Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward recognized the Cummins Farm this week by inducting it along with 36 other Arkansas farms into the Arkansas Century Farm Program.
“It is an honor to have the Cummins Farm recognized as a Century Farm,” said Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves. “This is an opportunity to spotlight the Department of Corrections’ Agriculture operations. Many people aren’t aware that the Division of Correction manages over 20,000 acres of farmland, saving taxpayers between $5 and $6 million a year through inmate consumption and providing inmates with farm-fresh food and valuable agriculture job skills.”
The Cummins Farm is over 11,000 acres and located at the Cummins Unit in Grady. The Lincoln County farm has been operated by the Department of Corrections since it was purchased for $140,000 in 1902. The farm includes row crops, gardens, poultry, dairy and beef cattle. Vegetables grown at the farm and eggs and milk processed there feed inmates, saving tax dollars. Inmates who work on the farm also gain valuable, marketable skills that increase their chances for success after release.
“We have a strong success rate with inmates learning a work ethic through our program and then getting jobs,” said Davey Farabough, Division of Correction Farm Administrator. “Everything we produce goes back into the units to help offset the cost and relieve the burden on taxpayers.”
The Division recently launched the Agricultural Equipment Technician program as an additional opportunity for inmates to earn certification through their work at the Cummins Farm. Through independent study and on-the-job training, inmates enrolled learn how to maintain and operate agricultural equipment. Four students completed the program during the summer, and 14 more are currently enrolled.
The Arkansas Century Farm program recognizes Arkansas farms of 10 acres or more owned by the same family for at least 100 years. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture began the Century Farm program in 2012 to highlight the contributions of these families to the agriculture industry as well as their overall contributions to our state.
“Agriculture is Arkansas’s No. 1 industry. Farmers are the strength of our state. To be a farmer takes great perseverance. No one is more optimistic than a farmer. No one perseveres more. The families that have held the same farm for a hundred years or more demonstrate that,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “Farm families are essential for our economy, but you also are part of the fabric of our state. Congratulations to this year’s Century Farm Families.” 563 farms are currently recognized as Arkansas Century Farms throughout the state.