Professional Improvement Tours
See the natural beauty and uniqueness of Arkansas through the exciting tours we have to offer in 2016! The PI tours offer the chance to learn why agriculture is the largest industry in Arkansas, adding around $16 billion to the state’s economy each year. From the delta in the East to the timberlands in the South to the hills in the North, Arkansas agriculture includes a little bit of everything.
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Tour 1: Fruit Loop
Holland Bottom Farm
Holland Bottom Farm, is a family-owned farm. Holland Bottom started growing strawberries in 1982 as a U-Pic operation. This changed in 1996. Using the latest technology, they started growing strawberries on black plastic, to help reduce disease and weeds, for a better quality of berry and longer growing season. From June 1 and throughout the summer, Holland Bottom grows and sells summer fruits and vegetables including peaches (7 to 8 varieties), sweet onions, okra, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh purple hull peas (and frozen, ready to cook), sweet corn, peppers, and melons. Holland Bottom sells Arkansas blueberries and blackberries, when available, and also has a large fireworks tent to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. In the fall, Holland Bottom grows pumpkins.
Barnhill Orchards is a family-run operation established in 1980 by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Barnhill and family. Starting from scratch, the family cleared the land to plant seedling pecans and peaches. From there, the land was tilled and the first vegetable plants were put into the soil. Since then, Barnhill Orchards has expanded to become one of the area's top-producing quality-vegetable suppliers to local friends, community neighbors, and folks from surrounding towns. All of the produce is hand-picked and hand-sorted to ensure only the very best-quality produce goes to its customers. Quality produce is Barnhill’s signature. Barnhill Orchards is located in the sand hills of Lonoke County. The fertile soil is perfect for growing farm fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts. Barnhill practices sustainable farming techniques, utilizing nature and best practices to raise their quality fruits and vegetables.
Lunch provided by White County Master Gardeners
Gillam Farms of Arkansas
Gillam Farms of Arkansas, a fresh-market farm located in White County focused on blackberry production. The farm grows many University of Arkansas varieties including Natchez, Osage, Ouachita, Navaho, and Apache. The farm primarily grows its blackberries on a conventional trellising system, using one picker on each side of the row. The farm works to get the berries out of the field and into its on-farm cold-storage facility as quickly as possible.
Pioneer Village is a collection of 19th-century buildings, farm equipment and other items of historic interest saved from throughout White County by the White County Historical Society. The grounds are maintained by the White County Master Gardeners.
Tour 2: NASCAR, Poultry and Beef Cattle
Mark Martin Museum
This tour will travel to north-central Arkansas to visit NASCAR legend Mark Martin’s museum in Batesville. The state-of-the-art museum features several of Martin's past cars, including the No. 6 car which won the Viagra/Coca-Cola 600, the '90 Folgers Thunderbird, the No. 60 Win Dixie Busch car, and the 2005 IROC car that Martin drove to win his record fifth championship.
Ozark Mountain Poultry
Biosecurity measures will be in place for the next stop. No one who has been on a poultry production farm in the last 5 days will be allowed and protective equipment may be required.
The tour will continue to the Ozark Mountain Poultry broiler complex. You will see the full spectrum from hatchery to processing. Ozark Mountain Poultry produces some 4 million pounds a week of antibiotic-free poultry products for the restaurant industry and their consumer-based brand Forester Farmer’s Market.
Chimney Rock Cattle Company
This stop will be at Chimney Rock Cattle Company in Concord. Chimney Rock is owned by Bill and Gail Davis. Davis, an Arkansas native, built a successful trucking business, shifted gears and steered his way into NASCAR where he built a successful race team. Today, Davis strives to build a herd of functional, customer-driven Brangus cattle designed to meet the demands of both registered and commercial cattleman.
Tour 3: From Little Rock to the Top of the Rock
This tour travels from Little Rock through the diverse agriculture of the Arkansas River Valley all the way to the top of the rock, Petit Jean Mountain and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.
Carruthers Pecan Farm
The first stop of the tour will be at the Carruthers Pecan Farm in Blackwell. Be ready as farm owner Robert “Crash” Carruthers offers his unique and humorous crash course in becoming a farmer and an overview of ag in the Arkansas River Valley.
Kuhn Bayou Irrigation District and Discovery Farm
Our next stop will be the Kuhn Bayou Irrigation District and Discovery Farm. You will meet the employees, and learn about farmland water use on this farm that's part of a real-world monitoring lab.
After lunch, our tour will head to the top of the rock, taking in the sights at the Petit Jean Mountain overlook, and then heading to the Rockefeller Institute. While at the Rockefeller Institute, we will tour the grounds and facilities. We will discover the legacy of Winthrop Rockefeller and tour the heritage farmstead.
