Kraft sawmill in Morrilton. His mother was the 4-H sponsor in his community, and Rainey was heavily involved in Future Farmers of America in high school. Many minorities raised in farm settings may not have had the same kind of positive environment as Dr. Rainey. “Given the history of agriculture and some of the trials, particularly with families on a farm who struggle to get the resources to expand and grow that farm, a lot of people are discouraged even by their own family members about getting involved in agriculture,” said Dr. Rainey. His goal – and that of MANRRS – is to remind the organization’s members of the multiple types of agriculturerelated professions and to give them the tools to succeed. “It doesn’t have to stay on the farm level,” said Dr. Rainey. “You can get on the supplier side or the processing side. A lot can be done in terms of marketing, supply and logistics, or product development, if students have an interest.” MANRRS was established on college campuses in Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 1980s, and it has expanded across the country since then. Rainey said the MANRRS chapters in Fayetteville and Pine Bluff have growing support, and the organization is looking to expand to other campuses in Arkansas. ARKANSAS GROWN 67


Positive Impacts The Poultry Federation Scholarship provides educational opportunities Antonio Beitia’s plans to change the world were fueled by The Poultry Federation’s commitment to developing future leaders.

Beitia is a first-generation American college graduate from a four-generation farm family in Panama. His family raised cattle and grew rice and corn. When he relocated to the United States to attend community college, he met some University of Arkansas educators at a national conference and continued his education in Fayetteville.

Beitia obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Arkansas with the help of The Poultry Federation’s scholarship. The state’s poultry trade association has awarded scholarships to more than 300 “I see the power the qualifying Arkansas poultry industry has in college students over the battle against hunger, the last two decades.

and that was a turning

Recognizing the economic challenges he faced as an international student, he sought out The Poultry Federation scholarship.

Beitia was a recipient point for me to learn as of the scholarship for “It is very challenging much as I can about it.” multiple semesters economically to be able while earning his to afford an education bachelor’s degree in poultry science, master’s abroad,” he said. “You have these dreams and degree in agricultural economics, and the passion, but you might not necessarily Ph.D. in poultry science and nutrition. He have the economic opportunity to pursue began working for an international broiler them. The scholarship was a great thing and breeder and supplier, Aviagen. Beitia is part it was how I could keep pushing my dreams.” of Aviagen’s executive training program, immersing himself in every aspect of the Providing opportunites company’s operations. Holly Duval, director of marketing and “I see the power the poultry industry has in business development for The Poultry the battle against hunger, and that was a Federation, said The Poultry Federation Allied turning point for me to learn as much as I can Industries Scholarship Fund pays scholarships about it,” Beitia said. “Working for a genetics of between $500 and $15,000 depending on company, we have a huge impact in the fight the student’s academic level. Students who against world hunger. There’s a symbiotic have previously received a scholarship may relationship in how everything works and reapply each year, as Beitia did. Duval said comes together. Being able to see every part the federation’s goal is to support students of the company and understand it is just one throughout their time in college. step closer to being able to keep fighting against hunger everywhere.”


An applicant must be a full-time student at a university/college in Arkansas. Students must be at least a sophomore with a 2.5 grade point average and must be pursuing a degree that may lead them to a career in the poultry industry. “Part of our mission statement is to encourage and support youth programs in poultry work,” Duval said. “We believe that by providing financial assistance to students pursuing a career in the poultry industry, we are a part of developing the future leaders of the poultry and egg industry, not only in Arkansas, but across the world.” Duval said the state’s poultry integrators gain a significant benefit from the scholarship program because it broadens the talent pool for qualified professionals in the industry. Many recipients have secured good jobs in the industry from integrators who have recognized their skills as interns before they have graduated. Beitia said there was more than just monetary benefit to the scholarship. For Beitia, The Poultry Federation opened the door to the industry through networking events offered to scholarship recipients. He met The Poultry Federation President Marvin Childers and others because he received the scholarship.

