As the state’s No. 1 industry, agriculture is crucial to Arkansas’s economy. More than 44,000 farms spread across 13.8 million acres annually contribute more than $20 billion to the Natural State. That’s nearly one quarter of the state’s economic activity. Additionally, Arkansas agriculture provides jobs for one of every six citizens.
Arkansas ranks in the top three nationally for broilers, catfish and several other commodities, as well as fifth in timber production, eighth in egg production, and 10th for soybean and grain sorghum production. If that’s not impressive enough, the state is actually ranked nationally in the top 25 in production of 23 different agricultural commodities.
While the crops are important, it’s really the men and women behind the tractor that keep Arkansas agriculture strong. Arkansas has just under 69,000 farmers. Many grew up on the farm, and are continuing to carry on the family tradition. In fact, 77 percent of Arkansas farmers have been operating for 10 years or more. This family tradition is evidenced by the number of farms that are part of the Arkansas Agriculture Department’s Century Farms program. Currently, there are 295 Arkansas century farms, and 2015 inductions were just completed. The program, which honors farm families who have owned and farmed the same land for at least 100 years, began in 2012.
Consumers have the opportunity to meet these hardworking growers and purchase fresh produce and meats at one of Arkansas’s many farmers markets. The state currently has close to 100. Farmers markets allow consumers to make the connection of where their food comes from, and more want to choose local options, in turn supporting local farmers and Arkansas agriculture.
The Arkansas Agriculture Department is working to promote the state’s agriculture, both at home and abroad. With the innovation and knowledge of Arkansas’s farmers, growers and producers, the state’s industry is poised for even more success.
Hello, Madam President
The future of agriculture is in the hands of Arkansas youth, and Taylor McNeel is representing it well.
McNeel was recently elected as National FFA President for the 2015-16 term at the 88th National FFA Convention and Expo in October 2015. Growing up on a farm in Vilonia, McNeel always had a passion for agriculture, but she discovered her calling in agricultural policy during her junior year of high school after speaking at an agricultural policy hearing.
McNeel served as president and treasurer of the Vilonia FFA Chapter, as well as Arkansas FFA President in 2013-14. She’s currently an agricultural business major and Spanish minor at Southern Arkansas University.
As for the future of her elected role, McNeel says she’s excited to learn about agriculture across the country and talk to other FFA members, consumers and the public about all aspects of the industry.
Serving For A Century
The Arkansas Agriculture Department is committed to recognizing those who have preserved the tradition of agriculture for more than 100 years through the Arkansas Century Farm Program.
The voluntary program allows land owners who have farmed on the same land for at least a century to apply to be recognized with a commemorative sign, honoring Arkansas’s agricultural heritage.
Farmland at the St. Joseph Farm at St. Joseph Center of Arkansas in Little Rock is one of many century farms across the state, celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2007. The land was purchased in 1907, and the center was first used as an orphanage. It’s gone through many changes since then, but the farmland has been preserved through the years.
Learn more about the program and how to apply for your own century farm recognition at aad.arkansas.gov.
Buying Local Benefits All
Arkansas farmers grow a myriad of fresh produce each year, yet consumers are still missing out on locally grown goods, limiting income for growers.
Of the $7 billion that consumers spend annually on food in Arkansas, $6.3 billion, or 90 percent, is spent purchasing food grown in other states. If Arkansans purchased just 15 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed at home from state farmers, nearly $100 million in new income could be generated for Arkansas produce growers.
Furthermore, if Arkansas public schools sourced 15 percent of food for school meals locally, approximately $14 million in new income could be generated for Arkansas farmers.
Learn more about locally grown products at ArkansasGrown.org.