Work by agents to help bring Arkansas’ reinvigorated peanut industry up to speed and a device that may provide sustainable heating for poultry barns were among the projects and individuals honored with Extension Excellence Awards.

The honors are presented annually by the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

“These awards are an opportunity to showcase the best in the broad range of work done by faculty and staff at the Cooperative Extension Service,” Tony Windham, associate vice president-agriculture-Extension for the university.

This year’s winners:

Diversity Award-- This award goes to Walk Across Arkansas, a project that reflects diversity not only in team composition, but also clients served. Last fall, Walk Across Arkansas counted 52 teams with 355 participants statewide. Over the eight weeks of Walk Across Arkansas, participants walked an astonishing 618-thousand minutes resulting in an estimated healthcare cost savings of more than $60,000.

The winners are:

  • LaVona Traywick, associate professor-gerontology.
  • Donna Rinke, web development associate-Communications.
  • Wilma Lewis, web development associate - Information Technology.
  • Mary Hightower, assistant director-Communications.

Issue Team Award -- This award recognizes exceptional achievement by a team composed of employees from across departmental and county boundaries. Issue teams are formed for a specific project or convened to address a particular issue.

This year’s winner is the peanut production team composed of Randolph County Staff Chair Mike Andrews and Lawrence County Staff Chair Herb Ginn. From fewer than 1,000 acres in 2010, Arkansas’ peanuts have grown to 18,000 acres.

Part of Andrews’ and Ginn’s effort included hosting a peanut production meeting that drew more than 150 farmers from 12 counties and an integrated pest management scouting meeting for industry personnel. Information generated from their efforts has been seen in more than 400 news articles nationwide.

Unit Team-- goes to the Arkansas Row Crop blog. The Wordpress-based blog has drawn more than 126,000 page views since it began in March. It can be found at

Team members are: Tom Barber, Extension weed scientist;Jeremy Ross, soybean agronomist;Jason Kelley,wheat and feed grains agronomist;Soil scientistLeo Espinoza,

Bob Scott,weed scientist (Lonoke);Nathan Slaton,director of the soil testing lab;area agronomist for corn, sorghum Kevin Lawson; soybean and wheat verification coordinators Chris Grimes(based at Keiser) and Steve Kelley(based at Monticello);cotton verification coordinatorBlake McClelland,rice verification coordinatorRalph Mazzanti(based at Stuttgart), ExtensionentomologistsGus Lorenz(based at Lonoke)and Glenn Studebaker(based at Keiser), nematologist Terry Kirkpatrick (based at Hope), Kim Rowe,program associate-plant pathology (based at Hope); Extension economists Scott Stiles(based at Jonesboro) and Bob Stark(based at Monticello), andMary Hightower, assistant director of communications.

Innovation Award-- This award recognizes new thinking or processes that enhance Extension’s mission and/or operations. It recognizes departures -- entirely new ways to approach a problem -- rather than rewarding successes achieved using established approaches or technologies. Samy Sadaka, assistant professor and Extension engineer, earned this honor for the development of a novel auger gasification/pyrolizer system to convert bio-renewable resources to syngas or bio-oil.

Cally Shore,a 4-H program assistant in Randolph County, was winner of Extension’s

Early Career-Classified award. In her three years on the job, Shore organized seven new 4-H clubs. She also raised the program’s profile by working in schools, leading her to more than triple the number of contacts between 2009 and 2011. One of those new clubs is called Investigation Discovery -- a forensic science club for 10th graders.

The Early Career-Non-Classified winner was Jessica Vincent, who is now a Garland County agent. Vincent started with Extension as the coordinator for the Body Walk program. Jessica managed all aspects of the program including the budget, billing and even replacing or fixing parts when they became broken or worn out. In addition, Jessica found new ways of marketing Body Walk and revised the Body Walk curriculum. She later became coordinator for the AgrAbility grant, which helps Arkansans with injuries or disabilities stay doing the work they love.

The Early Career-County Agent winner Trish Ouei, an urban stormwater educator in Benton County, has kept the issue in the public eye at multiple levels. At the elementary school level, she helped design and coordinate the construction of four rain gardens; a project that includes group training, on-site design and plant selection. She developed a collection of resources being used by other organizations.

Trish also worked with multiple organizations to create the Beaver Lake LakeSmart project, which teaches residents along the lake’s shore ways to guarantee the lake’s water quality. She co-authored the LakeSmart Training Manual and Evaluation Materials, which received the state, regional, and national award for best training manual by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

For more information about the Cooperative Extension Service contact your county office or visit