A timber owner, a weed scientist, a lawyer, a rancher, a teacher and a plant breeder are to be inducted today into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame.
The latest inductions, to be made at a luncheon at Little Rock's Embassy Suites hotel, will raise the hall membership to 164 across 31 classes since 1987. The Arkansas Farm Bureau, which helps sponsor the hall and its annual luncheon, has an exhibit on the members at its headquarters in Little Rock.
The inductees are:
Ford Baldwin is nearing his 44th year of helping farmers stave off weeds, a career that got its start in 1974 when he was challenged with eradicating cockleburs.
"I knew from the start I wanted to major in agriculture," Baldwin, of Austin in Lonoke County, said. "I was farm crazy and tractor crazy." A course in weed control, along with a lab, involved an experiment using soil, weeds, a crop and a herbicide. "The crop came up, the weeds didn't, and I thought that was cool as heck," Baldwin said.
Baldwin spent 27 years as a weed scientist with the University of Arkansas System Agriculture Division's cooperative extension service and the past 16 years as a consultant, working alongside his wife Tomilea, also a weed scientist.
The biggest change to agriculture in his 43 years is the "tremendous consolidation" across the industry, but especially among seed and chemical companies, he said. The consolidation slowed the development of new herbicides and the independent research into them. "We're using up our technology and we're not getting any new ones," he said.
Last summer's problems with dicamba -- with the state Plant Board receiving nearly 1,000 complaints of damage caused by the herbicide -- was the most challenging, and upsetting, year of his career, he said.
Monsanto, during a dispute with the board over its dicamba product, criticized Baldwin and a UA weed scientist by name. The university defended both, as well as the science community overall.
"I hated it for the young guys in the business -- the young weed scientists being scorned for just doing their jobs," Baldwin, 70, said. "It was frustrating to see farmer against farmer, companies against science, and everybody suing everybody ... it reinforced the idea that when the storm hits, you just stand on good, solid research."
Bill Bridgforth, 77, has had a hand in Arkansas agriculture for more than 50 years without tilling the soil or pulling weeds; his impact came in courtrooms and the fields and streams.
A native of Forrest City, where his father had a lumber company, Bridgforth received bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
He had job offers from Little Rock and Fort Smith, "but I just didn't think I could live in places that large," he said. He took a job in Pine Bluff, in 1964. "It was in the Delta, surrounded by agriculture, and was more my style," he said.
By 1971, Bridgforth was head-deep into agriculture law, representing farmers in cases involving newly placed restrictions on crop subsidy payments.
"When the subject is hard, difficult and new, it flows down to the newcomers in the office," Bridgforth said. "I had to really study up on all that." In the end, the cases brought some changes to the law to the benefit of both sides, he said. That work led to more farmer clients, many of them referred to him by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bridgforth said.
Through the years, Bridgforth has been honored by the Arkansas Bar Association, named to the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame and served as a member and chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
As a youth in Milan, Tenn., just north of Jackson, Lew Brinkley remembers listening to KLCN-AM out of Blytheville and knew of the Delta's rich soil. "The radio station would sponsor cotton-picking contests," he said. "That whole area was in high cotton."
His parents were part-time farmers who also worked at the Milan Arsenal munitions plant during World War II. "There was an attitude of let's take care of the war now, and when peace comes maybe the farm will take care of us," Brinkley said.
Studying at the University of Tennessee earned him a master's degree in 1966 and a doctorate in agriculture economics in 1969. Brinkley figured he'd be a consultant in "time and motion studies, in efficiencies" but spotted a bulletin-board notice for a job opening at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
From 1969 until his official retirement in 2005, plus another 11 years as professor emeritus, Brinkley helped some 1,300 ASU students earn agriculture degrees. In online critiques, some students noted Brinkley's talent for teaching with stories.
"As they say, farmers up until the 1930s could have talked to Moses about farming, and those conversations would have been about the same," Brinkley said. "We got tractors in the '40s, and then tractors got cabs to keep the farmers out of the sun." Now, on some farms, tractors drive themselves.
A colleague at ASU -- James Davenport -- was a frugal man. "When we'd get sent to professional meetings, he'd have us camp out," Brinkley said. "He could really tell some stories of the Ozarks and he had a lot of those old sayings. I guess I learned some of that from him."
JOHN R. CLARK
Fans of blackberries that are available year-round will have John R. Clark to thank.
Clark, 60, a professor of horticulture at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, also is director of the UA Fruit Research Station at Clarksville.
"While my foundation was in agriculture -- dairy cows, some soybeans and cotton -- I didn't want to milk cows in Mississippi anymore," Clark, a Mississippi native, said. "The human nature of being interested in something different led me to fruit breeding."
And that interest led him to Fayetteville in 1980 as a research technician under James N. Moore, who founded the UA fruit-breeding program in 1964 to boost fruit production in Arkansas.
"Plant breeding is a long, slow process," Clark said. "You don't start it quickly, and you don't finish it quickly."
In 1989, Moore, who was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1991, released, with Clark's help, a satisfactory thornless blackberry that grew on thick canes rather than across a trellis, a major development in the world of fruit breeding and production.
In 2004, Clark produced another variety of cane-fruiting blackberries that can, under the right conditions, produce two crops a year, extending the blackberry harvest into the fall.
Adam McClung wore a hat as well as any cattleman, and he had the cattle to back it up.
"He knew everything from cow-calving to the feed lot," said Preston Scroggin of Vilonia, a friend and neighbor of McClung.
McClung, 37, was executive vice president of the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association from 2009 until Aug. 6, 2017, when he died suddenly and unexpectedly.
"He was always studying the issues, like trade, and they listened to him in Little Rock as well as in Washington, D.C.," Scroggin said. "He was just a go-getter who worked around the clock."
McClung was credited with increasing the association's membership, especially among younger cattlemen and, in 2014, was one of 15 young farmers and ranchers named as "Champions of Change" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Chantel McClung now runs the 7 Diamond 3 McClung Cattle Co. she and her husband started in 2012.
"He was a very passionate man, passionate about everything he did, passionate about his work, his friends and family," Chantel McClung said.
Fresh off completing a bachelor's degree in art history in 1971, Peggy Clark sold real estate in Texas and inspected hospitals and nursing homes in Arkansas before home came calling in the late 1970s.
Clark went to work alongside her father, Charles Garrison Clark, the third-generation owner of Clark Timberlands in Arkadelphia.
"I really liked working with him, and one day I asked him if he thought I could run it someday," Peggy Clark, the ninth woman inducted into the Arkansas hall, said. "It was fun because he did all the worrying, sort of gave me what I could manage, and took care of the speed bumps I'd occasionally hit."
In 1987, Charles Clark died of heart attack, at age 65. "It was a tremendous shock," she said. "Daddy was fit, healthy."
With the blessing of her mother and two sisters ("Daddy always said he had a crop failure on boys") Peggy Clark took over the daily operations of the company 10 or 15 years earlier than she had expected. "All of a sudden you have the responsibility of making sure the family business is going to get along at least as well as it had been," she said.
One of her first moves was to join the Arkansas Forestry Association, eventually becoming its first woman president.
Another was to better organize the business, not just for profits but as a family trust. "Our overriding philosophy is to leave this land at least in as good of shape as we got it and, we hope, in better shape," she said.
A nephew, Clark Tennyson, now runs Clark Timberlands. "I couldn't be prouder to have the company in the hands of a fifth generation," she said.
Business on 03/02/2018
Print Headline: Ag hall in state will add to roster; Induction today for six honorees