UACES Facebook Blue Letter - May 2017

Nameplate for May 2017 Blue Letter showing extension headquarters

Blue Letter - May 2017 - No. 3781

Perservering through adversity


Rick Cartwright
Rick Cartwright

April started off great with weather suited to planting crops and gardening and being outside and was just a storybook start to spring. But this is Arkansas, and the month ended in one of the most costly floods in decades, if not ever. This Blue Letter reflects again the tremendous diversity and effort of the Cooperative Extension Service, its programs, personnel and stakeholders – during a very complex time. It covers events and activities in April and part of May.

However, we did not include the ongoing, somber, frustrating and heartbreaking train wreck that is the 2017 flood of northeast and east central Arkansas. The Delta, where the crops that feed us and our animals and our industries are grown, was “hard hit.” This expression does not even begin to describe the true scope of loss from an event like this, and the only way to understand the truth of the situation is to live it. Many of our county extension colleagues in the Delta are living it.

Like their friends and families and neighbors, they watched the water come, and keep coming, and keep coming – absorbing and swelling and spreading over everything it could. It swallowed up more than 900,000 acres of crop land, some planted and growing in the “best spring planting season in memory” and some prepared and waiting to be planted. A farmer friend told me that he and his family worked every waking hour and some hours not awake to move equipment and stored grain and prepare for the inevitable – the water – and then watched from high ground as it slowly ate their farm, and their work, and the hopes they had had only the week before.

He said it was the best start in 30 years, and now it was underwater, or downstream, or someplace. The last three years, it has been really difficult to make any money on the farm because of low crop prices and high costs, but his family has been through that before and were at least paying the bills. But this flood was just so hard, so very hard to watch, as all that work and promise was simply washed away and there was absolutely nothing he could do but watch and listen to his wife gently weep.

While row crop farming is the lifeblood of the Delta, farming is not really an individual profession. It is done by families, and they live in and support and are supported by communities, and they have kids, and they try to take care of their land and the environment. And these communities have various businesses that often are tied to agriculture, and some are new and evolving like the poultry industry in Randolph and nearby counties. But the flood water just rolled on over all of it that it could, just absolutely dedicated to moving downstream, not caring at all what was in its path or the blood and sweat that had built it.

Mike Andrews is our long-time county extension colleague in Randolph County. He watched all this unfold, and he surveyed the extent of the flood and the damage to his county, and his city, and his agriculture and his community. He listened to the farmers and kids and community leaders and business owners and workers, and it is just really hard to take. Like Amy Carroll and Shea Wilson and Brent Griffin in Prairie County who were helping get ready for the inevitable water coming south, Mike has been, and is doing everything he can think of to help – from providing information to facilitating contacts to helping clean up to buying supplies for people who lost about everything out of his own pocket – but he knows that his work, like that of everyone else, is just starting and it is going to go on for months or years. How do we climb back up and out of this mess?

It is a truly daunting, depressing and frustrating thought, but it has to be done. My farmer friend and his family and Mike’s friends are really asking, just how much more can we take?

With that said, one of the things the flood cannot destroy is the inherent character of Arkansas people who live and work in rural communities and farms. We never give up, we get back up, we replant, we rebuild, we clean up, we patch up, we make things better, we live on. That is who we are and how we are made. The Cooperative Extension Service is a part of all that, and we will do our part. Please keep in your thoughts the people of the flood and continue to organize food and supply drives, individual help and anything you can think of to assist in disaster recovery. While it truly is a disaster, we will help make sure it does not stay that way. My sincere thanks to all the cooperative extension staff directly involved in the flood and recovery and our best thoughts to all of those affected by this tragedy. – Rick Cartwright

4-H ExCEL hosts Global Ties Arkansas-Bulgaria

Group of Bulgarian visitors wearing climbing gear
Bulgarian visitors to the CA Vines Arkansas 4-H Center.

 On April 20, ExCEL hosted a group from Global Ties Arkansas who were visiting from Bulgaria. The purpose of their trip to the 4-H Center and ExCEL was to learn about youth leadership development in the U.S. Each of the group members work with Bulgarian youth in various ways. Global Ties Arkansas is affiliated with the U.S. Department of State. Global Ties receives requests to host groups from all over the world, and ExCEL has had the opportunity to work with several of these groups.

Global Ties representative Heidi Whitman stated, “Thank you so much for your kind hospitality to the Bulgarian Youth Leadership visitors. Your presentation was very well tailored to their interests and needs. The zip line was a special treat, too! Everyone enjoyed the time and was sad to leave. We hope to collaborate again in the near future.”

