Monday, January 9, 2017

Internationally Known Gardener Coming to Monticello

Felder Rushing is coming to Monticello Saturday, February 4 for a special "Slow Gardening" presentation.  The event sponsored by the County Master Gardeners begins with registration at 9:30 in the Family Life Center of the First United Methodist Church.  Lunch is provided.  Tickets are $20 and are available at Union Bank, Commercial Bank, and from the Drew Country Extension Service.  Seating is limited and guaranteed by paid reservation.

Rushing is author or co-author of 18 gardening books, former Extension Service urban horticulture specialist who actually started the Master Gardener program in his home state of Mississippi.  He has written thousands of gardening columns in syndicated newspapers, and has had hundreds of articles and photographs published in regional and national garden magazines, including Garden Design, Horticulture, Garden Weekly (an English publication), Landscape Architecture, Better Homes and Gardens, Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening, and the National Geographic. He is the weekly online Q&A blogger for Check out his website

Rushing is a 10th-generation American gardener whose colonial and pioneer ancestors settled across the Southeast, bringing many plants with them.  Rushing's overstuffed, quirky cottage garden has been featured in dozens of magazines and TV programs - including a cover of Southern Living and in the New York Times; the celebrated garden includes a huge variety of weather-hardy plants along with a collection of vernacular folk art.  There is no turfgrass, just plants, yard art, and "people places."

Felder is the international founder of Slow Gardening, a highly satisfying approach that focuses on finding and following personal garden bliss, using all senses through all seasons.  It is a guide towards paying better attention to and savoring what you do, and encourages the cultivation of locally-adapted plants grown sustainably and shared with others.
Believing that too many would-be gardeners are intimidated by a crush of "how-to" experts ("We are daunted, not dumb," he says), Felder uses an offbeat, "down home" approach rife with humorous anecdotes and garden-irreverent metaphors, zany observations, and stunning photography to help gardeners of all styles and skill levels get past his own beloved "stinkin' rules" of horticulture.

Drew County Master Gardeners will also be on hand to give information about becoming a Master Gardener.  A door prize drawing will be held at the end of the presentation.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Drew County Extension Service 870-460-6270. "The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer."

Monday, December 26, 2016

AGFC Approves Measure to Work with Non-Gov't Conservation Agencies

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved a measure that will make it easier to work with non-governmental conservation agencies to help recruit new hunters, anglers and conservationists during its meeting today.

According to Tony Davis, AGFC chief information officer, the agreement will open communication between organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and the AGFC. This will let them share information on members and people who attend workshops and education programs on either side, so that both groups will be able to follow up with participants and offer additional guidance to learn more about the outdoors. The first agreement has been made with the NWTF, and Arkansas is the pilot program for this new endeavor.

Corey Dunn, NWTF district field supervisor for Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, says he is excited about the new opportunity.

“We really think this will benefit everyone in recruiting new hunters, which is one of the NWTF’s main goals,” Dunn said in a committee briefing Monday regarding the agreement.

In other business, the Commission:
Recognized Wildlife Officer First Class Steve Paul of Hot Spring County as this year’s recipient of the Shikar-Safari Club International’s Wildlife Officer of the Year. The presentation was made by Mike and Kay Breedlove of Shikar-Safari.
Recognized eight employees with a total of 180 years of service for their commitment to the people and natural resources of Arkansas.
Approved the removal of equipment and inventory with an original value of $37,891.30 and a current net book value of $6,598.09.
Approved a budget transfer of $70,000 from the gas revenue fund to the capital fleet budget for the purchase of two vehicles.
Heard the first reading of proposed regulations changes to license system requirements involving point-of-sale license vendors.
Approved a permanent easement on Holland Bottoms WMA to the City of Jacksonville for water utility work.
Approved a permanent easement on Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc WMA to the Southeast Arkansas Water Facilities Board for water utility work.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Electronic license option coming to Arkansas hunters and anglers soon

LITTLE ROCK – Hunters and anglers will be able to carry most of the necessary licensing paperwork on their mobile devices in 2017 if the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission goes through with the expected approval of its new computerized electronic licensing plan at its January Commission meeting.

Tony Davis, chief of the AGFC’s Internet Technology Division, said the plan is in the 30-day public comment phase and will be voted on by the seven-member Commission at the next monthly meeting. If approved, the electronic licensing program would be rolled out April 1.

It will allow hunters and anglers the opportunity to obtain licenses on mobile devices and carry PDFs of the licenses on mobile devices that will suffice as proof they are properly licensed. All necessary paperwork, with the exception of deer tags and turkey tags, can be carried electronically without having to have the actual paperwork on their person: Hunter Education card, Boating Education card, HIP registration, state duck stamp, Sweet 16 WMA hunting registration, and so forth. For duck, squirrel and other game hunting that doesn’t require the paper tags, everything needed for legal hunting can be accessed on your phone, Davis said.

