LITTLE ROCK — Five people whose leadership and service have brought distinction to the state’s largest industry will be inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in March, the Arkansas Farm Bureau said Tuesday.
The newest class of honorees 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, who was a plant breeder.
The five will be honored at the 29th annual Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame induction luncheon March 3 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Little Rock.
Bedell was a longtime forester for Georgia-Pacific in Fordyce and owned two whole-tree chipping operations, Circle B Logging and Quality Stand Density Control. He is a former chairman of the Arkansas Forestry Commission, a past president of the Arkansas Forestry Association and current forestry representative on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture board. He has an undergraduate degree in forestry from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in forest management from Yale.
Cassady took over his father’s hatchery at the age of 18. He built and sold two poultry companies that continue today as part of Pilgrim’s and Tyson Foods. He was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1982 and served the people of southwest Arkansas for 14 years. He is a former president of the Arkansas Poultry Federation, a former member of the Tyson Foods board of directors and a longtime member of 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. He was on the first Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board and served as chairman of the USA Rice Producers Group and the USA Rice Federation. He attended Hendrix College majoring in chemistry/pre-med, but had to leave due to tuberculosis, leading to his life’s work on the farm.
Simmons has been chairman of the board of Simmons Foods since 1987. He first joined the family business in 1968 after graduating from the University of Arkansas. He was named president in 1974, following the death of his father. He was 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, who died in 1996, was a world-renowned expert on rice production and worked closely with others in the rice cultivation improvement program in Arkansas and adjoining states. 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. He then came to UA’s Rice Research Station in Stuttgart, where he spent 16 years before moving to the Fayetteville campus in 1982.