“The Poultry Federation Scholarship has such a powerful positive impact on so many students’ lives.” “There’s a huge amount of value in that. You get to meet those people and learn from them, and that is as valuable as the financial support they give,” Beitia said. “My achievements have all come from the help that has been provided to me, and I’m thankful for the people who believed in me.” A family affair Samantha Beitia, Antonio’s wife, is also a recipient of The Poultry Federation Scholarship. Her interests are microbiology, poultry science, and like Antonio, she wants to help people.


While attending Crowder College in Missouri, the University of Arkansas invited her to attend an International Production and Processing Expo event. There, she learned about career opportunities and met University of Arkansas professor Susan Watkins, who would inspire Samantha to take the path that has resulted in her career in poultry science.

Aviagen Advantage

Samantha received The Poultry Federation Scholarship for two years. She earned an undergraduate degree in poultry science, a graduate degree in poultry water quality, and has begun doctorate work in poultry preharvest food safety.


“Receiving The Poultry Federation Scholarship took a weight off of my shoulders, allowing me to focus more on my studies,” she said. “Not only did it take the financial weight off, but it also gave me a burst of encouragement and confidence to finish out the Poultry Science program. It reminded me that my hard work is paying off, others see my work and contributions, so I continue to put forth all the hard efforts.”

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After finishing her graduate work, Samantha was hired by Simmons Foods, in Siloam Springs, as a water quality technician. Currently, Samantha is the manager of quality assurance live production with Simmons Foods. “The Poultry Federation Scholarship has such a powerful positive impact on so many students’ lives,” she said. “Antonio and I look forward to the days we can give back to this scholarship program because we know firsthand what an impact it can have on a student’s life.”


Local Hops Getting Attention Arkansas-grown hops means opportunity for Arkansas breweries In the United States, hops are traditionally grown around the 45th parallel in the Pacific Northwest. However, the crop is now taking root just south of the 38th parallel here in Arkansas. This shift stems from the expansion of local breweries in the state, which saw a two-fold increase from 2014 to 2019. Now, with over 40 breweries in Arkansas, the opportunity to use local ingredients to produce local beer is enticing to brewers and growers. Crop diversification can be key to the viability of specialty crop producers and hops production may present a new opportunity for growers across the state. Arkansas’s southern location and shorter summer days means hops grown in the state have lower yields than what northern growers can achieve. However, to support the rising interest in Arkansas-grown hops, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (UA System) has been conducting research for the past two years to find out what is needed to grow hops and what quality of hops can be produced in the state. This research is funded by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Education in the field To demonstrate that hops can be grown successfully in Arkansas, the UA System recently took growers, brewers, and other participants on a virtual tour of the research hop yard at the UA System Fruit Research Station in Clarksville. Viewers were shown the basics of hops production, including how a grape trellis could be modified to produce hops on a twelve-foot trellis, how to set up irrigation, and how to train the hops. Viewers were also taken to Ronnie Ledford’s commercial hop yard, River Valley Hops, in Booneville, Arkansas, where he has been producing hops for close to 10 years. Ledford emphasized the opportunity hops present for Arkansas. “Locally-grown products are popular everywhere, and this is an opportunity for Arkansas-grown hops to be used to produce a truly Arkansas-made beer,” said Ledford. The basics of harvesting, drying, and hops quality analysis were also covered. Liz Preston of Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Company also shared insights on using Arkansas-grown hops for brewing. Preston notes that Arkansas-grown hops have a unique flavor specific to ARKANSAS GROWN 72

the terroir (land) of the state. She noted that the aroma of the hops grown in Arkansas “are more mild and less bitter, but provide a unique Arkansas flavor to beer.” Preston has used Cashmere variety hops grown by River Valley Hops, located in Logan County, to produce a beer she called “Logan County Cashmere” which was well received by customers. Still learning The potential of hops to be grown in Arkansas is exciting. However, growers should recognize limitations, including the fact that Arkansas’s hot and humid climate means pests and disease can be an issue. During the virtual tour Dr. Aaron Cato, Horticulture Pest Management Specialist with the UA System, and James McClellan, UA System Food Science graduate student, walked participants through how to do weekly scouting and emphasized the importance of having a pest management program. Additionally, the UA System research continues to evaluate the best cultural, fertility, and pest management practices, as well as which cultivars are most productive of high-quality hops for use in local brewing. Ledford noted, “growing hops requires a lot of work and daily management.” Even so, it’s hard to deny that the opportunity to use local ingredients, like hops, in local products is exciting. As Ledford says, “It doesn’t get any better than that.” If you missed the virtual field tour webinar it is available on the UAEX Fruit and Vegetable YouTube Channel. By Dr. Amanda McWhirt and Dr. Renee Threlfall Dr. Amanda McWhirt is a state horticulture production specialist at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service (UA System) and Dr. Renee Threlfall is a research scientist in the UA System Department of Food Science.