“We’re trying to make it easier to sell licenses, that’s the reason for this change,” Davis said. “The more convenient it is to get more hunters into the woods and anglers on the water, then we’re doing our job. They can buy their license on a mobile phone easier than coming here (to the Little Rock headquarters) to buy it.”

Outside vendors such as Walmart stores will still be available for hunters and anglers to purchase licenses, where the information will be logged into the AGFC’s website and paperwork printed at the vendor location, while still available on a mobile device. Walmart, Davis said, currently sells 64 percent of the Arkansas hunting and fishing licenses. The AGFC will send out a new package of vendor applications and train the vendors in how to operate it after the new plan is approved.

Federal duck stamp purchases will still require a physical stamp. Purchasers can buy the federal stamp along with the state paperwork and still have 45 days before they must have the physical stamp on their person.

The change is part of an overhaul and rebranding of the entire website at the AGFC.

The licensing system in place now on the site allows for hunting license registration on the internet, and buyers receive a confirmation number that is good only until the paper copy arrives, including their deer tags. With the change, licenses and paperwork including deer tags can also be printed out on an 8-inch by 11-inch sheet of paper and carried by the hunter.

“It’s going to increase license sales,” Davis said. “It will give people an easier way to do it. We have seen the number of license sales drop over the past five years and our efforts are to help turn that around.”

Another interesting aspect of the new licensing program is an auto-renew feature that allows the buyer simply to check a box and automatically renew the license each year. Missouri and New Hampshire are among the states already using the system that will be part of the new AGFC website in April. The system was created by Sovereign Sportsman’s Solutions of Nashville, Tenn.

“On the site you’ll be able to buy merchandise, our publications, licenses, do game check. All that is part of one system, a one-stop shop where if you need something from the Game and Fish Commission, it’s right there. The new system will be responsive for mobile devices and tablets,” Davis said.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

(MURFREESBORO, Ark.) – December 14, 2016

After nearly a year of searching the field at Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park as a team, two regular visitors discovered this year's third-largest diamond found at the park. Jack Pearadin, of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, and Doug Nelsen, of Winneconne, Wisconsin, found a 1.73-carat diamond on Sunday, December 11.

According to Park Interpreter Betty Coors, Pearadin first saw the diamond while in the mining process of washing gravel. “He says he poked Nelson and told him simply that he needed to look at this.”

They placed the diamond in a water bottle and carried it to the Diamond Discovery Center to have their find verified by park staff. Because it was so late in the day, they returned to the park on Monday morning to register their diamond and to have photos taken.

The pea-sized white gemstone, which has a brownish tint, is Pearadin’s 36th diamond and the largest of his finds at the park since he began his quest for diamonds over three years ago. His previous record was an 87 pt. yellow diamond. Nelsen had previously found four other diamonds, his largest a 29 pt. white. He also found a 22 pt. white on the same day as the 1.73 ct. diamond.

Many visitors choose to name the diamonds they find at the park. Pearadin and Nelsen agreed that if their diamond was a little larger they would call it the Kaleidoscope Diamond, because of the various colors seen in the stone.

This is the 484th diamond registered at the park this year, surpassing last year’s total of 467 diamonds. This year, 16 diamonds certified by park staff have weighed over one carat each.

The largest diamond ever found at Crater of Diamonds was a 16.37 ct. stone discovered in 1975. Visitors have registered more than 32,000 diamonds since the Crater of Diamonds became an Arkansas State Park in 1972. To plan your own visit to the Crater of Diamonds, visit

CONTACT: Meg Matthews, Public Information Coordinator, Arkansas State Parks,, 501-837-3086.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Morgan Family named Arkansas Farm Family of the Year

Peach Pickin’ Paradise in Johnson County wins 2016 honor

LITTLE ROCK — Mark and Shay Morgan of Clarksville (Johnson County) are the 2016 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, announced today at the annual luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year. The Morgans have a two-year-old daughter Kate.
As Arkansas’ Farm Family of the Year, the Morgans will compete in the 2017 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program. A winner will be named from among 10 southeastern state winners next October in Moultrie, Ga.
“This was a huge shock. When they announced it, I hugged my wife and my daughter, hugged my grandma, and shook my dad’s hand. It was remarkable and something I’ll never forget,” Mark Morgan said of being named 2016 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year. “We’re excited, honored and humbled.”

The Morgans have a diverse farm, but are best known for their “Peach Pickin’ Paradise” U-pick peaches and nectarines which make up roughly 60 percent of the operation. It consists of 3,500 peach and nectarine trees on 17 acres, and 600 acres for hay production and grazing for their more than 300 head of beef cattle.

Strict performance records are kept on all cattle and calves and only the top 20 percent of their bulls of each breed are selected to improve the herd. Shay is a registered dietician and her knowledge of nutrition and food safety is shared with visitors during farm tours and community outreach programs. They also participate in the local Farm to School program.

