A number of Peace Bee Farm’s friends and customers have been asking Rita and me, “Where is Tod?” Our son, Tod Underhill, who regularly mans our booth selling honey and bee hive products at farmers markets, is actively working on a PhD degree in Heritage Studies at Arkansas State University. His degree program involves researching and developing historic sites across the Arkansas Delta. The wide-open agricultural region encompassing 15 counties along the Mississippi River is the flattest area on the planet. Carved from bottom land hardwood forests to create cotton plantations in the 1800s, Arkansas’s Delta was the last agricultural region formed adjacent the Mississippi River. The rich alluvial land is now cultivated in row crops including cotton, soybeans, rice, wheat, corn, and grain sorghum. Today, Delta towns are largely in decline with decreased populations due to the reduced labor needs of mechanized industrial farming.
Tod may be found on ASU’s main campus at Jonesboro, Arkansas or working at ASU’s museum located in the former Southern Tenant Farmers Union building at Tyronza, Arkansas. The union was established in 1934 by black and white farmers and Tyronza businessmen. The men and women of the union demanded fair compensation for farm labor through strikes, marches, and rallies. Their non-violent protests led the way toward labor and civil rights efforts in later decades. This museum is only one of several projects the ASU program is developing to uncover and save the region’s cultural heritage. Other Arkansas Delta heritage sites include Ernest Hemingway’s writing studio, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Home at Piggott; the historic Dyess Colony and Johnny Cash’s childhood home at Dyess; and the 1859 Lakeport Plantation at Lake Village, the only remaining antebellum plantation home in the Delta. Arkansas Delta Byways includes tourism routes through the Delta which are extended through the Great River Road linking 10 states along both sides of the Mississippi River from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s photo: Tod and Rita at a farmers market.--Richard