Nevada County Master Gardeners recognized for community service

The Nevada County Master Gardeners were recognized April 25 at the Prescott - Nevada County Chamber Banquet as the Organization of the Year. Nevada County staff chair Darren Neal presented a plaque to county Master Gardener president Betty Steed. The 23 members of the Nevada County Master Gardeners work tirelessly in the community on projects such as hosting an annual garden show and plant sale, decorating Sterling Square for Christmas and planting and maintaining flower beds at the following locations:

  • The Nevada County Extension Office
  • The Nevada County Court House
  • The Welcome to Prescott - Nevada County sign
  • The Nevada County Library
  • Prescott Elementary School
  • Sterling Square

An impact of $39,149.79 from the 1,697 documented volunteer hours in 2016 is the reward reaped by Prescott and Nevada County.

4-H archeology efforts get international attention

Desha County’s efforts in promoting an archeological program gained international attention this past month in an article published in the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage by Dr. Jodi Barnes.

This journal focuses on how professional archeologists conduct research and work with local communities to promote sound archeological practices. While the article discussed statewide community involvement in archeological research, the bulk of this peer-reviewed paper focused on the joint efforts between the Arkansas Archeological Society and Desha County’s 4-H program. The 4-H program hosted at Hollywood Plantation (and we anticipate another weeklong camp this fall) was emphasized, as well as the “Days of Archeology” being hosted across the state.

Future archeological events for your 4-H youth to consider include May 31 – 4-H Day of Archeology at Historic Washington; June 2 – 4-H Day of Archeology at Fort Curtis, Helena; and June 17 – 4-H Day of Archeology on the Mulberry River. We will also be hosting a workshop at this year’s State 4-H O-Rama if your youth would like to learn more about this STEM program and the volunteer opportunities available across the state. If you would like a copy of the article, or would like to learn more about doing a day of archeology with your 4-H youth, please contact Hope Bragg, Desha County extension agent.

How America’s dullest city got cool

Zachary Mannheimer Picture copy
Zachary Mannheimer.

The man whose transformative work helped Des Moines, Iowa, earn the headline “How America’s Dullest City Got Cool” will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 Breakthrough Solutions Conference and Art Show June 8 at the Little Rock State Office. With the theme “Re-imagining Your Community/Region in the 21st Century Economy,” the conference is hosted by the Breakthrough Solutions program and partners.

Zachary Mannheimer is the founder of the Des Moines Social Club, an arts and educational space that draws 25,000 people per month. Mannheimer now focuses on rural areas, helping create amenities to grow vibrant communities. He spoke at a recent webinar on “Creative Place-making: Economic Development for the Next Generation”, attracting over 1,000 people.

Conference workshops will address broadband, creative place-making, micro-manufacturing, extraordinary tourism, reinventing a festival, robots and technology, and workforce housing, with pre-conference workshops on re-imagining your community and developing cultural competence.

The Breakthrough Solutions Partners invite you to join us for a great opportunity to learn how to create vibrant 21st century communities and regions. Early bird registration deadline is May 24, and county agents who bring two or more community leaders will receive complementary registration. More information is available at, or call 501-671-2072.

Southwest Arkansas Grazing School and Field Day held in Hope

 The Third Annual Southwest Arkansas Grazing School and Field Day was held Friday, April 7, at the Southwest Research and Extension Center in Hope. This was our largest crowd ever with 46 participants. Speakers included Dr. Paul Beck, professor, SWREC; Dr. John Jennings, professor - forage; Kenny Simon, forage program associate; Jennifer Caraway, Miller County Extension agriculture agent; Sherry Beaty-Sullivan, Little River County Extension staff chair; Rex Herring, Sevier County staff chair; and Steven Sheets, Hempstead County Extension agriculture agent.

Topics were discussed included 300 Days of Grazing, soil fertility and forages, an electric fence demonstration, winter annual harvest results, field observation of winter annual harvest results, field observation of winter annual demonstration plots, and a no-till drill calibration demonstration.

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Cleburne County Headstart students Grow It, Try It, Like It!

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cleburne County Extension Service recently collaborated with Capca Headstart to conduct the USDA Grow It, Try It, Like It! curriculum. Grow It, Try It, Like It! is a garden-themed nutrition education curriculum that introduces fruits and vegetables and teaches the importance of adding them into your daily diet. To learn more about nutrition education programs offered by the Cleburne County Extension Service, call Sarah Metzger at 501-362-2524 or


Plan ahead for health care costs in retirement. When you retire, you may continue the UA health and dental insurance plans by paying both the employee and employer share of premiums if you have been insured under the plan(s) for at least 10 continuous years prior to retirement and your age plus length of service equals at least 70. Additionally, you may continue $10,000 of basic retiree life insurance coverage at a cost of $100 per year. If you have been insured under the plan(s) for at least five continuous years prior to retirement and your age is at least 65, you may also continue the UA health and dental insurance plans, but may not continue the retiree life insurance coverage.