Arkansas State University

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 _fisheries_and_human_sciences.aspx



Funded 6 Unpaved Road Program projects totaling $326,222


Provided $2.5 Million in State and Federal funding to Conservation Districts for district operations and projects

53 community water-related projects worth more than $157M

Conservation, Water Resources Development, and Water Resources Management



TOP 25

Arkansas Conservation District funding included $150,000 for 16,096 beaver tail bounties

Provided $1.9 Million for 12 projects implementing best management practices for non-point source agricultural water quality impacts on croplands

Inspected 107 high hazard dams, 56 significant hazard dams, and 106 low hazard dams

1505 nutrient management plans developed

Applied for and was awarded $3,457,854 through the USDA Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program Visit to learn more about Natural Resources Division projects. Floodplain Management Section

State Water Planning Section

Conservation Section

Ground Water Section

Water Resources Development Section

Approved $571,500 in eligible project costs under the wetland and riparian zone conservation tax credit program

Dam Safety Section

Nonpoint Source/ Unpaved Roads Section

The Natural Resources Division is responsible for the sustainable conservation, development, and management of Arkansas’s waters Information Provided by Natural Resources Division 2020



It's All About the Grade Impartial peanut inspection and grading process evaluates quality and grade While some Arkansas peanut producers’ school days may be long behind them, they are still looking for good grades. The price that peanut growers receive for their crop is determined by the grade of the peanuts which is determined by their quality. A peanut inspection and grading program established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides the definitive basis for exactly how much money farmers will earn at the various peanut buying points. In Arkansas, the inspection and grading process is performed by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Peanut Grading Program staff through a cooperative agreement with USDA.

“If you open up a good peanut, it’s going to have a really pretty, white color to it,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for. You can tell a good peanut when you see it by that color.” If a peanut is split or if there’s any sort of damage to the shell, graders assign a lower grade to the shipment. Bowlan said Arkansas’s peanuts are typically some of the best quality in the country. “Arkansas peanuts grow bigger than the varieties they’re bringing in from the East Coast,” Bowlan said. “We have a lot of irrigated land in the Arkansas delta, and it’s so humid, which seems to be a good thing for those peanuts. It makes a really good quality peanut.”

The inspection and grading process is to be completely impartial while determining the percentage of specified quality factors for the peanut loads being inspected.

The grading process includes at least nine “Arkansas peanuts grow steps that must be completed per sample bigger than the varieties they’re bringing in from the load. Trucks are met at the buying points East Coast.” by staff who use a mechanical probe to get a good standard sample across the trailer. The sample is sent to a grading room to “It’s all graded by percentages, and if you allow graders to begin their process. In get between 70 percent and 80 percent, addition to analyzing the color of the you’ve got a good sample,” said Steve sample and checking for possible damage Bowlan, manager of the Arkansas Peanut using a computer program developed by the Grading Program. “A higher-quality peanut means a higher price at wholesale,” Georgia Federal-State Inspection Service, graders also determine whether other said Bowlan. material like soil or debris may necessitate a And what makes a quality peanut? Bowlan lower grade for the load. said graders are looking for color and “I tell people that the samples are about a imperfections. five-gallon bucket’s worth. By the time we ARKANSAS GROWN 77

