FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Alongside Garland Avenue, on the highest point overlooking the Arkansas Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences promises to be the new standard for agricultural research and education in Arkansas.
Construction of the new building was stimulated by a $5 million gift from Tyson Foods and the Tyson family to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Thursday, during a dedication ceremony for the new 54,000 square-foot building, John Tyson, Don Tyson's son and chairman of Tyson Foods, pledged an additional $1 million toward the expense of furnishing new laboratories in the center.
Tyson said he learned during conversations just before the dedication that there was still a need to equip some of the labs in the research wing of the building. He pledged the $1 million from the Tyson family and said he hoped other donors would join him in contributing toward the important work that will be done there.
"This is an unexpected addition to their generosity," said Mark Cochran, vice president of agriculture for the University of Arkansas System. "We've got about 40 percent of our lab space that still needs to be finished, so this will help us fill out those laboratories, so we can get more scientists and more graduate students into that research wing."
"We are unexpectedly delighted," Cochran said.
The two-story building's two wings provide modern laboratories and workspace for Division of Agriculture scientists and graduate students, ample meeting space for extension and education programs, and administrative offices for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, which has been based in Fayetteville for more than 125 years.
The need and planning for the building goes back many years, Cochran said
"We're very fortunate to have the relationship we have with the Tyson family and Tyson Foods," Cochran said. "They've been longstanding benefactors of our programs within the Division of Agriculture and Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences."
The new research center is the first building to bear Don Tyson's name, John Tyson said.
"Dad refused to let the company or the family put his name on a building as long as he was living," Tyson said.
Don Tyson died in 2011 at age 80.
"We felt it was important to recognize Dad's contributions to agriculture in Arkansas and his relationship with the Division of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas," John Tyson said.
"We're very proud to have Don Tyson's name on this building," Tyson said. "I believe Dad would have been proud to be associated with this building and the work that will be done in it to benefit Arkansas agriculture."
Leading up to the gift, Tyson representatives met with Division of Agriculture leadership to discuss and begin planning for the new building.
"We wanted to build an iconic research and education building," said Richard Roeder, associate director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the division's research branch.
"Without the generous corporations and families that we have in Arkansas, it would not be possible for the university or the Division of Agriculture to build the buildings that we need to house our research and education programs," Roeder said.
Archie Schaffer, consultant with Tyson Foods and a longtime friend of the Tyson family, said, "We decided that this was a building that was very much needed and important to both Tyson Foods and the poultry industry, but also more broadly to agriculture in general."
"The Division of Agriculture houses most of the ag research that's done in Arkansas," Schaffer said, "and research is critical to our industry and to agriculture in general."
FULFILLING THE LAND GRANT MISSION
"If you think about the three pillars of the land grant mission — research, extension and education," Cochran said, "this facility is going to help us with all three of those mission areas."
Agriculture is the state's largest industry, Cochran said, providing one in five jobs. Arkansas has a diverse agricultural economy that is in the top 20 states for production and receipts for 25 commodities.
"Our three biggest industries within Arkansas agriculture are poultry, rice and forestry products," Cochran said. "These help agriculture serve as the engine for economic growth within the state."
"We're very proud of the Division of Agricultur's contribution and the role that we play in the state's largest industry," Cochran said.
The Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences helps meet the division's need for high-end laboratory space, Cochran said. He added that it also provides ample meeting space that will allow the Division of Agriculture to deliver its research discoveries to the agricultural, rural and urban communities they are meant to benefit.
"This facility will not only enhance our ability to make important research discoveries," Cochran said, "but will also enable us through the meetings, conferences and workshops that will be held in the building, to deliver those research discoveries to those that put them into practice in industry, farms, businesses and other laboratories across the nation."
"It will also be a great forum to educate consumers about the science of agriculture and where our food comes from," Cochran said. "We think this building is going to have a lasting impact not only on Arkansas agriculture but, really, on agriculture worldwide."
Source: University of Arkansas News