Entries - Entry Category: Agriculture

Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie

The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart (Arkansas County)—also known as the Stuttgart Agricultural Museum and the Arkansas County Museum—was formed in 1974 by two lifelong Arkansas County residents, Bennie Burkett and Jack Crum, in order to preserve Arkansas County’s heritage as a center for rice production and duck hunting. The museum is funded partly by quarterly donations from the city but mostly by yearly contributions from “the donor club.” Its board of trustees is appointed by the city council. The construction of the museum began after a nonprofit group of interested citizens raised funds to build a 1,500-square-foot building on the property of the city park. It was finished in 1974. Through the years, four additions have …

National Fish Hatcheries

Thirty-five states are home to a total of seventy national fish hatcheries (NFHs). Arkansas is home to three: Mammoth Spring, Norfork, and Greers Ferry. Arkansas’s role in the federal fish hatchery system—designed to conserve, protect, and enhance the fish population nationwide for the benefit of all Americans—is key. Arkansas is the systems leader in trout production, has the single Gulf Coast striped bass facility in the world, and engages universities in collaborative research efforts. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the Department of the Interior administers the world’s largest fish hatchery system, comprising not only hatcheries, but also Fish Health Centers and Fish Technology Centers. Federal fish hatcheries trace their formation to a joint resolution of the …

Official State Grape

aka: Cynthiana Grape
Approximately 150 commercial vineyards and wineries have operated in Arkansas since 1870. In 2009, the Arkansas General Assembly took note of this agricultural mainstay when it designated the Cynthiana, a native grape, as Arkansas’s official state grape. Act 547 was introduced as House Bill 2193 by Representatives Beverly Pyle of Cedarville (Crawford County) and Kathy Webb of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The measure was introduced at the suggestion of Audrey House, proprietor of the Chateau Aux Arc vineyards in Franklin County, to draw attention to the survival and rising reputation of Arkansas vintages. Arkansas’s grape-growing industry is small, however, in comparison to that of such viticultural powerhouses as California. Between 2007 and 2009, acres of cultivated grapes ranged between 750 …

Ozan Lumber Company

The Ozan Lumber Company operated a number of mills across southwestern Arkansas from the late nineteenth century to its sale to the Potlatch Corporation in 1964. Two distinct companies owned by members of the Bemis family operated under the Ozan name. James H. Bemis and Benjamin Whitaker opened a sawmill in Prescott (Nevada County) in April 1891. In July, the owners incorporated the business as the Ozan Lumber Company. The name was apparently taken from the nearby town of Ozan (Hempstead County). Whitaker remained a part of the business for only a short period before selling out and embarking on other ventures. The lumber business proved to be successful, shipping timber on the company-owned Prescott and Northwestern Railroad. The company …

Ozark Institute [Organization]

From 1976 until its end in 1983, the Ozark Institute (OI) created job programs, provided advocacy for a dwindling population of small farmers, and worked to create community organizations and institutions to help alleviate some of the hardships of rural life. Toward these aims, the OI partnered with the Office of Human Concern in Benton County, led by Bill Brown, a longtime resident of Eureka Springs (Carroll County). The OI created a host of entities and programs to aid the Ozarks region in its short life, including community canneries, the publication Uncertain Harvest, seed banks, job training programs, and the Eureka Springs radio station KESP. The roots of the OI can be traced to the Conference on Ozark In-Migration in …

Paddlefish

aka: Spoonbill Catfish
Paddlefish belong to the family Polyodontidae and order Acipensiformes. There are six known species—four are extinct (three from western North America, one from China) and known only from fossil remains, while two extant species include the paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), which is native to the Mississippi River basin in the United States, and the gigantic critically endangered Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) endemic to the Yangtze River Basin in China, where they lived primarily in the broad-surfaced main stem rivers and shoal zones along the East China Sea. Paddlefish are basal Chondrostean ray-finned fish; they are archaic and have been referred to as “primitive fish” because they have evolved with few unique morphological changes since the earliest fossil records of the late …