finish grading it, you get about a handful of shelled peanuts,” said Bowlan, who has served as program manager for about five years. Higher-graded peanuts, or “jumbos” as Bowlan explains, are likely to be used for food. Lowergraded and freeze-damaged loads are typically used for oils. The higher the peanut is graded, then the higher the likelihood it produces a good flavor. Arkansas state regulators have been grading peanuts since 2011, following a four-decade hiatus when peanut growing lost popularity in the state. Bowlan said peanuts were graded in Arkansas until the 1970s at a buying point on the Mississippi River in Hughes. When peanut farming took a downturn in the state, the buying point closed. When Arkansas farmers began growing the crop again in the last decade, they “came back in a big way,” Bowlan said. Peanut acreage has increased from 11,000 acres in 2012 to approximately 55,000 acres in 2020. The state now has four peanut buying points located in Portia, Jonesboro, Marianna, and Pocahontas. In addition, Delta Peanut, a farmer-owned cooperative, opened a new shelling facility next to the Jonesboro buying point in 2020. The peanut grading season runs from early September until December. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture hires approximately 65 seasonal employees each year during grading season. “There’s no doubt that the three or four months of the peanut grading season are hectic and labor-intensive, but the Peanut Grading Program staff are happy to help support this important sector of Arkansas’s agriculture industry,” said Bowlan.



Saving Arkansas’s Tiny Heroes Helping pollinators benefits Arkansas agriculture If you stop by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture around the middle of June, you will be in for a beautiful sight. The Department’s pollinator garden is in full bloom that time of year, and the pollinators are out in force. The garden was built by Department employees in 2019 in the shape of a butterfly. They planted species that are native to Arkansas and attractive to pollinators, including milkweed and purple coneflowers. At the garden’s peak, you can see many bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators flying around. “The garden pretty much takes care of itself, and it’s just a joy. I think a lot of people have really enjoyed it,” said Paul Shell, Plant Inspection and Quarantine Program Manager at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

The importance of pollinators Pollinators are animals that move pollen in plant flowers to fertilize plants so they can create fruits and seeds. Pollinators include bees, birds, bats, moths, butterflies, and other small animals. “In my opinion, the honeybees are probably one of the most important pollinators. They contribute anywhere from $1 billion to $5 billion in agricultural productivity in the U.S. every year,” said Zac Wellman, Apiary Program Manager at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Pollinator species are essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing much of our food supply. Pollinators help pollinate over 1,200 crops that are consumed or used to make products. One out of every three bites on your plate can be contributed to a pollinator. Monarch butterflies are an important pollinator species. To help preserve this at-risk insect, Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward participated in the signing of the Arkansas Monarch Conservation Partnership Memorandum of Cooperation in November of 2019. The 24 members of the partnership share a mutual concern for Arkansas monarch butterflies, pollinator


populations, and the habitat they depend on. The current conservation plan is a multi-level approach for the state of Arkansas that provides opportunities for individuals, organizations, and government to come together in support of protection for monarch butterflies and pollinators.

Pollinators and our forests Pollinators also play a vital role in the health of our national forests and grasslands which provide forage, timber, water, mineral resources, fish, wildlife, and recreational opportunities, as well as enhance economic development opportunities for communities. Pollinators provide significant environmental benefits that are necessary for maintaining healthy, biodiverse ecosystems. “Forests play an important role in providing habitat for pollinators,” says Chandler Barton, Division Forester with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. “While there are some pollinator species that depend on closed canopy forests, most bees and butterflies favor open forests that allow sunlight to reach the ground. Therefore, forest management can have a role in increasing the availability of nectar and larval host plant species. In addition to being better pollinator habitat, it just so happens that managed forests are more resilient to damage agents, too.” In Arkansas, there are three forest management decisions that can benefit pollinators:

● Overstory tree thinning: Thinning dense forest stands creates canopy gaps and allows for more sunlight to reach the forest conditions. ● Midstory vegetation reduction: Shrubs and midstory trees limit understory plant richness and abundance. ● Prescribed burning: Forested stands that are regularly burned have improved flowering plant abundance in the understory.


SHARED SERVICES Fiscal, Human Resources, Marketing, Information Technology, Legal, Laboratory Services, Law Enforcement, Trade and Economics

TOP 25

Fiscal managed a combined budget of more than $198 Million

493,020 tests performed by the Laboratory Services Section


Marketing issued 39 press releases, and promoted 14 state proclamations


received in fines and suppression reimbursements

Human Resources filled 129 open positions across all divisions

171 law enforcement cases resolved

law enforcement assists performed

$442,773 Restitution returned to Arkansas land owners



Visit to learn more about the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.


