UACES Facebook iLEAD-Passion for Research Shines Through in Northeast Arkansas
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iLEAD-Passion for Research Shines Through in Northeast Arkansas

by Nicole Nichols, County Extension Agent-Agriculture, Saline County - October 24, 2022

iLEAD Photo Collage of participants in northeast Arkansas.


Nicole NicholsThis last iLEAD session took us to northeast Arkansas. I was pretty excited about this session for a couple of reasons. First, it’s been several years since I’ve been back to this part of the state. I lived in Jonesboro for quite some time while attending school and working. Plus, it’s the first time I’ve seen my fellow iLEADers since August.

We spent most of our time learning about the row crop research that goes on in this part of the state. At the Northeast Research and Extension Center (NEREC) in Keiser and the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center (NERREC) outside of Jonesboro.

The passion that these researchers show for their work and for improving production for farmers is inspiring. Work being done at these centers ranges from plant breeding and genetics to sustainability and soil health projects. I highly suggest that everyone pay attention to the work being done in our state and visit the field days and programs that are put on at these research centers.

Our other impactful stop was the Black Oak Gin, where raw cotton is processed to be sent off to be made into products from clothing to diapers. This is one of the few gins that is managed by a woman, and she is so passionate about making sure that they produce a quality product and stay ahead of the game in terms of technology.

A big part of this experience for me was discussing with my colleagues what we are all passionate about in our careers and in our lives. Candid discussions over meals can sometimes be the most meaningful when it comes to what we do in our careers and our lives. Dr. Tim Burcham, NERREC director, played a few songs for the group during lunch and listening to him really gave me time to reflect over why I do what I do in my day-to-day life. Remembering that even though all of us are in different positions within the Division, we are all in it to work on improving the lives of those in our communities whether it’s multi-generational farms or individuals who are reentering society after years of incarceration.

Much of our discussion revolved around how we sometimes get caught up in the bureaucracy and reporting that makes it hard to really do what needs to be done with those people that we interact with everyday in the community. Personally, I have spent a lot of time reflecting how the service project I choose could streamline the reporting so that I do have more time to get out and conduct educational programs for my clientele. Overall, this visit to northeast Arkansas gave me a lot of ideas to mull over and allowed me to have more insight into what the greater goal is of the Division of Agriculture and where I fit in.

To learn more about the iLEAD program contact Julie Robinson, or Lisa Davis,