“This will give us a great opportunity to tell not only my family story, but the stories of all the other family farms throughout the state of Arkansas and correct any misconceptions others may have about what we do every day,” Morgan said. “We’re getting out there and doing the right thing and leaving the land in better shape for future generations.”
The Morgans serve on the Arkansas Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee, the Johnson County Fair Board and the Arkansas Cattleman’s Association. They are also active members of the Clarksville First United Methodist Church.

“We congratulate Mark and Shay Morgan on being named the 2016 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach, a cotton, soybean and wheat farmer from Manila. “Clarksville is home to the annual peach festival and Peach Pickin’ Paradise attracts peach lovers from across the state and region. Mark is a fifth-generation peach grower and is continuing his family heritage in Johnson County.
“Despite the time required to run their farm, Mark and Shay are active with Johnson County Farm Bureau where Mark serves as president, and they both serve on the state Young Farmer and Rancher committee. They are very deserving of this honor.”
The Farm Family of the Year program, now in its 69th year, is the longest-running farm family recognition program of its type in the United States. It begins with selection of the top farm family in each county. Then, eight district Farm Families of the Year are selected. The competition is judged on production, efficiency and management of farm operations, family life and rural/community leadership and values.
“These families work 24/7/365 to ensure we have the food and fiber we rely on daily. They are more than deserving of our praise and recognition,” said Mollie Dykes, coordinator, Arkansas Farm Family of the Year Program. “Our selection process, which is made possible by our outstanding program sponsors and partners, is extremely thorough beginning at the county level, working up to the district level and then culminating at the state level. At the end of the process each year, we’re confident our judges have selected the right family to represent Arkansas Agriculture.”
The Morgans were selected from the eight 2016 District Farm Family of the Year winners, which included:
Chris and Nesha Smith of Searcy (White County), East Central District;
Fred and Sue Denison of Batesville (Independence County), North Central District;
Stacy Family Farms of Wynne (Cross County), Northeast District;
Jim and Dina Hubbard of Marvell (Phillips County), Southeast District;
Stephen and April Allen of Lewisville (Lafayette County), Southwest District;
Joe and Jill Brinkley of Grannis (Polk County), Western District;
Joel and Amanda Whisenhunt of Nashville (Howard County), West Central District;

Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, and Farm Credit Midsouth are sponsors of the program. Additional program support is provided by the Arkansas Agriculture Department; Arkansas Department of Career Education; the Arkansas Press Association, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture; and USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Rural Development.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of more than 190,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tri-County Lake renamed in honor of former AGFC director

FORDYCE – One of the oldest Arkansas Game and Fish lakes is getting a slight change to its name, thanks to a unanimous vote by Commissioners during their Nov. 17 meeting. Tri-County Lake in Calhoun County was renamed Mike Knoedl Tri-County Lake in honor of recently retired director Mike Knoedl.

Knoedl officially retired in July 2016, and was succeeded by former Chief of Staff Jeff Crow. He began work for the AGFC as a wildlife officer in Perry County in 1985, and climbed the ladder to the top position in the agency, which he assumed in October 2012.

“Mike took the reins during a very challenging time in our agency’s history,” said Crow. “His contributions really turned things around for us and put us on a path to a better future. I have been incredibly fortunate to follow behind him, as he has put us on the track to success and put us in a position to tackle the challenges we face now and in the future.”

According to Crow, Tri-County Lake is not only a stone’s throw from Knoedl’s house in Fordyce, but it holds many memories of great fishing and memorable cases the former wildlife officer worked during his 31-year career.

Tri-County Lake has been called the AGFC’s first lake, but that can be a matter of debate. The 280-acre lake was completed in 1953, while the AGFC’s flagship lake, Lake Conway was still under construction. The first lake actually completed for the AGFC was 35-acre Lake Hindsville in Madison County in 1949, but it has seen many issues of leakage throughout the years, requiring major overhauls to keep it a viable fishing lake.

Regardless of its stature as first-, second- or third-oldest in the AGFC’s system of lakes, the newly renamed Mike Knoedl Tri-County Lake has shown excellent resilience, still producing good stringers of bream, catfish and crappie throughout the spring and summer for anglers in south central Arkansas.

Give the gift of conservation this Christmas

LITTLE ROCK – Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all behind us, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to grab some gifts for your holiday shopping. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some of the best gifts for that hard-to-buy outdoors enthusiast on your list, and you’ll be contributing to the state’s wildlife resources at the same time.

Sounds like a deal
What’s even better than a year’s worth of award-winning stories and photography delivered to your door? How about three years’ of entertainment with an added special gift to boot? From now until Jan. 1, every three-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine will come with a free Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker sporting the magazine’s title on one side and the AGFC logo on the other. The speaker hooks up wirelessly to any phone or tablet with Bluetooth capability to provide excellent sound-quality to your favorite music and includes a microphone to be able to talk back through it when taking a phone call. One surface of the speaker has a special coating that allows it to cling to glass and other smooth surfaces while playing to keep it out of harm’s way. Just purchase a three-year subscription or three-year gift subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine and we’ll ship the speaker to the subscriber’s address.