The Arkansas Delta is an economically depressed agricultural region with a rich heritage located on the most fertile soil in the world. The land produces food and fiber on large farms, models of industrial agriculture. These modern row-crop farms produce soybeans, cotton, rice, corn, wheat, and grain sorghum using a minimum of tillage. Mechanical cultivation of the soil to control grasses and weeds has largely been eliminated by the use of genetically modified crops and herbicides. With agricultural labor needs greatly reduced, employment opportunities in the Delta became scarce. Many of the cities in the region lost population; some resembled ghost towns. Three years ago, a non-profit organization called Arkansas DeltaMade, http://www.arkansasdeltamade.com/, formed to help market goods produced in the 15 Delta counties along the Mississippi River. DeltaMade located artists, craftsmen, potters, woodworkers, cooks, and individuals with numerous skills. Peace Bee Farm was proud to be one of the first businesses selected to carry the DeltaMade logo.
The story of DeltaMade was carried on ABC World News. See the story and the short video “Made in America: Marketing the People Behind the Product” at http://abcnews.go.com/Business/made-america-marketing-people-product/story?id=13969196#.Tg0kHZZxEfQ.facebook. Producer Erin Hayes questioned Rita and me along with DeltaMade’s Beth Wiedower about the effectiveness of promoting cottage industries as a means of reviving economic development in the Delta. DeltaMade has created or saved three hundred jobs in the area since its creation. We also pointed to the work in Appalachia by the Coal Country Beeworks, http://www.eri.eku.edu/honey.php, for creating jobs in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Perhaps, the time is right to use home and community-based businesses to support local economies. Many of these would not exist without the assistance and promotion of groups like DeltaMade. In today’s picture, captured from ABC World News, Rita and I discuss marketing of locally produced products at Helena, Arkansas. We find that the producers take great pride in the region. We appreciate the attention given to those who work to revitalize the Arkansas Delta.