Peach Industry

Peaches are grown throughout the state of Arkansas with the highest concentrations being in central Arkansas  (Pope and Faulkner counties), western Arkansas (Johnson and Franklin counties), southwest Arkansas (Howard and Clark counties), northern Arkansas (Boone, Benton, and Washington counties), and Crowley’s Ridge in eastern Arkansas (Cross and St. Francis counties). Peaches are most successfully produced on light, sandy soils with at least thirty-six inches of soil depth. Orchards are usually placed on locations with raised elevations to avoid or lessen the impact of incidents of low temperature such as frosts. Peaches were introduced as a crop in Arkansas after the Civil War, as were many other fruits and vegetables, during the New South Diversification movement in agriculture. This movement was …

Plum Bayou Project

The Plum Bayou Project was part of a New Deal plan designed to help rural residents receive federal relief and assistance during the economic crisis of the 1930s. Located approximately seventeen miles north of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Plum Bayou was one of several similar communities built in the Arkansas Delta. During the Great Depression, the federal Resettlement Administration—later the Farm Security Administration (FSA)—experimented with programs designed to give assistance to rural farm families. Rexford G. Tugwell, head of the Resettlement Administration, believed that sending farmers into the cities with no job prospects was an untenable situation and certainly no answer to the farmers’ desperate plight. Instead, he focused on developing resettlement projects designed to move farmers barely surviving on …

Pomeroy, Leslie Klett (Les)

Although Sierra Club founder John Muir championed forest conservation by setting aside large acreages, it was Leslie Klett Pomeroy who devised a conservation plan for growing and harvesting timber that both conserved it and turned it into a renewable resource. His science-based management plans regenerated timberlands across the South after cut-out-and-get-out practices had decimated its forests. Pomeroy’s groundbreaking work carried out in Arkansas ultimately affected forestry in the South and across America. Leslie Pomeroy was born on December 12, 1896, in Hub City, Wisconsin. He was the only child of William Justis Pomeroy and Anna Barbara Klett Pomeroy. His mother was a housewife, and his father began his employment with Madison Bus Company in 1922 as a motorman on streetcars, …

Poultry Industry

A staple of the state’s economy, the Arkansas poultry industry first emerged in the 1890s. A century later, Tyson Foods, based in Springdale (Washington County), had become one of the largest agribusiness firms in the United States. Northwest Arkansas, particularly Washington and Benton counties, produces the majority of poultry in Arkansas. The topography of the Ozark highlands—in contrast to the relatively flat eastern half of the state—is well suited to raising chickens. The hilly terrain has historically prevented the widespread cultivation of rice and cotton, which led northwest Arkansas farmers to pursue interests in timber, fruit orchards, and especially poultry. In 1893, Millard Berry of Springdale acquired an incubator with the intent of raising chickens on a large scale. By …

Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary

Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary began with just one horse on five acres of rural land outside Sarasota, Florida, and eventually evolved into an award-winning, 320-acre facility located in Mena (Polk County). Melanie and Jim Bowles, the founders of Proud Spirit, originally earned their livings as professional firefighters for Sarasota County, Florida. In 1990, they purchased a small home on five acres out in the country. A few months later, they decided they had room for a horse and began looking for one to purchase. In their search, they discovered a thoroughbred mare that was being neglected and purchased the horse to get her out of the abusive situation. In 1992, they opened their five acres to more horses in need, …

Ray, Mary Lee McCrary

Mary L. Ray spent thirty-seven years educating African Americans. She applied the self-help approach she learned at the Tuskegee Institute to formal education in private and public schools, and then in informal education as the first African-American female employee of the “Negro” division of the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service—that is, the first black home demonstration agent in the state. Mary Lee McCrary’s birth year and early life remain a mystery. During the late nineteenth century,  as African Americans faced increased assaults to their civil liberties, many turned to capitalism, another American ideal, as visible evidence of citizenship. McCrary apparently embraced this approach. She learned the self-help philosophy from one of the most celebrated advocates of the approach, Booker T. Washington, …

Reed, Pearlie Sylvester

Pearlie Sylvester Reed spent more than a quarter century of his career working in agriculture, serving four major regions of the United States and initiating sweeping progressive and anti-discrimination policies in the 1990s. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2012. Pearlie S. Reed was born in Heth (St. Francis County) on June 14, 1948. He was one of eighteen children of Floyd L. Reed and Gennora Reed. Reed attended school in the nearby town of Hughes (St. Francis County) and graduated from the segregated Mildred Jackson High School. As a student at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), Reed began his career in agriculture in 1968 as an intern in …