$4 Million

$11.5 Million

Vendor Invoices Processed

in Federal Grant aid payments processed

in Federal Grant aid reimbursements requested

Assist Department’s boards and commissions in promulgating 20 rules and repealing 4

Coordinated 23 farm loan mediations, with 18 resulting in successful resolutions

Information Provided by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture 2020 INFOGRAPHIC PROVIDED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE | Visit for more information.

Defending Nature A partnership between Department and AGFC helps fight CWD With Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) an emerging threat to Arkansas’s deer populations, two state agencies have partnered to more effectively test and monitor the problem. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture (Department) in 2020 completed a two-year extension of an existing Memorandum of Understanding with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) to continue testing for this disease that affects the state’s deer and elk populations. Before the AGFC and the Department agreed to the partnership, CWD testing samples from Arkansas were being shipped to a laboratory in Wisconsin. That resulted in backlogs, delays, and a less efficient way to track the disease. “It had just become a logistics situation,” said Dr. William R. Summers, director of laboratories for the Department. “This is one state agency setting up a program of cooperative work with another state agency, and it’s a success story.” The Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab is one of 28 in the entire country approved to test for CWD. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network certifies labs to do the testing. The Department’s lab is the only one in the state that’s part of that network. Summers said the partnership makes sense, since the Department and the AGFC headquarters are in close proximity in west Little Rock. “They’re right in our backyard,” he said. In the 2020 fiscal year, the Department tested more than 5,000 samples for the AGFC, with an average turnaround time of less than a week. This year, the lab has increased its space for testing to accommodate more samples in a shorter period of time. Summers noted that the testing process is exactly the same as the one that had been conducted out of state as approved by the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. “This allows the programs at the Game and Fish Commission to have a quantitative basis to establish their control zones,” Summers said. “Those zones are based in part on the positive samples they send to us.” ARKANSAS GROWN 84

Benefitting Arkansas Hunters Logistics aside, the partnership provides hunters with a much faster testing turnaround time, thus improving results and surveillance efforts. “The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is committed to providing CWD testing to hunters statewide, and we are so glad to be able to provide that service in cooperation with the Department's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory,” said Dr. Jennifer Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian with the Game and Fish Commission. “Chronic Wasting Disease is a really important issue for the conservation of deer and elk in Arkansas. At the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, we know that we cannot address a problem this large without the support of our hunters and great partners like the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.” According to the AGFC, CWD was first found in Arkansas in 2016. Since then, more than 30,000 deer and elk have been tested. The CWD Management Zone (the region of the state where CWD is actively monitored) includes Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Independence, Jackson, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian, Stone, Van Buren, Washington, and Yell Counties. CWD affects an animal’s nervous system. Infected animals can lose weight, lose their appetites, and develop a thirst. Symptoms include separating from herds, walking in repetitive patterns, salivating, and grinding teeth. The disease is caused by a misfolded protein, known as a prion, that can be transmitted through feces, urine, and saliva. Hunters may have their deer tested by the state for free. They can drop off the sample at a participating taxidermist or at one of dozens of CWD-testing collection stations in Arkansas. The Department of Agriculture accepts samples from the AGFC only. Test samples from individuals will not be accepted. For information about the sampling process and for drop-off locations, visit


Arkansas Beef Checkoff dollars fund important industry initiatives Many Arkansans wouldn’t know famous American composer Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” by its actual name, but tell them it’s the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” campaign theme and they’ll instantly recall the music. Even more Arkansans may be surprised to know about the positive impact of that promotional campaign for beef and other efforts to promote the cattle industry right here in the Natural State. National and state initiatives supporting beef are funded by the Arkansas Beef Council through the Arkansas Beef Checkoff program. For every head of cattle sold in the state, a dollar is paid into the checkoff program for marketing and research. About 900,000 cattle are sold each year in Arkansas, bringing in $900,000 for the program. Half that money goes to national efforts, like the popular “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” campaign. The other half stays in Arkansas for promotions, consumer education, and research. Checkoff dollars pay for the research that shapes the marketing campaigns and promotions of beef and drives consumer awareness in both domestic and foreign markets. Donette Spann is the administrator of the Arkansas Beef Council, which manages the Beef Checkoff program in Arkansas. “‘Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.’ is just synonymous with a great steak and a great burger,” Spann said.

