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Ag Hall inductees made their mark on state’s largest industry

26th annual luncheon set for March 8 at Little Rock Embassy Suites

2/28/2014 at 8:49 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame will induct six individuals whose leadership and service have brought distinction to Arkansas agriculture, the state’s largest industry.

The group will be honored at the 26th annual induction luncheon, 11:30 a.m., March 7 in the Ambassador Ballroom of Little Rock’s Embassy Suites Hotel. Luncheon tickets are $35 each and are available by calling (501) 228-1470 or email

The inductees are R. Marion Berry of Gillette (Arkansas County), O.H. “Doogie” Darling of Crossett (Ashley County), Leroy Isbell of England (Lonoke County), Ruben H. Johnson of Magazine (Logan County), Keith Lusby of Fayetteville (Washington County) and J. Keith Smith of Hot Springs (Garland County).

R. Marion Berry, 71, former presidential adviser to President William H. Clinton and former member of The United States House of Representatives. During his time in Washington, D.C., Berry promoted agriculture worldwide. Among his greatest accomplishments, Berry served on the House Agriculture Committee during the writing of the 2002 farm bill.
“I am honored and pleased to be inducted into the Arkansas Ag Hall of Fame,” Berry stated.

Former Chief of Staff Chad Causey worked closely with Berry during that time. Causey witnessed Berry’s aspirations. "In the years to come, the Cuban embargo will fade into history along with other bygone vestiges of the Cold War. When it finally happens, Marion Berry probably won't be mentioned in that story, but he should be,” Causey said. “During his time in Congress, Berry tirelessly championed the cause for direct cash sales of agriculture products to Cuba. It was his early effort in bringing together human rights groups and the agriculture industry that began the erosion of the embargo."

O.H. “Doogie” Darling
, 85, retired forester of Georgia-Pacific Corporation. Darling has been revered as one of the most respected leaders in forestry for five decades. The former commissioner of the Arkansas Forestry Commission managed 3 million acres of Georgia-Pacific’s timberland at the peak of his career. Darling was one of the first pioneers of a landowner assistance program that provided management advice and forestry services to southern Arkansas farmers struggling to make ends meet following the Depression and World War II.

“My greatest accomplishment was being able to help farmers make their forest productive again after the virgin timber had been cut in the early part of the 20th century which allowed me to watch our forests develop over my 44-year forestry career,” Darling recalled. “It is a great honor to be nominated to the Ag Hall of Fame.”

Leroy Isbell
, 89, owner and operator of Isbell Farms. Isbell pioneered zero grading of rice fields in Arkansas that led to tremendous water savings and many other benefits for agriculture. As a result of zero grading his rice fields and being the first to harvest Japanese rice varieties in the United States, Leroy and his son Chris were recognized as 1996 Rice Farmers of the Year by Rice Farming Magazine.

"One of his most significant accomplishments was developing zero grade rice fields,” Chris Isbell said. “In 1977, my father bought two John Deere elevating scrapers and equipped them with lasers. We began then to level the rice fields without any slope at all. Because of my father's influence, there are now about 100,000 acres of zero grade rice in Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas combined."

In 1993, Chris was awarded the Rice Grower's Meritorious Achievement Award. In his acceptance speech he told the audience, “It was not hard to look like a big man when you were standing on your father's shoulders."

Ruben H. Johnson
, 83, retired employee of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Johnson worked in a variety of capacities while in the UACES, ultimately becoming its interim director. His greatest accomplishment would come with the initiation of the Research Verification Program, a program that took research and applied it to actual farming situations through on-farm demonstrations.

“I hadn’t thought about being considered for this honor,” Johnson said. “I had worked for the extension service with Mr. C. A. Vines who was our director and Mr. Kenneth Bates. They were among the first to be inducted. Since then several in extension have been inducted, so to be included is quite an honor. I take pride in knowing that my staff and I were able to continually provide educational material injected with the latest research available.”

Keith Lusby, 66, retired professor and head of the Department of Animal Science at the University of Arkansas. Lusby was responsible for a major Animal Science Department renovation and building program where more than $10 million was raised during his 16 years as department head. His efforts increased scholarship endowments, enrollment numbers and faculty positions to the program.

“Being accepted in the Arkansas Ag Hall of Fame is the highest honor I have ever received particularly because of all the other people who have received the honor before me” Lusby said. “I’m proud to leave behind the Animal Science Department that is nationally recognized under new leadership that is continuing on to even better things.”

J. Keith Smith, the late pioneer in the development of the broiler industry in south Arkansas which presently employees 38,000 Arkansans and contributes $3.3 billion statewide. Smith was CEO of the Keith Smith Company until 1981 when he appointed his son James Keith Smith, II, as president.

“My father’s greatest accomplishment was building a poultry business that would have its imprint on billions of broilers per year while enabling many Arkansas farmers to thrive on land that had little ability to produce a crop on its own,” stated J. Keith Smith, II. “Today, the company that bears his name has as bright a future as any time in its 65-year history as an ‘Egg-Cellent’ provider of quality broiler hatching eggs both domestically & around the world.”

The mission of the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame is to build public awareness of agriculture and to formally recognize and honor individuals whose selfless efforts have led to significant contributions to agriculture’s impact on the prosperity of local communities and the state. The Agriculture Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Farm Bureau.

Follow the links below for detailed biographies and photos of each inductee:

For more information contact:

Steve Eddington
(501) 228-1383
PO Box 31, Little Rock 72203


Ken Moore
(501) 228-1512
PO Box 31, Little Rock 72203

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