Rice Industry

Rice, the most popular grain in the world, is Arkansas’s leading agricultural product. Although it was only rarely grown in Arkansas before the twentieth century, rice came to dominate eastern Arkansas farms, beginning in the Grand Prairie but rapidly expanding into the Mississippi Delta and the Arkansas Valley. Domesticated rice (Oryza sativa) is not native to North America. It has been cultivated in central Asia for up to 6,500 years, and its use gradually spread to eastern and western Asia, the Mediterranean basin, and Africa. Roughly 40,000 official varieties of rice are recognized, but they usually are sorted into three categories: short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain. While most rice is consumed as a grain, rice is also an ingredient in many …

Riceland Foods

Riceland Foods, Inc., headquartered in Stuttgart (Arkansas County), is the world’s largest rice miller and rice marketer. It also operates one of the world’s largest rice mills, which is located in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Founded in 1921 as a farmers’ cooperative to market crops, Riceland is one of the top companies in Arkansas. It is the largest supplier of rice for the food industry in the United States, a major rice exporter to foreign countries, one of the nation’s largest grain storage companies, and is also one of the Mid-South’s largest soybean processors. In the late nineteenth century, most of America’s rice was grown in Louisiana. Around 1900, William H. Fuller from Carlisle (Lonoke County) went to Louisiana on a …

Rust, John Daniel

John Daniel Rust invented the first practical spindle cotton picker in the late 1930s. The Rust cotton picker threatened to wipe out the old plantation system and throw millions of people out of work, creating a social revolution. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin had created the Cotton South, but the Rust picker threatened to destroy it. In 1949, Rust moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where the Ben Pearson Company produced cotton pickers using the Rust patents. John D. Rust was born on September 6, 1892, near Necessity, Texas, to Benjamin Daniel Rust, a farmer and schoolteacher, and Susan Minerva Burnett, a homemaker. As a youngster, Rust did farm work and displayed an aptitude for mechanical tinkering. His parents died when …

Sharecropping and Tenant Farming

Farm tenancy is a form of lease arrangement whereby a tenant rents, for cash or a share of crops, farm property from a landowner. Different variations of tenant arrangements exist, including sharecropping, in which, typically, a landowner provides all of the capital and a tenant all of the labor for a fifty percent share of crops. Tenancies have been used widely throughout Arkansas, but prior to the Civil War, slaves worked most vast agricultural tracts along the Mississippi River planted in cotton. When the South lost the war, bringing slavery to an end, Arkansas landowners and freed slaves then began negotiating new labor relationships to cultivate land up and down the Arkansas Delta. While some planters preferred day labor, using …

Snyder, Harold

aka: Ralph Harold Snyder
Ralph Harold Snyder is the man most often credited with bringing the poultry industry to the Arkansas River Valley. In 1960, the company he founded, Arkansas Valley Industries, Inc. (AVI), became the first wholly integrated poultry business to make its stock available to the public. Harold Snyder was born on April 3, 1915, in Winfield, Kansas, to Roy C. and Mildred (Poland) Snyder. As a young boy, he moved with his parents and five siblings to Green Forest (Carroll County), where he was raised on a small hill farm. Snyder was valedictorian of his high school class, and he was elected state president of the Arkansas Future Farmers of America. Based on this record, he received a scholarship to the …

Strawberry Industry

The strawberry industry arose in Arkansas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the advent of railroads made possible the profitable shipping of the fruit. For farmers, especially those who sell their crops locally, strawberries “kick off” the growing season because of their early ripening. By the time strawberry plants have stopped producing, other fruits and vegetables are ready to be brought to market, thus allowing a savvy grower to stagger crops throughout the summer and into fall. According to rough estimates, there are about 200 acres of strawberries in Arkansas. The short-lived peak market time of the strawberry originally prevented the fruit from getting a foothold in early Arkansas. Limited transportation meant poor-quality fruit at the stores …

Sunnyside Plantation

Sunnyside Plantation of Chicot County is synonymous with the immigration of Italian Catholics into the cotton fields of the Arkansas Delta. During the 1890s, Sunnyside Plantation was the largest Catholic colony of new immigrants in the state and the primary factor in attracting Italians to Arkansas. In the later half of the nineteenth century, Austin Corbin of New York bought more than 10,000 acres of Chicot County land on the Mississippi River and established his Sunnyside Plantation. Under the auspices of the Sunnyside Company, Corbin consolidated several plantations and named the property after an area plantation that dated back to the 1830s. When difficulties arose in finding laborers to work these cotton fields, including a stint with convict labor, Corbin …