Tour 4: Tourism, Town, and Retirees – Adapting Agriculture to Fit the Market
Hot Springs Village Green Market
Get a look at how small farmers in central Arkansas are catering to the needs of one of the country’s premier retirement areas and tourist destinations, Hot Springs, Arkansas. This tour will travel southwest from Little Rock to the incorporated community of Hot Springs Village – a 40-square-mile, gated community with everything needed inside its gates, including the Hot Springs Village Green Market. We will stop, visit, and shop with the vendors at the market before driving through the Village for a window tour of the community.
Hot Springs National Park
Traveling south into Hot Springs, we will enjoy another window tour of the oldest area in the National Park System. Set aside as a special reservation in 1832 by President Andrew Jackson, Hot Springs has a rich history as a gangster town, a spa town, and more recently, the home of our 42nd President, Bill Clinton. We will drive through Hot Springs National Park and learn more about its significance as part of our federal reserve.
City of Hot Springs Composting Facility
Next stop is the City of Hot Springs Composting Facility to learn how the city deals with some of its waste materials while providing quality materials for gardeners and farmers.
Box Lunch In Hot Springs National Park
A box lunch will be served in Hot Springs National Park on Bathhouse Row. Lunch provider, Superior Bathhouse Brewery, utilizes locally-grown foods on its menu. JV Farms, our next stop, uses brewery byproducts to feed their swine.
The last two stops before heading back to Little Rock are in the community of Bismarck, southwest of Hot Springs. JV Farms has been instrumental in developing direct marketing opportunities for all farmers in the area. Owner/operators, Jay and Valorie Lee, promote direct marketing and provide quality experiences for both consumer and producer. You will learn the innovative ways they have promoted sustainable agriculture and locally-grown products raised on their 20-acre farm.
Sweetwater Farms Arkansas Natural Produce
The final farm stop will be at Sweetwater Farms Arkansas Natural Produce. For more than 20 years, Sweetwater has been producing high-quality, fresh produce in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. All crops are grown using organic practices and are harvested with care, fresh to order. The farm takes pride in its exceptional quality and consistent service - delivering year-round to local markets in Little Rock and Hot Springs.
Tour 5: From Vine to Wine Tour
Post Winery and Vineyards
You will visit Post Winery and Vineyards, the largest winery in Arkansas and the first commercial vineyard to produce in the state. Post Winery was the first to bring 100-percent Muscadine Juice and its famous Muscadine wine to market. Established in 1880, Post Families’ Vineyards is a sustainably managed farm in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, in Altus, Arkansas. You will have the opportunity to tour the vineyards, winery and sample wines/juices in the tasting store.
U of A Fruit Research Station
Next you will travel to the University of Arkansas, System Division of Agriculture Fruit Research Station in Clarksville, Arkansas. The station provides a site for research on a number of fruit crops due to its location within a unique microclimate. Research covers peaches, apples, nectarines, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and pecans.
Tour 6: Discovering Arkansas' Hidden Treasures
Caddo Indian village
Uncover Arkansas' ancient cultures at the Ka-Do-Ha, known as “Caddo,” Indian village. This ancient culture existed in Southwest Arkansas more than 5000 years ago.
Next, discover how forage producers utilize their natural resources to produce high-quality forage and hay. On this family farm, hay production is maximized with least cost.
Crater of Diamonds State Park
Our final stop is the world's only public diamond mine, Crater of Diamonds State Park and one of Arkansas' many State Parks. You will have the opportunity to explore the history of the mine and dig for your own diamonds. You can keep what you find. The diamond colors include brown, yellow, and white.
Tour 7: Going Wild in Arkansas
Five Oaks Duck Club
The Eastern Arkansas Grand Prairie region is known worldwide for its winter waterfowl hunting. This rich farmland sits in the Mississippi River flyway, with rice and other fields providing winter rest areas for migrating fowl. On this tour you can see a duck club that manages its property for waterfowl hunting. This management includes the use of summer agriculture crops and winter management of flooded fields and timber.
Museum of Arkansas Grand Prairie
After the duck club tour, you will stop by the Museum of the Grand Prairie and see the history of farming in this area. From settlement and raising cattle on the natural prairie to the conversion of the ground for rice and soybean production, you will be able to relive the area’s history and equipment that made it happen.
Final stop will be an educational activity about wild hogs in Arkansas. The latest in hog traps will be demonstrated and best techniques for control.
Check out more information on Feral Hogs in Arkansas by Clicking Here!
Tour 8: Livestock Diversity, Grazing Management, & AgriTourism
On this tour you will see a diversity of livestock production in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in north-central Arkansas.
Simon Brothers Dairy, LLC
Our tour will start out at the Simon Brothers Dairy, LLC, just on the edge of Conway, one of the fastest- growing cities in the state. The Simons milk 150 Holsteins and farm 950 acres. The Simons raise all their own corn for silage and grain to feed their dairy cattle a total mixed ration.
