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Researchers check corn for yield and quality in field where rows of corn are interspersed with a row of loblolly pine. Link to photo information
For 25 years the ARS center in Booneville has been finding new ways to help small farmers diversify. In photo from earlier study, corn is planted between rows of loblolly pine to provide fodder and a cash crop while the trees grow to maturity. Click the image for more information about it.

Arkansas Small Farms Research Center Marks 25th Anniversary

By Luis Pons
May 6, 2005

BOONEVILLE, Ark., May 6—A quarter-century of service to grassroots agriculture was marked here today as the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center celebrated its 25th anniversary.

The center encompasses 2,300 acres of land devoted to research on food animal production; integrated farming systems; rangeland, pastures and forages; and conservation practices. Run as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the University of Arkansas' Division of Agriculture, its researchers develop scientific principles and technologies that enhance the profitability of small-scale farms.

"This center's scientists strive to help small farmers sustain themselves by diversifying production and reducing inputs, as well as by capturing a greater portion of post-farm value," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "This is of great importance, given the challenges modern small farmers face in attaining profitability while still protecting and enhancing their land's natural resources."

Knipling made note of the center's growth over the years. "When this center opened in 1980, it had just four permanent employees. Today, it is the workplace of 23 permanent employees, including five research scientists and four support scientists," he said.

Dale Bumpers, a former Arkansas governor and senator, spoke at the celebration. He was a leader among elected officials and local citizens who were instrumental in securing funds and developing the center. Bumpers was Arkansas governor from 1971 to 1975, and served in the U.S. Senate from 1975 to 1999.

Also speaking today were Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas and other federal, state and local officials.

The facility was originally known as the South Central Small Farms Research Center and was named after Bumpers in 1997. Today, ARS scientists there pursue a program of basic and applied research that addresses constraints to successful, sustainable, livestock-forage and agroforestry systems.

In addition, center scientists cooperate in projects with researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Arkansas and the University of Missouri who are seeking to minimize the economic impact of fescue toxicosis in grazing ruminants. They also cooperate with scientists at the Shirley, Ark., Community Development Center and the University of Missouri's Center for Agroforestry.

The USDA Committee of the Booneville Chamber of Commerce helped organize today's event.

ARS is the USDA's chief in-house scientific research agency, while NRCS provides leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, maintain and improve natural resources and the environment.