Swine Industry

aka: Pig Industry
aka: Pork Industry
Swine (a.k.a. pigs, Sus scrofa) were first introduced into what is now Arkansas by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541. Since pork can be salted and smoked for preservation, many early settlers used pigs to supply their needs for meat and cooking fat (lard). The widespread production of pigs persisted until commercial refrigeration was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, pork became available from more remote sources, and production was more specialized and concentrated on fewer farms. In the mid-1970s, integration of pig production began to occur, with four corporations controlling most of the $84,148,000 of pig sales in 2007. The de Soto expedition had more than 700 pigs when the group was disbanded in …

Texas Tick Fever Eradication

aka: Tick Eradication
aka: Dipping Vats
From 1907 to circa 1943, Arkansas was a participant in the federal tick eradication program for the prevention of Texas tick fever among the state’s cattle herds. Arkansas’s climate and traditional agricultural practices among stockmen in the early twentieth century were perfect for the spread and sustenance of Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) annulatus (also known as the cattle tick), one-host arachnids that completed their life cycle on a single animal. These ticks would acquire protozoan parasites by ingesting the blood of an animal infected with pathogens that destroyed red blood cells. After the engorged tick dropped off the host and laid eggs, the newly hatched ticks would pass the pathogens on by attaching to another host, thus conveying parasitic blood diseases babesiosis …

Timber Industry

The timber industry in Arkansas developed in all directions after the Civil War. The abundant forests of the state made it possible over the years to produce lumber, kraft paper, fine paper, newsprint, chemicals, charcoal, and many other products. The industry’s development depended first upon the availability of abundant forests. From Little Rock (Pulaski County) in central Arkansas to the north, west, and south are forests and marketable timber. To the east is the Delta, where hardwood grows in the swamps and river bottoms. The Ozark Mountains in the north are home to a mix of slower-growing pine and hardwood. The Ouachita Mountains to the west abound in pine on the slopes and hardwood in the valleys. The rolling hills …

Timberfest

Timberfest is held the first weekend of October every year on the courthouse square in Sheridan (Grant County). Timberfest celebrates Sheridan and Grant County’s long involvement with the timber industry and is sponsored by the Grant County Chamber of Commerce. The idea for Timberfest began in 1982 when the Grant County Chamber of Commerce board of directors decided to combine the Blue Mountain Bluegrass Festival and the Merchants Fair into one festival. The first Timberfest was held in 1984 on the courthouse square in Sheridan. Since then, it has grown into a very large event. Around 1995, a lumberjack competition was added to the Timberfest activities. The funds raised by Timberfest are used for scholarships that are awarded to Grant …

Tomato Industry

The tomato industry has a long history in Arkansas and is particularly known in the northwestern and southeastern areas of the state. Tomatoes appeared early in the state’s history. During the 1830s, Albert Pike, who owned the Arkansas Advocate newspaper, made the tomato the centerpiece of his campaign to expand food choices for the state. However, tomatoes were not grown on a large scale until commercial canning plants became common in the state. The town of Yocum (Carroll County), for example, had a plant operating in the 1880s, and in subsequent decades, canneries and tomato sheds were built across the state. Tomatoes grown in the Ozark Mountains were packaged in a variety of ways, from whole tomatoes to catsup. During …

Tyson Foods, Inc.

Founded in 1935 in Springdale (Washington County), Tyson Foods has emerged as one of Arkansas’s most prominent companies, employing more than 100,000 workers. By the end of the twentieth century, it had become one of the largest meat-processing companies in the world, with millions of customers in the United States and in more than eighty countries worldwide. Forbes magazine currently lists it as one of America’s 100 largest companies, and it continues to play a pivotal role in the state’s economy. Following the collapse of the fruit industry in northwest Arkansas in the late 1920s, many farmers turned to raising poultry as a source of income. The connection of Highway 71 to Midwest markets such as Kansas City, Missouri, allowed …

