Plant Culture

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American Wine Society – Arkansas Chapter

The American Wine Society–Arkansas Chapter was a non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge about—and the cultivation of an appreciation of—wine and its role in culture and cuisine. The American Wine Society–Arkansas Chapter was co-founded on May 16, 2005, by Robert G. Cowie and Mary Jane Cains in Ozark (Franklin County). Cowie is the founder and owner of Cowie Wine Cellars in Paris (Logan County), while Cains is from the family of the Mount Bethel Winery of Altus (Franklin County). When the national society was created in 1967, Al Wiederkehr of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars in Altus was a member of the organizing meeting. He and Justin Morris of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) were honorary …

Apple Industry

Seventy-five years after their introduction in Arkansas, apples became a dominant agricultural crop and an economic engine for the northwest part of the state. However, their importance declined measurably in the last half of the twentieth century. The apple of commerce, Malus domestica, is not native to North America. It is a complex hybrid of Malus species with origins in Asia and Europe. Malus domestica was introduced to North America by sixteenth-century explorers and later by colonists. Settlers arriving in Arkansas from Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Georgia brought apple seeds and scion wood with them. The Arkansas Gazette reported in 1822 that apples were being grown on the farm of James Sevier Conway west of Little Rock (Pulaski County). While …

Arkansas Black Apple

The Arkansas Black Apple is recognized by early sources as having been first produced in 1870 in the orchard of a Mr. Brathwaite, which was then about one and a half miles northwest of Bentonville (Benton County). The fruit, a variety of Winesap, is usually round and of medium size. The flesh is yellow, fine grained, crisp, juicy, and aromatic, while the skin is dark red to black, hence its name. It ripens in October or November, and the fruit keeps well though the storage season of two to four months. Originally, the tree was thought to be a seedling of the Winesap Apple. It is a true native apple grown in the Ozarks of both Arkansas and Missouri. There …

Arkansas Historic Wine Museum

The Arkansas Historic Wine Museum in Paris (Logan County) is the only museum in the United States dedicated to preserving the wine heritage of an entire state. The museum stores and displays artifacts from the earliest days of the Arkansas wine industry up to the present. Formally incorporated in 1994 (though it had been established by Robert G. Cowie, owner of Cowie Wine Cellars, in 1967 as a hobby), this institution has received numerous awards, including the Bootstrap Award from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, which is presented to those institutions that make great achievements on a limited budget. The museum has also been featured in American Profile magazine. Cowie started collecting artifacts of regional winemaking in 1957 …

Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board

Arkansas ranks in the top ten of U.S. states for soybean production. Products made from soybeans can be found in almost every aisle of the supermarket and even in most hardware stores. Soybeans, sometimes called “miracle beans,” deliver essential nutrients and high-quality protein to people and farm animals. The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board was established to support this important industry in the state. Act 259 of the 1971 Arkansas General Assembly established the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board to provide producers in the state with an organization that works to improve the soybean industry. The board consists of nine unpaid soybean producers nominated by various agricultural organizations within Arkansas (including the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Soybean Association, the Agricultural Council …

Arkansas State Horticultural Society (ASHS)

The Arkansas State Horticultural Society (ASHS) is a horticultural crop producers’ organization whose primary purpose is to provide its members, through annual meetings, with information to enhance their horticultural enterprises. The Arkansas State Horticultural Society was formally organized on May 24, 1879, by nineteen men meeting in the council chamber of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The organizers were engaged in horticultural pursuits and were aware of a growing interest in horticultural crops being grown on lands adjacent to the land-grant railroads then expanding through Arkansas. News of the May 24 meeting was published in area papers, extending an invitation for all interested to attend. The object of the society is “to collect and disseminate information relative to …

Bachman, Joseph

Joseph Bachman is widely recognized as Arkansas’s leading developer of grape varieties. During his career, he received national and international attention for his development of grape vines, winning several awards and supplying cuttings and plants to numerous nurseries. Joseph Bachman was born in 1853 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Little is known about his childhood, including his family, education, and early career. According to immigration records, Bachman arrived in New York on May 9, 1878, on a ship that had departed Le Havre, France, earlier that year. By 1881, following the advice of his relatives, Bachman had settled in the town of Altus (Franklin County), where many of his other countrymen resided. He held a wide array of occupations, serving as the …