Beef production in Arkansas Arkansas may not automatically be thought of as a beef-producing state like Texas or Oklahoma, but Spann pointed out that many cattle get their start in Arkansas, where the grassy pasture land is ideal for growing calves before they’re transferred to feed lots in surrounding states. In total, Arkansas produces about 1.7 million cattle a year. “We have plentiful grass and pastures, which is where they’ll start, and then go to one of the feed lots in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, or Nebraska, where they’ll become beef,” Spann said. “But, hey, that trickles back to Arkansas because our farmers are trying to sell their cattle, and the more beef demand, the more cattle they can sell at favorable prices.”

Beef Council finding new promotional techniques The Beef Council’s goal is to make sure the cattle industry thrives in Arkansas, and it does so by educating Arkansans about the myriad of ways to consume ARKANSAS GROWN 86

beef. In the past year, the Beef Council has relied more heavily on digital outreach and targeted social media to Arkansas consumers because the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented more traditional outreach at in-person events like county fairs. “Everybody’s on their computer. Everybody’s on their phone. Everybody’s on their tablets,” Spann said. “We’re targeting the digital news outlets and popular digital magazines to really get that beef message out there and take people to sites where they can get great beef recipes.” “There are a million ways to cook ground beef, but what do we always do with it? We make burgers and spaghetti sauce. What about a new take on a taco or a new take on a steak salad? People love beef so why not give them a great new idea?” Spann has been helping Arkansans find innovative and better ways to cook beef for almost two decades. She was promotions director for the Beef Council before being named administrator in September 2020. She replaced Travis Justice, who retired. Spann has a degree in animal science and is a board member of Arkansas Women in Agriculture. Spann said that, with the onset of the global pandemic, Arkansas consumers are more interested than ever in buying beef raised locally. Arkansas’s checkoff program is emphasizing local producers and processors during the crisis. “The small processors here in the state are just booming with business because everybody wants that beef right here, and that does help farmers locally. And whenever we have them in the feed yards, that helps farmers locally, too,” she said. The Beef Council is overseen by a seven-member board. The Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, and the Livestock Marketing Association nominate board members, and the Governor appoints board members.


Upping the Efficiency Shared services model brings opportunities and benefits to Department laboratories Seeing success at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s recently consolidated laboratories doesn’t require looking through a microscope. About 18 months ago, the Department adopted a shared services model for its labs as part of a state government transformation initiative launched by Governor Asa Hutchinson. Five distinct laboratories have merged to better serve the public, and Department officials said Arkansans are already reaping benefits from greater efficiency. Before the transformation process began, the Department’s veterinary diagnostic lab, seed lab, weights and measures lab, chemistry lab, and petroleum lab operated separately under several management areas within the Department. The external services from these labs range from screening animals at the state fair and testing purity of seeds to ensuring that the fuel at gas pumps is safe for automobiles. “The labs had begun exploring efficiency measures prior to the official transformation initiative and had quite a bit of momentum and a mindset of efficiency. Since October 2019, they’ve all been brought under a shared services model as the Department’s Laboratory Services to maximize resource allocation and minimize duplication,” said Dr. William R. Summers, the Director of Laboratory Services. To Summers, efficiency in lab services is defined by a shared procurement process, shared equipment, shared personnel, and shared lab space. As an example of sharing equipment, Summers said the Department relocated a high-complexity instrument that had previously been used solely for testing livestock and poultry specimens. It is now available to analyze samples in the state’s industrial hemp program. One of the cornerstones of being able to share personnel across labs is cross-training. That’s an ongoing process that is delivering results in a number of areas. Metrologists in the Bureau of Standards are obtaining national certifications, while another benefit is an increased number of employees who are trained to provide ARKANSAS GROWN 88