Tin Can Hill Ranch
The second stop on our tour will be Tin Can Hill Ranch, known for its meat-goat operation and show goats. Tin Can Hill uses rotational grazing with its cattle herd and goat herd. The farm has been able to graze its livestock 356 days out of the year with the assistance of the 300 Days of Grazing Program.
Read more about the 300 Days of Grazing Program Here!
Bar of Ranch
For lunch we will be at the Bar ōf Ranch just outside of Clinton, home of the National Championship Chuck Wagon Races held each Labor Day weekend. This is a working cattle ranch that will host 20,000 people and 5,000 head of equine each year for this event.
Our last stop will be Swenson Farms, located northeast of Clinton. The Swensons have used Extension recommendations to establish clover on their farm to reduce nitrogen input along with implementing grazing practices in the 300 Days of Grazing program to increase grazing days and reduce hay feeding days.
Tour 9: Just Horsing Around
Allen Gate & Panel, Inc.
Allen Gate & Panel, Inc. is a family-owned and operated business whose doors have been open for more than 25 years. Starting as a personal project by Bill and Dick Allen in 1980, it has now grown to employ more than 40 people in the small town of Prattsville, where its products are manufactured. They produce a wide variety of cattle-working equipment, from panels and gates to feeders and sweep systems.
Along with cattle equipment, they also sell all sizes of steel pipe, galvanized tubing, and rigid conduit for any job and offer a large assortment of round, square, and rectangles in a variety of sizes.
Step Ahead Farms
Step Ahead Farms offers a race-training facility, five barns, paddocks for turnout, equine surgery, and a live-on-site equine veterinarian, all just minutes from central Hot Springs. Step Ahead also has a training track, hot walkers and round pens on site, easily accessed from each stable.
Oaklawn Park Tour
On Feb. 24, 1905, Oaklawn presented its first racing card before a crowd of 3,000 that turned out after Hot Springs Mayor John Belding declared a half-day holiday for the city. The first race at the new track was won by Duelist, owned by John W. Schorr, a prominent Memphis sportsman. Since that time, Oaklawn has evolved into one of the premier race meets in the country. Best known as the home of the Racing Festival of the South and Arkansas Derby, the track has played host to some of the biggest names in the sport, with the latest star being 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who won both the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby en route to making history with victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. Other champions to use Oaklawn as a launching pad include Temperance Hill, Cigar, Curlin, Paseana, Azeri, Tiffany Lass, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Rachel Alexandra, Lookin At Lucky, Blind Luck, Zenyatta, Close Hatches and Will Take Charge.
There will be a guided tour of Oaklawn Park, the backside and its facilities. Although live racing is not in session, there will be lots of history and interesting things to see and learn about.
Tour 10: Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens, the botanical garden of the University of Arkansas, is an example of the Natural State at its best. While its official description is “botanical garden”, it’s much more than that! Named one of the top five gardens in the country, the 210-acre woodland fantasy on a Lake Hamilton peninsula is open all year except January, a month devoted to restoring and revitalizing.
The botanical retreat showcases the essence of nature – towering pines, lush plantings, waterfalls and cool lake breezes that trace the 4.5 miles of wooded shoreline. Philanthropist Verna Cook began the gardens as a personal project several decades before donating them to the University of Arkansas, School of Architecture as a tribute to natural preservation.
Formally opened in 2002, Garvan Woodland Gardens’ mission is to preserve and enhance a unique part of the Ouachita environment; provide people with a place of learning, research, cultural enrichment, and serenity; develop and sustain gardens, landscapes, and structures of exceptional aesthetics, design, and construction; and partner with and serve communities of which the Gardens is a part. One of the highlights of the gardens is the architecture, inspired by renowned architect and Arkansas native, E. Fay Jones who believed architecture should reflect and fit within the natural beauty surrounding it. From the dynamic architectural structures to the majestic botanical landscapes, Garvan Woodland Gardens offers breathtaking sights, and fantastic photo opportunities, at every turn.
Plus a few extras
This tour will also feature ornamental beauty and history stops at Master Gardener projects may include the Old Statehouse near the Marriott/Convention Center, Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock’s historic Quapaw District and Entergy Park and Hollywood Park in downtown Hot Springs.
Tour 11: Planes for Protection
Tidwell Flying Service
Arkansas ranks number one in agricultural aviators. On this tour, you will visit Tidwell Flying Service, which has been providing professional aerial application service to farmers for three generations and more than 40 years. Founder and Chief Executive George Tidwell has and continues to contribute to the development of aerial application technology. Second generation Jeff and third generation Jacob now do much of the flying after growing up in the business, and are expected to continue in their father’s/grandfather’s footsteps long into the future of aerial application.
Ground Application Stop
An increasing number of producers are acquiring spray equipment and applying their own pesticides. This stop will demonstrate the impact that variables like nozzle type, droplet size, and electronic problems have on efficacy of pesticides in modern ground applications.
K & K Farm Service, Inc.
