Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame to Induct Five

Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame to Induct Five
Mark Simmons (Northwest Arkansas Council)

The Arkansas Farm Bureau on Tuesday announced five people who will be inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame at its 29th annual luncheon, set for 11:30 a.m. March 3 at Little Rock's Embassy Suites Hotel.

The newest class includes forester Allen Bedell of Hot Springs, former state Sen. Neely Cassady of Nashville, rice farmer Gary Sebree of Stuttgart, poultry company executive Mark Simmons of Siloam Springs and the late Bobby Wells, a plant breeder who developed many varieties of rice that have positively impacted Arkansas farmers.

The new inductees will bring to 158 the number of those honored by the hall of fame.

Bedell was a long-time forester for Georgia-Pacific in Fordyce and owned whole-tree chipping operations Circle B. Logging and Quality Stand Density Control Inc. He is a former chairman of the Arkansas Forestry Commission, a past president of the Arkansas Forestry Association, an organizer of the Arkansas Timber Producers Association, serves as the forestry representative on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture board and helped start the Log a Load For Kids program.

Cassady took over his father’s hatchery at the age of 18 and expanded it into a vertically integrated poultry company. He built and sold two companies that are now part of Pilgrim’s and Tyson Foods. He was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1982 and served for 14 years. Cassady was president of the Arkansas Poultry Federation, served on the Tyson Foods Board of Directors and was a long-time member of the Central Baptist College Board of Trustees.

Sebree, a third-generation rice farmer, spent 43 years as a farmer representative on the Producers Rice Mill board of directors, 24 of those as chairman. USA Rice presented the 2016 Rice Lifetime Achievement Award to him. He was on the first Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, chairman of the USA Rice Producers Group and chairman of the USA Rice Federation.

Simmons has been chairman of the board for Simmons Foods since 1987 and was named president in 1974, following the death of his father. The company has grown from a single plant with roughly $20 million in sales and 350 employees to approximately $1.4 billion in sales and nearly 6,000 employees in more than 20 facilities. He was also a founding member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, serves on the board of trustees at John Brown University and is a board member of the Walton Family Charitable Support Trust. 

Wells was a world-renowned expert on rice production, with special emphasis on rice nutrition and soil fertility. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas in 1964, he worked for two years as an assistant professor at Murray State University in Kentucky. Wells then spent 16 years at UA’s Rice Research Station in Stuttgart before moving to the Fayetteville campus in 1982. He received numerous education and research awards. Wells passed away on Dec. 22, 1996.