calibration services for moisture meters used in grain storage facilities throughout the state. Through the sharing of equipment and personnel within Laboratory Services, plans are underway to improve turnaround times for samples sent to labs for testing. The Department’s goal is to post those expected turnaround times on its web pages, providing a direct interaction with stakeholders to demonstrate how improved lab processes are a benefit to them. “One area where we are measuring the success of transformation is in stakeholder responsiveness,” Summers said. “We’ve been talking about internal processes for transformation, but for external stakeholders, what matters is what they can see.” The Department is also taking stock of lab safety, having recently completed a unified safety audit for all shared laboratories. “The different laboratories have different risks whether biological, chemical, or physical,” he said. “Existing labs had their own safety practices over many years, and when you start moving people and equipment around, you have to take stock of safety challenges.” Summers said the Department also continues to make sure accreditation stays up-to-date for each lab within the Laboratory Services section. “Transformation has been a success. It has increased the cross-training and resiliency of the Department, and we look forward to making even more progress," Summers said. Governor Hutchinson’s Transformation and Efficiency Act of 2019 was approved by legislators during the 92nd General Assembly and signed into law in April of that year. The goal of the transformation process was to achieve cost savings and improve efficiency and servicedelivery to the public.


Keeping a Legacy Alive Preserving forest land means saving historic hot springs Conservation efforts are underway to protect the forests around Hot Springs National Park, our country’s oldest national park, to keep the hot springs flowing for generations to come. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with other public and private forestry groups, has begun acquiring forested land from willing sellers around Hot Springs National Park in Garland County in an effort to preserve the popular hot springs. A recent study determined that the recharge of the springs, a process by which groundwater reaches the aquifer that replenishes the springs, was in grave danger from development and deforestation. According to scientists, about 50 percent of the recharge occurs within Hot Springs National Park. Another 50 percent occurs outside the park’s boundaries on privately owned forested mountains. “Reduced forest and increased runoff due to development in the privately owned area would severely damage the springs,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. In 2020, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture purchased a total of 1,421 forested acres from willing sellers in the recharge area. The land was purchased with two grants from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program that provides funding to protect vital forest landscapes from being converted to non-forest use. Twenty-five percent of the federal funding was matched with four Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council grants. “The acquisitions were from private landowners who recognized the importance of conserving the forest and the springs,” said State Forester Joe Fox. Of the 1,736 thermal springs in the United States, scientists say about 98 percent of them are heated by ground water exposed to volcanic or tectonic action. Only 2 percent of the thermal springs in this country are like the ones in Hot Springs. In Hot Springs National Park’s unique system, surface water from the Critical Recharge Area travels down distinctive formations into a very deep aquifer, and is heated by the normal gradient of one degree per 100 feet depth. Then it is quickly pushed upwards by head pressure through faults emerging as the hot springs. ARKANSAS GROWN 90

Hot Springs National Park is “one of the most significant, cultural, historic, and natural sites in the country,” according to Fox. It was once used as a meeting site for Native Americans, as recorded during Hernando DeSoto’s expeditions within the state during the 1500s. It has continued for centuries to be a place where people meet, visit, enjoy the natural beauty of the region, and take in the therapeutic benefits of the springs. In 2019, 1.47 million people visited Hot Springs National Park. The loss of the hot springs system could have severe, negative impacts on the economies of the city of Hot Springs and Garland County. “The Department’s Forestry Division will manage the acquired property as part of the State Forest system,” Ward said. “The project will protect the recharge area, water quantity and quality, wildlife habitat, and public recreation, and also provide timber production on a demonstration forest.” Multiple organizations have worked on the project so far, acquiring about 1,758 acres of forest. That acreage makes up approximately 29 percent of the critical recharge area supplying the springs. Leaders and partners overseeing the project applauded the leadership of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state’s congressional delegation, all of whom urged state and local agencies, conservation groups, and local landowners to work together on the project. The Nature Conservancy, from which the state acquired much of the land, has been instrumental in facilitating the acquisitions of the new state forest tracts. Plans are ongoing for continued land acquisition by the Department in 2021 and 2022 that would put over half of the privately owned recharge area near the National Park into the new state forest.


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