Planning for retirement includes obtaining appropriate and affordable health care coverage. For Americans 65 and older, any conversation about health care must include Medicare ( It is important to understand what happens with regard to Medicare when you retire and how you can obtain the best and most cost-effective coverage (

On May 24, Andrette Murray from the Social Security Administration will present a Zoom session titled “Retirement, Survivors and Medicare.” Information on how to sign up will be provided soon

Lonoke County 4-H hosts fifth annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day

Lonoke County 4-H was proud to conduct the fifth annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® on Wednesday, May 3, at Lonoke Elementary School. More than 120 Lonoke fifth graders rotated through 12 safety stations ranging over topics including grain, animals, chemical, bicycle, tornado, food, Internet, ATV, lawn equipment and electricity.

The Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program has continued the mission of making farm, ranch and rural life safer and healthier for children and their communities by impacting more than 1.5 million children and adults to date. A big thank you to local volunteers from First Electric, Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas State Police and the Cooperative Extension Service for volunteering their time to teach a variety of safety lessons at this year’s Safety Day.

Governor to recognize Extension Homemakers

For 105 years, Extension Homemakers have made a difference in their local communities and throughout the State of Arkansas through service, education and leadership development. In recognition of their efforts, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has proclaimed May to be Extension Homemakers Month.

The Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council will hold its annual state meeting June 6-8 at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

“Volunteering: That’s What We Do” will be the theme – appropriate for the council’s 4,000-strong membership. Between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, Arkansas Extension Homemakers gave 644,735 hours of volunteer service. The Division of Community Service and Nonprofit Support (formerly the Division of Volunteerism), an agency of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, uses $21.36 as the value of each volunteer hour, putting the value of the AEHC volunteers’ service at more than $13.7 million. Of course, that figure doesn’t include the value of materials used during the volunteer efforts, including:

  • Yarn for caps knitted and crocheted for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital at Little Rock and for cancer patients
  • Fabric for dresses made for children in African orphanages, lap robes for patients in hospitals and nursing homes and teaching dolls used in medical settings
  • Food donated to families and food pantries
  • Monetary donations to scholarships and charitable organizations
  • Books donated to day care centers and libraries
  • And the list goes on and on.

These projects are but one example of the activities that give Extension Homemakers the opportunities to step far outside their comfort zones to enhance leadership development and education that is not found in a book.

Extension’s PILD delegates make friends and connections in D.C.

Arkansas’ professional organizations were represented last month at the annual 2017 Public Issues Leadership Development conference outside Washington, D.C.

Employees from land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services from across the country made new connections, received advice on how to talk to government officials and put what they learned into practice at the Capitol.

Arkansas’ Congressional delegation opened their offices to Extension’s PILD delegation. Arkansas’ 2017 group included Dianna Bowen (National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Science), Shea Wilson (Arkansas Association of Extension 4-H Agents), Danny Griffin (Arkansas County Agricultural Agents Association), Kristin Higgins (Arkansas Association of Cooperative Extension Specialists) and Keith Perkins (Epsilon Sigma Phi). The group met with Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton and with Rep. Bruce Westerman. The group also met with staff of Representatives Rick Crawford, French Hill and Steve Womack.

The Capitol visits capped off the four-day conference that focused on “Relationships, Relevance and Results.” Extension employees and volunteers shared their stories of how residents back home benefit from their programs and reminded them how the Cooperative Extension Service is funded by federal as well as state and local budgets. The Joint Council of Extension Professionals hosted the conference.

Chi Epsilon Sigma Yard Sale, June 3, at LRSO parking lot

Yard Sale advertisement 

Sponsorships reach more than $500 for annual 4-H event

The annual countywide 4-H Foods O-Rama and Talks and Demonstrations was held at the Columbia County Extension Office Monday, April 10. Foods O-Rama focused on dairy, beef, rice, bread and egg dishes.

Cloverbud winners participating in the event included Merena Hanson, Landry Mitchell and Joseph Smith. Junior participants included:

  • Dawson Dooly – 2nd place, Dairy; 3rd overall, Dairy. 
  • Sophia Hanson – 1st place, Breads; 1st overall, Breads; 2nd place, Talks and Demonstrations.
  • Reese Mitchell (3rd overall, Talks and Demonstrations; 1st place, Beef; 2nd overall, Beef; 1st place, Dairy; and 1st overall, Dairy).
  • Chyna Neal (3rd place, Dairy; 2nd place, Beef; 1st place, Rice; 2nd, overall, Rice; 1st place, Egg; and 1st overall, Egg.
  • Norman Smith – 3rd place, Talks and Demonstrations. Senior participants included:
  • Alicia Green – 1st place, Dairy. • Treston Johnson – 3rd place, Dairy.
  • Malli Nix – 1st place, Beef; 1st overall, Beef; 1st place, Rice; 1st overall, Rice; 2nd place, Dairy.
  • Kyle Smith – 1st place, Talks and Demonstrations; 2nd overall, Talks and Demonstrations.