Tyson, Don

Donald John Tyson was president and CEO of Tyson Foods. By the close of the twentieth century, along with Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton, Don Tyson was considered one of the pioneers of modern Arkansas economic history, as well as a giant in the global poultry business. At the time of his death in 2011, he was among the richest people in the world, with a personal net worth of $1 billion. Don Tyson was born on April 21, 1930, in Olathe, Kansas, to John Tyson, founder of Tyson Foods, Inc., and Mildred Ernst Tyson. His family resettled in northwest Arkansas in 1931, and Tyson grew up in Springdale (Washington County). He studied at Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, …

Umsted, Sidney Albert

aka: Sid Umsted
Sidney (Sid) Albert Umsted, known as the “Father of the Smackover Oil Field,” drilled the first well in the Smackover (Union County) area, introducing Arkansas’s largest oil discovery. In 1925, the Smackover field produced over 77 million barrels of oil and was the largest oil field in the nation at that time. Sid Umsted was born on November 22, 1876, in Houston County, Texas, to Caroline Pearson and Albert “Newt” Umsted, who had moved there from Chidester (Ouachita County). Umsted’s father abandoned the family while Sid was a child, and his mother moved back to Chidester to be near family members. When Umsted was eight, his mother married Harrison Bratton, and the family settled on a farm near Bernice, Louisiana. …

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES)

The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES), an arm of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, offers non-traditional education, bringing university research to Arkansans to help improve their lives. The UACES disseminates information on agricultural production, protection of natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development, rural community development, and public issues education. With offices in every county, the UACES provides easy access to information that has practical and immediate application. The UACES state headquarters is in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on land that borders the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). Three federal legislative acts, passed during the mid- to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, created the national Agricultural Extension Service …

University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center

The University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center (RREC), one of five research and extension centers in the University of Arkansas System’s statewide Division of Agriculture, is one of the best known and oldest rice research centers in the world. Arkansas produces almost half the rice grown in the United States, and the center has played a vital role in the success of the Arkansas rice industry. RREC is located nine miles east of Stuttgart (Arkansas County) on Highway 130. Originally called the Rice Branch Station, it was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1923, and work commenced on it in December 1926. The University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) made an earlier attempt at establishing a …

Wheat and Small Grain Industry

Wheat and other small grain crops have been important to Arkansas since the first European settlers arrived. At first, these crops were mainly used on the farms where they were grown for both human and livestock consumption. Today, these grains are a multi-million-dollar industry in the state and are sold worldwide. Cereal grain crops are grass species that are grown primarily for their edible seeds or grain. This group includes the world’s six most widely grown crops: wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, millet, and barley. Cereal grain crops with a small plant structure are generally categorized as small grain cereals. Wheat, barley, oats, and rye are considered small grains. Although rice fits the definition, it is often considered separately because of …

Williams, Virginia Anne Rice

Biochemist Virginia Anne Rice Williams helped develop more nutritious grains through her pioneering studies of rice, a major Arkansas crop. She conducted important research on the B-vitamin content of rice, on ways to keep rice from turning rancid in storage, and on the vitamin fortification of rice. Virginia Rice was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Roderic J. Rice, a banker, and Mattie Thurman. Her high school teachers urged her to pursue music as a career, as she was a gifted musician. Fearing that she would not succeed as a concert musician, however, she opted for science, a field in which she also excelled. In 1940, Rice graduated from Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) with a BA …

Women in the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union

The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) was an organization of tenant farmers formed in 1934 in Tyronza (Poinsett County). The union was notable for three things: racially integrating union locals in some areas, relying on evangelical church traditions in meetings, and utilizing the work of women at all levels of the organization. For many women involved in the STFU, the organization served as a springboard into other activism, particularly in the civil rights movement. Women in the union came from all social backgrounds. Society women were active throughout the country, raising money and promoting awareness for the STFU. Women were also crucial at the local level among the sharecropper class, partially because it was necessary for officers to have a certain degree of …

Yale Camp

Approximately one mile east of Crossett (Ashley County), just off U.S. Highway 82, is the site of what was once an important adjunct to the Yale University School of Forestry. Built in 1946, the spring camp for Yale students of forest management provided a hands-on educational experience until its closure in 1966. In the early 1900s, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, was perhaps an unlikely location of the nation’s premier school of forest management. To supplement work in the classroom, the school provided a spring field trip to southern forests, visiting as the guest of a different lumber company each year, since northern forests might still be under snow at the time of the field trip. The first trip …