Don Kittler was a lot like other farmers in the flat Delta country around Carlisle, producing rice, soybeans, and wheat in rotation. Since then, however, he’s become a model for diversification, expanding into a variety of new businesses:
- Growing, conditioning, selling and shipping specialty grains.
- Building on-farm grain storage and handling systems as a local dealer for the GSI Group, Assumption, Illinois. (grainsystems.com)
- Longhorn Cattle
Don's K & K Farm Service, Inc.’s most recent venture has been growing, conditioning, and shipping specialty grains for niche markets. Premiums over conventional grains are paid, depending on the type and overall quality of the grain. Don Kittler has an elevator for handling specialty soybeans. By the beginning of 2000, he had 8,000 acres of area farmland under contract to produce natto soybeans. Due to increased demand, this facility's capacity has since been increased to 320,000 bushels. Products go to K & K Farm Service, Inc.’s in-town facility for processing. From there, the grain is shipped in bulk containers via rail and oceangoing vessels for export.
Jacksonville Museum of Military History
The Final stop will be the Jacksonville Museum of Military History. It sits on the original grounds of the World War II–era Arkansas Ordnance Plant administration building. The museum explores significant war and home-front activities dating from the Civil War through the Cold War, and also includes current military engagements. The Jacksonville Museum of Military History first opened its doors in May 2005 with the mission to educate the public about the important contributions made by both the civilian workforce and the military in historical and current conflicts. The initial intent of the museum was to preserve the history of the important home-front contributions made by the ordnance plant workers in the war effort during World War II. As planning progressed, museum supporters soon realized that the scope of the museum should be expanded to include the rich military history of Jacksonville and the surrounding area. This history dates back to the Civil War and reaches into the Iraq War, and includes Little Rock Air Force Base. The museum displays are built around local and regional events. One notable artifacts include the dress uniform worn by Airman First Class Cindy Elia, the first enlisted woman to act as dining out sergeant of arms in the history of the U.S. Air Force. Unique to the museum is an exhibit with artifacts detailing the 1980 explosion of the Titan II missile silo near Damascus (Van Buren and Faulkner counties).
Tour 12: Agritourism, 4-H Fun, Diversified Farming
Lonoke/Prairie County 4-H Outdoor Fun
The first stop will involve Lonoke/Prairie County 4-H teen leaders getting tour participants involved in outdoor and team-building activities. Some activities may include but are not limited to the following: archery, kayaking, shotgun shooting, and games.
Hicks Family Farms
Next, you will visit the Hicks Family Farms in Lonoke for lunch and meet owners Kevin and Rebekah Hicks. They are bringing up their son, Cody, on the farm, making him the fifth generation to work the family’s land. What started as Kevin and Rebekah teaching the children of Lonoke County about the dairy industry, by inviting them to the farm in the late 1990’s, has evolved into opening their farm to the public every fall for their corn maze and pumpkin patch. Throughout the remaining months of the year, the Hicks family care for 300 head of cattle, custom bale round and square bales of hay, grow wheat, and grow mums and pumpkins for wholesale and retail. The couple’s vision for the current direction of their family’s farm is to invite people out to the farm for a day to escape the business of life, spend some time in the fresh country air with their family, and learn a thing or two about agriculture. They are very involved in their church, the Lonoke County Fair, and Lonoke County 4-H. In 2015, their farm became part of Arkansas’ Century Farm program.
Double D’s Duck Hunting Lodge
A visit to a Double D’s duck club will include how planning for guests requires year-round attention to wildlife needs. This farm is set up to reuse all the water from each part to share with any of the other parts. The successful duck hunting at Double D duck hunting lodge is due to its location on the banks of the Bayou Meto WMA and the Bayou Meto flood basin near Lonoke. Bayou Meto Double D is privately owned on acres and acres of land designed, developed and operated specifically to attract large concentrations of ducks to help ensure a fun and successful duck hunting experience. The flooded fields of the Bayou Meto are an area recognized nationwide for attracting large numbers of mallards, gadwalls and pintails. A spacious, modern duck-hunting lodge awaits you and provides excellent accommodations for up to 16 hunters.
Schilling Tree Farms
The final stop will be at Schilling Tree Farms, family owned for more than 30 years. Choose and cut farm-grown Virginia Pine, Leyland Cypress and Carolina Sapphire. Schilling also has specialties such as flocked trees and Frazier Firs, fresh cut in North Carolina and straight from the grower. Wagon rides, photo areas, candy canes, hot cider and cocoa are offered on weekends. This farm’s target market is people who still like to go out to the farm and pick and cut their very own Christmas tree. It requires year-round work for a short market timeframe.
Tour 13: Forestry
School of Forestry and Natural Resources
Come join us as we tour the forestry sector of South Arkansas. This tour will begin where most forestry careers in Arkansas begin as well, the School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Attendees will tour the SFNR facilities including research laboratories, classroom facilities, outdoor environmental labs, and interaction with faculty.
