UACES Facebook State celebrates Turkey Week ahead of holiday
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State celebrates Turkey Week ahead of holiday; Governor pardons two turkeys

By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Nov. 17, 2023

Fast Facts: 

  • Governor pardons two turkeys
  • Arkansas ranks second nationally in turkey production
  • Turkey production essential to state’s agricultural economy

(398 words)
(Newsrooms: With related photos)

LITTLE ROCK – At Thanksgiving, it’s all about the turkey — but at least two lucky birds have been spared from being the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast.

PARDONED — Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders pardons two turkeys Friday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. UADA photo

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders pardoned “Hank” and “Davie” during a Turkey Week Celebration on Friday at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. The event, coordinated by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, recognizes the value that turkey producers bring to the state’s agricultural industry.

“We want to continue to support, grow and do all we can to increase the agriculture industry here in Arkansas,” Sanders told a group of more than 100 industry officials, legislators, members of Arkansas 4-H and Future Farmers of America and other guests.

Turkeys in Arkansas

“Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and turkey production plays a role in that,” Arkansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward said.

Poultry production is the leading agricultural industry in Arkansas. Currently, Arkansas ranks second in the nation for turkey production, according to the Poultry Federation. Last year, 26 million turkeys were processed in Arkansas, equating to 556 million pounds of poultry, valued at $594 million, Poultry Federation President Marvin Childers said.

“We’re fortunate to have two of the largest turkey producers operating plants here in Arkansas,” Childers said, referring to Cargill and Butterball. “Every whole turkey sold by Butterball at Thanksgiving and Christmas is processed here in Arkansas.”

Cargill has also donated a quarter of a million pounds of poultry to Arkansas’ food banks, Sanders said.

This year’s lucky turkeys were raised by Jackson Barber, 15, of Cabot, who has provided the turkeys for the governor’s pardon for three years now. Barber, son of Tom and Scharidi Barber, is part of FFA and Arkansas 4-H.

While it was Barber’s third turkey pardon in Arkansas, it was Sanders’ first as governor, and she called the pardons a “fun and nonpartisan way to encourage Americans to give thanks.”

Sanders said she was pardoning Davie and Hanks “so they can enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving.”

“We don’t want to see them anywhere other than right here,” she said.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on X and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on X at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on X at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. The Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation's historic land grant education system through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

 The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to 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.

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Media Contact:
Tracy Courage
Director of Communications-Extension
U of A System Division of Agriculture