Rep. Bruce Maloch, Columbia County Cattlemen’s Association, Columbia County Master Gardeners, the Stateline Beekeepers and Farm Credit of Western Arkansas all sponsored the event with $100 prize money each. Arkansas Farm Bureau also contributed prizes.

2017 Soybean Science Challenge state and regional awards presented

The 2017 Soybean Science Challenge student research winner was announced at the 63rd annual Southwestern Energy Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair April 1 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Extension professor Karen Ballard presented the $1,000 award on behalf of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board to Mohammed Abuelem, a sophomore at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock. Mohammed also received a $300 award for the Central Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Abuelem won two other first-place awards at the regional level in addition to receiving an invitation to the 2017 International Sustainable World Energy Engineering Environment Project Olympiad (iSWEEP) in Houston, Texas. His project, “The Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Glycine Max (Soybean) Radicle Length, Stem Length and Dry Weight Biomass,” investigated the effects of ionizing radiation in the early stages of soybean growth.

Seven regional awards were presented across the state in addition to the state competition. Other regional science fair winners were Madeline Leicht, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts; Harli Simmons, Avilla Christian Academy; Darrin McFall, Buffalo Island Central High School; Ivan Midbust Heger, Alma High School; Natalie Blake, Ridgway Christian Academy; and Shelby Rayborn, Emerson High School.

Southside Community Garden provides free space for families to grow

The Southside Community Garden, a project that enables Union County families to grow their own food at no cost, is one that’s very close to Robin Bridges’ heart. “This is one of the programs that I’m extremely proud of because this is volunteers at work,” Bridges told the El Dorado News-Times. “The goal of a community garden is to provide space for families that live in that community to come in, and at no cost, say ‘I would like to plant a garden’.”

The lot at Pecan and Jackson streets was once the location of Southside Elementary School and was provided by the City of El Dorado. The garden is open to all Union County residents.

“Space is provided for families who work the ground, plant the seed, take care of the crops and then harvest what they grow,” Bridges said. “It costs nothing but time and effort.”

Among the volunteers is Fran Smith of Calion, a Master Gardener. “We just want to teach the community something that’s… healthy and cheap,” she said. “There’s nothing better for you than fresh-picked fruits and vegetables and the pride of growing your own really helps you mentally,” Bridges said.

LeadAR Class 17 graduation

LeadAR graduated another class of Arkansas leaders on April 22, 2017, during a ceremony at the Little Rock Club. Twenty-two graduates representing 15 counties spent the past two years in intensive study and travel. The program increased the participants’ knowledge of economic and social changes facing Arkansas while enhancing their leadership skills. Dr. Rick Cartwright, Interim Associate Vice President for Agriculture - Extension, presented a certificate of completion and an eagle print designed by artist, Richard DeSpain, specifically for the LeadAR program.

Thirteen of the class graduates were recognized for completing their leadership project during the program, a requirement of each participant of LeadAR. LeadAR, the Arkansas Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program, is conducted by the U of A System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. For more information, contact Noah Washburn at

Fun on the farm!

The Crawford County Extension Office participated in our annual Fun on the Farm Ag Awareness event at Randy Arnold’s farm in Alma on April 18-20. Approximately 1,000 elementary students from around the county attended. Students who participated this year got to pick strawberries, hug Smokey Bear, ride in Farm Bureau’s combine simulator, learn about bees from Danny Brewer of the Arkansas Plant Board, milk a plastic cow and learn about sheep and goats from two senior 4-H members

Personnel changes

Please welcome the following:

  • Gerard Degbedji, Fiscal Support Specialist, Financial Services, effective March 16, 2017.
  • Kristi Latham, County Extension Agent - Family and Consumer Sciences, Searcy County, effective April 3, 2017.
  • Kevin McPherson, Program Associate, Entomology, effective April 3, 2017.
  • Keiddy Urrea Romero, Program Associate - Plant Health Clinic, Plant Pathology, effective March 16, 2017.
  • Verna Waddell, Administrative Specialist, Development Office, effective March 17, 2017.
  • Sarah Wright, County Extension Agent - 4-H

Extension says good-bye to:

  • Tammy Farnam, Administrative Specialist, Perry County, effective April 7, 2017.
  • Bill Gu, Project/Program Director, Office of Information Technology, effective April 28, 2017.
  • Holley Tucker, EFNEP Program Technician, Family and Consumer Sciences, effective April 7, 2017.

 Grants and Contracts Table


Grid showing grants and contracts

A continuation of the previous table with grants and contracts