ASU-Beebe receives recognition

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A. Inc. awarded a two-year lease on a 2014 Toyota Tundra to Arkansas State University-Beebe’s Department of Agriculture in recognition of it receiving the 2013 Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program award from the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE). The department is one of only six programs nationwide to receive the prestigious award.

Greg Brungardt, sponsorship manager for Gulf States Toyota, was on hand to present Jerry Sites and Chuck Wisdom, assistant professors of agriculture, the keys to the 2014 Toyota Tundra at an award presentation during ASU-Beebe’s annual Spring Fling.

“Here at Toyota Motor Sales, we are proud to support agricultural education as a key element of our country’s cultural and economic future,” said Jim Baudino, engagement marketing manager for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. “We are thrilled to participate in such a meaningful and engaging sponsorship.”

Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry, adding $17 billion to the state’s economy each year in fields such as forestry and beef, cotton and rice production. Agricultural education remains integral to a competitive workforce in the Natural State, with agriculture-related jobs comprising approximately one in six, or 260,000 statewide.

Chuck Wisdom (in driver's seat) and Jerry Sites (in back seat) with ASU-Beebe agriculture students.

“When it comes to agriculture, Arkansas is in the Top 10 producers in the country,” said Sites. “By 2015, there will be more domestic jobs in food systems and agriculture than there are skilled workers. With the rural population diminishing, ag education is a necessity for providing not just producers, but the surrounding infrastructure, with highly trained leaders. It’s a very viable industry.”

The ASU-Beebe Agriculture Department is one of only a few two-year colleges in the state with a full-fledged agriculture program and working farm. The school farm boasts 300 acres with registered Angus, Hereford cows, live cattle for labs and a greenhouse and orchard. The agriculture program, with approximately 100 enrollees, draws traditional and nontraditional students alike from surrounding counties. In addition to its two-year degree, the school partners with ASU-Jonesboro to provide an online curriculum for students to complete their bachelor’s degree while remaining at Beebe.

“This award recognizes innovation and best practices among those who are training the next generation of agricultural leaders,” said Jay Jackman, NAAE executive director. “NAAE is proud to honor the ASU-Beebe Ag Department for its accomplishments in adult agricultural education.”