Museum of Natural Resources at UAM
After a quick stop for lunch, we will be traveling to the Museum of Natural Resources at UAM and tour the facility including a pre-settlement wildlife/timber display, taxidermy displays and an arboretum. At the end of the tour, attendees will visit Reidlands LLC Sawmill to see the process of lumber and novelty item production from the wood yard to the kiln.
Tour 14: Got Water
Bayou Meto Water Management District
This tour travels from Little Rock through the diverse agriculture of the Arkansas Delta. The first stop of the tour will be at the Bayou Meto Water Management District, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed a plan to protect and conserve the groundwater resources of the Bayou Meto Basin. The three components of the plan are aquifer protection and agricultural water supply, flood protection and waterfowl management. To protect the aquifer without devastating the economy, groundwater use must be reduced to a sustainable level. Groundwater studies conducted by the U. S. Geological Survey indicate that groundwater can provide only 22 percent of the total agricultural water needed without further damaging the aquifers. On-farm conservation and storage improvements - Cost-share would be available for on-farm improvements to collect, store and transport surface runoff for reuse on the farm. This stop incudes a tour of the pumping station on the Arkansas River just upstream of the David D. Terry Lock and Dam at River Mile 109. Water will be transferred via a network of new canals, pipelines and existing ditches to area farms. A pump station located at the outlet of Little Bayou Meto, operating in conjunction with the channel improvements, will significantly reduce flooding and allow for better water management for waterfowl in the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area and the lower portions of the basin.
The tour will head to the Bevis Farm, which encourages sustainable agriculture practices, including:
- Annual use of cover crops on approximately 2,000 acres.
- Tailwater recovery and on-farm reservoirs to maximize ground water conservation.
Pipe planner and poly pipe use will be a center of discussion at this farm. The Bevis Farm is a leader in no-till crop production, and tillage is only used when necessary for the farming operation.
Lonoke Agriculture Center
Lonoke Ag center is home to many extension row crop specialists. You will be given hands on instructions on how to use Pipe planner. This computer program is designed to develop plans for laying out and punching holes in poly pipe to maximize water use efficiency.
At this farm meet young farmer Collin Torian. Collin is working with the university on a whole pipeline irrigation demonstration. This pipeline has over 600 acres of rice, corn and soybeans. It utilizes water sources from a on farm reservoir, tail water recover and groundwater. See how he has put all the components together to ensure water use efficiency on his farm.
Tour 15: Rice from Seed to Consumer
In the general scheme of things, rice is a relatively small crop in the United States, but it’s extremely important to producers in Arkansas and the five other states where it’s grown. On this tour you will visit a family farm, a rice research station and two production facilities.
First stop is the Brantley farm. Dow Brantley III runs a 9,500-acre farm, has worked at the White House and has testified before Congress on rice markets and the Farm Bill. He is chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation, the Arkansas Rice Producers Group and the Lonoke County Farm Bureau, and he serves on other agriculture-related organizations. After earning a degree from the University of Arkansas, he worked in Washington for two years, mostly at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. Brantley also worked with President Clinton’s advance team. Brantley works daily with his father, Laudies Dow Brantley II. Dow is married and the father of three daughters. Dow farms rice, corn, cotton and soybeans. He has on farm storage facilities and direct markets when possible.
University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center
The University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center is nine miles east of Stuttgart on Highway 130, in the heart of the famous Grand Prairie rice-growing region. The first land acquired for the center was deeded in 1927, when a group of farmers and the UA recognized the need for local rice research. RREC is now 1,022 acres devoted to research in rice and rotation crops such as soybeans and wheat. In combination with its neighbor, the USDA/ARS National Rice Research Center, the RREC is the largest rice research location in the U.S. and is well-known worldwide. Research at the center is applied- and production-oriented. The faculty are engaged in research projects in plant breeding and genetics, pathology, entomology, agronomy, water conservation, physiology and economics. The Extension faculty members disseminate the results from this research and demonstrate research applications on whole-field or whole-farm situations. Many projects integrate several disciplines. For example, the rice-breeding program includes not only the breeders, but also pathology, entomology, and agronomy. All projects have very close working relationships with the greater rice industry. Research is funded in part by the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board. Boots will be provided for anyone that would like to take a walk out into the flooded rice fields.
Riceland provides marketing services for rice, soybeans and wheat grown by its 5,500 farmer-members in Arkansas and Missouri. Each year, its 1,500 employees receive, store, transport, process and market more than 125 million bushels (2.5 million metric tons) of grain. Riceland is the world's largest miller and marketer of rice and one of the Mid-South's major soybean processors. A major rice exporter, Riceland markets rice products under the Riceland label, private labels, as ingredients, and in bulk. Riceland products are sold across the nation and to more than 75 foreign destinations. Generation after generation of Riceland farmers have planted, cultivated and harvested rice that carries the quality promise of Riceland Rice. That tradition continues today. Each Riceland product is backed by generations of rice farmers whose goal has always been to produce the finest-quality rice in the world.
