Welcome to the
Arkansas County, Arkansas
Cooperative Extension Service
We are part of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s statewide network and the University of Arkansas System’s Division of Agriculture. Our mission is to provide research-based information through non-formal education to help all Arkansans improve their economic well-being and the quality of their lives. Whether it is agriculture, 4-H, health and living, or community development, the Arkansas County Extension Office is at your service!
Step Up and Become a Master Gardener!
Join us for Master Gardener Basic Training Classes on June 9, 16, 23, 30, & July 7, 2016 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Arkansas County Extension Service, DeWitt. Training involves 40 Hours of Intensive Training covering the basics of horticulture including lawns & ornamentals, fruits, trees, soils, insects & diseases, and more. Cost is $75.00 which includes the Master Gardener notebook, lunch & refreshments. Contact the Arkansas County Extension Service at (870)946-3231 or (870)673-2346 for an application and additional information.
Conserving Water for the Future
For many decades farmers have known that water conservation would become an issue and irrigation education is now viewed as a top priority. Groundwater is cost prohibitive to pump and surface water supplies are being stretched to the breaking point in hot, dry summers. To address this water conservation need some producers have been building more surface supply and utilizing tail water recovery systems to keep all the water on the farm. Irrigation efficiency has increased by conducting demonstrations utilizing computer hole selection which allows the field to irrigate in a uniform manner. Producers have gone from not knowing how they operated to making plans to buy them for their farm operations. In 2015, computer hole selection acres increased to 15,000 acres in soybeans and corn. On average, times to water fields have decreased 40% saving water and fuel in the process. Producers have seen how surge valves can reduce water runoff due to increased water infiltration increasing their irrigation efficiency in the process. With the utilization of computer hole selection and surge valve usage in Arkansas County we can decrease our yearly water usage by 30% and help conserve water for future generations.
Photo: Arkansas County Staff Chair Chuck Capps discusses irrigation with a local farmer.
Gardening for Community and Health
Obesity is one of the leading social issues in Arkansas County contributing to medical issues such as diabetes and heart disease. This leads to higher medical costs for individuals and society as a whole. Reduced life satisfaction due to obesity is also a concern.
In 2014, the Holman Community Center with assistance from the Cooperative Extension Service and the community started a garden to help raise fresh vegetables for their Sunday community lunches and to educate patrons on healthy lifestyle choices. In 2015, the Holman Community Center continued their garden with Extension help. This has reached approximately 2,000 participants with healthier eating habits which results in a healthier lifestyle. These participants have come from ten other counties and three countries: Guatemala, Ghana and Australia. A comment from an international traveler was that “fresh Sunday lunch was the best ever while traveling”.
The Holman Community Garden has helped to educate over 3,500 patrons on healthy eating choices. In addition to having fresh locally grown vegetables to eat, the garden has provided exercise to twenty-eight volunteers who maintain the garden and serve meals. This garden has provided 740 community service hours with a value over $17,000 being returned to the community. Individuals have switched to baking instead of frying, eating a variety of fresh vegetables and significantly reduced sodium consumption. As a result, seniors feel that their longevity and well-being are being increased.
Photo: Vine ripened produce.
Yoga for Kids...Health to Better Living
Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Most children fall short of this recommendation and are not active enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children should include three types of physical activity: aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening.
The staff at the Arkansas County Extension office responded by conducting Yoga for Kids classes. Classes were held at DeWitt Middle School each Thursday for six weeks with a class of 7th-9th grade students. Additional classes were held each Tuesday in May for youth ages 5-8 at the Arkansas County Cooperative Extension Service. Youth practiced yoga to help improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, improve balance, reduce anxiety and negative behaviors.
Because of Yoga for Kids classes, 18 youth learned to better regulate their emotions, calm themselves, manage stress and felt less depressed and happier. Participants were more likely to choose better foods to eat and engage in more physical activity to help their overall well-being. Practicing yoga helped children and teens increase physical activity to meet recommendations and improve physical fitness by increasing strength, flexibility and aerobic activity. As a result, more Yoga for Kids classes have been requested. Read more about Arkansas County 4-H and Youth Development.
Photo: Yoga for Kids is a fun, noncompetitive way to be physically active. Yoga is inexpensive, requires no special equipment and can be preformed anywhere. Eighteen youth participated in Yoga for Kids classes in Arkansas County in 2015.
Reducing Risk for Heart Disease
Arkansas County's population is 35% obese and 36% physically inactive. Obesity and inactivity can be a disastrous combination for heart disease as well as other chronic illnesses. By increasing understanding and education, risk levels can be decreased. Increasing physical activity has been shown to promote a healthy weight and lessen the risk of chronic disease. The Cooperative Extension Service already offered the opportunity for improving health through exercise in eight Strong Women classes, Medicine Ball classes, Reshape Yourself, nutrition concepts, label reading, and leader trainings. Participants were able to learn ways to fit exercise into their daily routine wherever possible and how to reduce risks for chronic disease. Participants in Extension programs improved health by increasing understanding of heart disease, risk factors, and steps to lower risks. Comparison of pre- and post-test results from all participants showed the following: 80% increased their understanding of heart disease and how it develops, 100% increased understanding of risk factors they cannot control, 85% increased understanding risk factors they can control, and 82% increased understanding on steps to lower heart disease risk. Read more about Arkansas County Family & Consumer Sciences programs.
Photo: Strong Women Training participants from U of A Phillips Community College at DeWitt.
Students Feel Better With Choices
53-75% of school-age youth in Arkansas County live in poverty and 63% have limited access to healthy foods. Eight out of nine schools in Arkansas County have SNAP-Ed eligible campuses. The high percentage of overweight/obese is proof of inadequate or improper nutrition in the county. At least 162 lessons focusing on increasing healthier eating habits and increasing physical activity were conducted with SNAP-Ed eligible populations in Arkansas County. Over 1,060 school-age youth were reached through these programs. All lessons conducted were based on the Dietary Guidelines demonstrating ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake, the importance of becoming and staying physically active, consuming whole grains and maintaining a healthy weight. Youth surveyed reported the following: 81% reported increasing consumption of fruit, 82% reported increasing their consumption of vegetables, 96% reported limit consumption of sugary drinks and increase water intake and 98% reported increasing physical activity.
Photo: Arkansas County Extension staff working with students at Back to School Extravaganza at John Cain Park, Stuttgart for back to school supply and education day.