May 24, 2010 by wcobserver
By Terry Ropp
Last week we had eight people from around the country over for dinner. What makes this group of people of interest to you is their purpose for being here.
A national program called the Outstanding Young Farmer Program of the US Jaycees was started in Iowa in 1951 and became a national program in 1954. Its purpose is to each year honor four young farmers aged thirty-nine or under for outstanding achievement in both agriculture and their community. The young farmers, male and female, come from all areas of agriculture which include crop and livestock production as well as truck and floral production. Arkansas had one winner early on in 1957, Alex S. Curtis whose base of grain operations was in Leland, Arkansas. The big news now is that during the second week of February 2012, the national awards program is being held here.
Larry was heavily involved in the Illinois Jaycee Outstanding Young Farmer Program in Geneseo, Illinois where he came from. He helped sponsor over thirty candidates to the state program, six of which were state winners and two of whom became national winners. Needless to say, Larry was disappointed to learn that Arkansas hasn’t been involved for years, even though Arkansas has an excellent and diverse agriculture community. In an effort to change that, Larry contacted John Deere, who sponsors the program, and suggested they consider Northwest Arkansas for the site for their national awards program. Deere and the Jaycees agreed to come and take a look.
The group we hosted came from Oregon, Maryland, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Arkansas for a preliminary site evaluation. They represented John Deere, the Jaycees, and the Outstanding Farmers of America as well as Arkansans willing to help organize the event. They scouted for prospective tour sites for the visiting farmers and visited the University of Arkansas, Tyson, Walton 5 & 10, and War Eagle Mill among others. Cheryl Sally, the John Deere Community Sponsorship Representative, said, “We had no idea that Northwest Arkansas had so much to offer. We are looking forward to having our program here.”
Through the years since its founding, agriculture has become agribusiness and the relationship between farming and community increasingly complex as farmers try to meet worldwide demand while complying with environmental regulations which are also constantly changing. To quote the 2010 Awards Congress Program, “It is not only fitting that farmers be honored for their achievements – it is essential.” To Larry, it is also fitting that Arkansas receive a national spotlight which hopefully in turn will reawaken interest in the local agricultural community to participate in the program again. After all why shouldn’t an Arkansas farmer of rice and cotton, chicken or any of the other diverse commodities here become an Outstanding Young Farmer? We even have a turtle farm near Lester.
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