Producers Rice Mill, Inc.
In 1943, a small group of Arkansas rice farmers formed Producers Rice Mill, Inc., a farmer cooperative, to better market their rice in a rapidly changing industry. Today, with more than 2,500 farmer members, four rice mills and 12 storage and receiving locations, Producers ships product worldwide as an industry leader in export, foodservice, retail and industrial rice markets. From the land to the customer, Producers is totally integrated as a farmer-owned cooperative offering the most efficient distribution channel: direct from the grower to the customer. Producers is also located in Stuttgart, the center of Arkansas’ rice belt. Arkansas is the leading rice-producing state in the country, growing more than half of the total U.S. Crop. Our growers, many who have been part of the Producers’ family for multiple generations, farm approximately 350,000 acres of rice. Though it primarily operates in Arkansas, Producers’ Farmer’s Rice Cooperative reaches as far as the boot heel of Missouri and the Mississippi Delta.
Tour 16: Edamame Production
This tour will visit a production field of Edamame soybeans. Arkansas became the first state to grow edamame commercially, and a processing plant was opened in Mulberry to handle production and shipment of the crop. American Vegetable Soybean and Edamame, Inc. (AVS), a subsidiary of JYC International, directly works with farmers in Arkansas to grow edamame. Edamame, one of the fastest-growing specialty foods in the country, is a soybean that can be eaten as a snack, a vegetable dish or processed into sweets. Its nutritional benefits have been touted for years. JYC International, founded in the mid-1990s, specializes in frozen food products such as edamame, spring rolls and other Asian appetizer products. The company had heretofore imported edamame from China. Very limited domestic edamame production prior to 2012. More than 95% of edamame is imported from China to the U.S. A well-established industry in Asia for more than 30 years, JYC Foods, a major edamame import company, has selected Arkansas to be the first major area for large-scale and systematic domestic production in the U.S. American Vegetable Soybean and Edamame, Inc. (AVS), a sub-company of JYC Foods, completed construction of a 32,000 sq. ft. facility in Mulberry in mid-2012 to process, package and distribute edamame products. More than 800 acres of conventional and organic edamame have been contracted with AR growers. 2 varieties will be grown: UA Kirksey was developed through the University of Arkansas breeding program, and the other is traditional Asian variety. Future Edamame consumption in the U.S. is rising by an estimated 12-15% per year. AVS will expand production capability to meet increasing demand and will contract additional acreage in AR and expand product offerings. Freshly picked and cleaned edamame is ready to eat. Seed and harvest are provided by AVS under contract with the grower. Determinate varieties produce uniformity of quality and maturity. Seeding rate and stand establishment targets are generally lower than standard soybeans. Seed are larger than typical soybeans; therefore, planters must be adjusted to accommodate the size. Soil crusting must be minimal to ensure quality emergence of the large cotyledons. Irrigation is vital; higher nitrogen rates than for traditional soybeans may be required. Pod quality may be affected by insects and diseases; frequent scouting is necessary. Insect thresholds are being reevaluated for edamame production. Many pesticides that are labeled for soybeans are not approved for edamame; always read and follow label directions. Varieties are non-GMO, therefore Roundup cannot be used in or around edamame. The Arkansas River Valley appears to be geographically and environmentally ideal for the initial production. Pods are harvested at R6 growth stage when green seeds are full size (touching within the pod) but prior to maturity. The desired product is the large, blemish-free pods.
Tour 17: Sod, Tree Nursery and Lumber
Wye Mountain Farm
All aboard for Wye Mountain farm. The flower and berry farm grew out of Beth and Butch Eggers’ desire to return to Arkansas and own a little acreage. Butch’s career had relocated the family to Omaha, Nebraska, and though many good friends were made there, it never felt like home. In Arkansas, they found the perfect property on Wye Mountain, with sandy loam soil, perfect for producing flowers and berries. The farm began in 1998 with about a dozen beds of flowers and expanded each year, reaching about three acres of field-grown flowers.
In 2008, the Eggers planted six acres of berry fields. The farm is opened for families to come out and enjoy a morning picking fresh berries and choosing a beautiful fresh bunch of flowers for their home.
Next, we will stop at a family-run sod farm. At this farm you will see the latest sod production practices and technology. Sod production is an important part of agriculture, benefitting home owners, landscapers, and new-business developers. Most sod in Arkansas is sold in the Little Rock/Central Arkansas area.
We will then visit a family-run saw mill. At the saw mill you will see the process from log to lumber. The timber industry is an important part of the economy in Perry County and Arkansas as a whole.
The last stop will be a family-run row crop farm where we will see an aquatic plant (rice) growing in its natural environment. The field will be starting joint elongation, the beginning of reproduction for the rice fields.
Tour 18: Sustainable Livestock, Horticulture and Row Crops
Peebles Farm is a certified organic, sustainable-crop farm primarily growing soybeans, edamame, wheat, canning pumpkins and green beans. The Peebles Farm is using land from farms that have been taken out of production in the last five to 10 years. Peebles has made an agreement with the Publix grocery chain to set up a production line in a nearby abandoned factory. This production line will be used to process green beans for the grocery chain. Pebbles is innovative in production practices to ensure organic certification is kept.
Red River Farms
Red River Farms is a unique row-crop operation. The farm’s headquarters and production are located on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bald Knob Wildlife Refuge. The 18,000-acre refuge has 6,000 acres of cropland. The major crops include rice and soybeans. The farm is not certified organic, but must follow very specific guidelines for wildlife management within the refuge. Only certain pesticides and non-GMO crop varieties can be used on the farm. As part of the agreement with Red River Farms, 25 percent of the crop is left for the wildlife, mainly migratory waterfowl and birds. The farm manages moist soil impoundments. These impoundments are used for the planting and managing of specific plants species for wildlife. The farm has an area where bald eagles raise young each year. The farm also has an extensive irrigation system, all of which uses surface water from the Little Red River. The water is managed through tailwater recovery systems. Tailwater recovery insures the water does not leave the property other than through evaporation or soil absorption.
CWC Farm, owned by Bill & Carey Robertson. Incorporates diversity in livestock and poultry, utilizing multiple enterprises to generate revenue streams on rocky soils. Multiple species managed to utilize cover crops, native forages and timberlands include cattle, sheep and goats. Ruminant species are selected for forage efficiency and sheep are participating in a university study determining heritability of parasite resistance. Lands are managed for livestock production, timber management, and wildlife and pollinator habitat. Additional production of heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys- raised as purebred production in a custom hatchery. The whole system has a dependency on natural predator protection, provided by Anatolian Shepherd Livestock Guardian Dogs.
Five Acre Farms
Five Acre Farms is a vegetable produce farm located near Pleasant Plains, AR. The operation is certified naturally grown. Only organic fertilizers and pesticides are used in their management practices. They grow a wide variety of vegetables including: tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, collard and turnip greens, kale, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, basil, and cut flowers. The various crops are rotationally grown on permanent, no-till beds. Beds are regularly amended with old/unused pasture silage from a local cattle operation. The silage acts as mulch for weed control and as a nutrient source/organic matter for the vegetable beds. The farm utilizes four high tunnels to increase growing seasons in the spring and fall. Five Acre Farms sells their produce to local restaurants, schools, farmer’s markets, and through a CSA cooperative.
Tour 19: Arkansas Fish and Chickens
Pastured Poultry Ariel Farm
On the Ariel Farm, chickens are raised in floor-less schooners that are moved daily to fresh pasture. The birds are given lots of room to move and scratch. They are great foragers and enjoy the variety of grasses, bugs, and legumes in the pastures. In addition to these goodies, they are given a mineral-rich grain ration that contains no hormones, antibiotics, or genetically-modified items. Ariel Farm is a member of the Grass Roots Farmer Cooperative, whose members increase the land’s biodiversity, productivity, and carbon-sequestering potential by rebuilding topsoil and increasing water retention. Its livestock have access to fresh air, sunlight, grass and water, and space to move and interact with their herd or flock. Its animals are raised with carefully-studied animal husbandry techniques that mitigate the needs for maintenance antibiotics. There are no growth hormones, herbicides, or genetically-modified organisms.
Biosecurity measures will be in place for the above stop. No one who has been on a poultry production farm in the last 5 days will be allowed and protective equipment may be required.
Keo Fish Farms
In 1986, Keo Fish Farm was born on 200 acres. Today, the operation has grown to 1,200 water acres.
The operation has two primary crops: one is hybrid striped bass — Keo Fish Farm is the largest producer of the fish in the world. Between 100 million and 120 million fry are spawned annually. Forty-five percent of Keo Fish Farm's business comes from hybrid striped bass. You will see what it takes to spawn the hybrid striped bass through hormonal manipulation in the brood fish, to preparing the ponds for the fry to be able to survive. Another 45 percent of the farm's business comes from another genetically-engineered fish: the triploid grass carp.
Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery
Since 1928, the Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery near Lonoke has produced fish for stocking Arkansas lakes and streams. It is the oldest and largest of the four warm-water hatcheries run by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and is the largest and one of the oldest state-owned warm-water pond hatcheries in the United States. The standard fish currently reared at the hatchery are warm-water species that include largemouth bass, bluegill bream, red ear bream, crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish, and white amur. Over the years, the hatchery has experimented with raising species such as smallmouth bass, walleye, saugeye, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, hybrid bream, Israeli carp, buffalo, and paddlefish. The hatchery produces approximately three to four million fish annually for Arkansas’s public lakes and streams. In addition to stocking public waters, the hatchery provides some species of fry and fingerling fish for the three other warm-water state fish hatcheries and for other state conservation agencies. The hatchery also provides more than 250,000 eight-inch catfish to the Pot Shoals Net Pens on Bull Shoals Lake and the Jim Collins Net Pens on Lake Ouachita, which are also owned and operated by the AGFC. These facilities grow the catfish to a larger size to stock area lakes.
Tour 20: Chicks, Sweet Corn and Row Crop Verification
Arkansas Department of Correction
The Arkansas Department of Correction farm at Cummins has three commercial layer houses that produce more than 100,000 eggs per day when at peak production. This supplies all the eggs needed by ADC at all locations in the state and any excess is sold on the open market. Houses were put into operation in 2015 and use a caged layer production system. There is also a fully automated processing facility that cleans and grades the eggs and a cold storage facility to hold eggs for later shipment.
Biosecurity measures will be in place for the above stop. No one who has been on a poultry production farm in the last 5 days will be allowed and protective equipment may be required.
Esau’s Sweet Corn Farm
This is a fresh-picked sweet corn operation located in Desha County. This farm features mechanical harvesting, grading and bagging of corn. Corn, when in season, is sold to consumers all over Southeast Arkansas and beyond. Also raised on this farm are melons, squash and other vegetables.
Justin and Ryan Keeter Farm – Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Soybean and Corn Verification Fields
This will be the second year for the Verification Program to be on this farm. Corn and soybean program coordinators and producers will be on hand to explain how the program works along with its benefits.
Click Here for More Information on Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Soybean and Corn Verification Fields
Tour 21: Downtown Little Rock Walking Tour: History, Politics and Beer. (Entry fees are covered but alcoholic drinks are on your own.)
Old State House Museum
The first stop of this walking tour of downtown Little Rock features the Old State House Museum. The Old State House is the original state capitol of Arkansas. Begun in 1833, the Old State House has been the site for many historical events over the years, including two acceptance speeches by the President of the United States. The attraction features intriguing permanent and rotating exhibits as well as art, food and historical collections. Don’t leave without exploring the museum gift shop, where you’ll find a unique item to take home from your Arkansas visit.
Lunch at Damgoode Pies and Brewery
Midway through the walk from the Old State House is our stop for lunch at Damgoode Pies. This local award-winning pizzeria serves unique and delicous pizza and subs with a variety of sauce and topping options. We are treating guests on this tour to a pizza buffet! Brews are dutch treat.
Clinton Presidential Center
After exploring the historical and stately Old State House building, it’s time to walk a few blocks east to the state of the art, LEED (energy efficient)-certified Clinton Presidential Center. The impressive Presidential Center is adjacent to the Clinton pedestrian bridge, which offers visitors spectacular views of downtown Little Rock, the William Clark Presidential Wetlands Park, and the peaceful flow of the Arkansas River. The Center offers entertaining and educational exhibits including campaign and inauguration exhibits and a recreation of the Cabinet Room and the world’s only full-size replica of the Oval Office.
Also nearby on the walking tour path and kid friendly: The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, The Museum of Discovery, and Riverfront Park.
Tour 22: Baseball and Submarines (Entry fees and lunch fees are covered but alcoholic beverages are on your own.)
Dickey-Stephens Park (Kid friendly)
No need to stay just in Little Rock on your visit to Arkansas. A short trolley ride, directly across the Arkansas River from downtown Little Rock, is the city of North Little Rock, where we will be touring Dickey-Stephens Park, home of the Arkansas Travelers baseball team. The tour includes a discussion of the ballpark’s soil and grounds with park superintendent Greg Johnston. Learn about the 100 years of Arkansas baseball history while touring the baseball museum located right in the stadium. If a baseball game is scheduled that evening, you can return later to watch a game at a discounted rate, and all tour attendees will receive a free souvenir!
Lunch at Damgoode Pies and Brewery
After visiting the park, hop back on the trolley to meet up with Tour Group 21 at Damgoode Pies. This local award-winning pizzeria serves unique and delicous pizza and subs with a variety of sauce and topping options. We are treating guests on this tour to a pizza buffet! Brews are dutch treat.
USS Razorback Submarine
Get back on the trolley to go back over Main street bridge to North Little rock. The USS Razorback, a Balao-class submarine of the Sandlance variant, was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Her keel was in 1943 and she was launched, along with two sister ships, the U.S.S. Redfish-SS 395 and U.S.S. Ronquil-SS 396, in 1944. U.S.S. Scabbardfish, SS 397, was also launched at the shipyard the same day, making it the largest single-day launch of U.S. submarines ever. The Razorback conducted five combat patrols during World War II, sinking Japanese vessels, capturing Japanese POWs, and rescuing American pilots who had been shot down. At the end of WWII, she was one of only 12 submarines selected to be present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender was signed.