Cotton Industry

Cotton is a shrub known technically as gossypium. Although modest looking and usually no higher than a medium-sized man’s shoulders, its fruit helped to spin off an industrial revolution in 1700s England and foment the Civil War in the 1800s United States. The possibility of riches spun from cotton in the early days helped populate what became the state of Arkansas, with people coming by the hundreds and thousands on a trip that might last two years. Several visitors to Arkansas in the early 1800s made note in their journals and writings of cotton being grown. The crop remained a Southern staple because it needed hot summer days and warm summer nights to bear abundant fruit. It also needed lots …

Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center

Arkansas has more than 1.2 million acres of farmland used for rice production and is the largest producer of rice in the United States, supplying fifty percent of the nation’s crop. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), supports this important industry through research conducted at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center (DBNRRC) in genetics, physiology, pathology, agronomy, and cereal chemistry to improve rice yield, grain quality, and resistance to diseases, insects, pests, and environmental stress. USDA ARS has conducted rice research at this site since 1931. In 1998, however, a new state-of-the-art facility was completed that allowed tremendous expansion of the scientific staff and scope of the conducted research. The center was named after …

Farkleberry

Farkleberry is a common name for the shrub species Vaccinium arboreum of the family Ericaceae and is sometimes called the sparkleberry. This bushy evergreen is native to the southeastern United States and ranges from the East Coast to west Texas. It bears small, black berries that are appealing to birds but not to humans. The shrub, which can grow to be about twenty-five feet tall, is not generally considered desirable or valuable, but its bark has been used to tan leather and its wood to make tool handles. In Arkansas, however, the farkleberry has been long associated with Arkansas governor Orval Eugene Faubus due to cartoons drawn by George Edward Fisher. The shrub is nearly unknown today, but its funny-sounding …

Hartz, Jacob, Sr.

Jacob Hartz Sr. was a pioneer in the soybean industry. His vision of the use of the soybean plant as a rotation crop in the nitrogen-depleted cotton and rice fields of Arkansas County led to the growth of a soybean industry that today is a $500 million cash crop in Arkansas, where 3.2 million acres are grown annually. Jacob Hartz was born to German immigrants George and Susanna Hartz in Racine, Wisconsin, on April 4, 1888. He was the third of eight children. After completing six years of formal education, his first work experience was as a clerk in a general store. In 1909, he married Mary Isabelle Smith, with whom he had eight children, and became an Arkansas sales …

Lavacaberry

The Lavacaberry is a hybrid variety of berry that takes its name from the town of Lavaca (Sebastian County), where it was planted extensively in the 1940s. The introduction of the berry to the town helped reinvigorate the local economy at a time when the effects of the Depression were still being felt. In 1937, the Lavaca School District hired Idus H. Fielder as a vocational instructor. In his eagerness to help local growers, Fielder met Ed Girard, a local farmer, to discuss the plight of the farmers. After listening to Girard and others, Fielder remembered a berry from the farm of R. E. Hallett in McRae (White County). The berry was known as a “California Red Raspberry,” and Hallett …

Moosberg, Carl Avriette

Cotton breeder Carl Avriette Moosberg demonstrated that advances in the early maturing of cotton were possible. His Rex variety, introduced in 1957, reduced expense for pesticide by shortening the time required to maturity, while offering disease resistance and strong fiber. The success of Rex encouraged all major cottonseed companies to develop earlier maturing cotton varieties. Moosberg’s research improved the economics of growing cotton in Arkansas in the mid 1900s. Carl Moosberg was born on August 24, 1905, in Tyler, Texas, the third of four sons born to Frank Olaf Moosberg and Anna Trofast, immigrants from Sweden. He graduated from high school in Wills Point, Texas, in 1923 and went to work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in …

Muscadine

aka: Vitus rotundifolia
Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are grapes native to Arkansas and other parts of the southeastern United States. The grapes have thick skins, large seeds, and a unique, soft, musky-flavored pulp. Cultivars can vary in color from almost white to nearly black. Common names for dark-fruited muscadines include bullace, bull grape, and Southern Fox. The term “scuppernong” is often used to refer to all bronze-fruited varieties, but it is actually the name of a specific muscadine cultivar. The muscadine cultivars most commonly grown in Arkansas for commercial juice and wine production include Carlos, a bronze cultivar that produces light-colored products and white wine, and Noble, a dark cultivar that makes deep-red products. Consumers who are accustomed to the unique qualities of muscadines, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …