GRADY, ARK (KTHV) -- The state of Arkansas is not known for its sunflowers. But the Arkansas prison system is making a name for itself in the industry.
Davey Farabough is a farmer in south Arkansas. His crop, a bit unusual for the state and his farm land is not where you would think.
The Arkansas Department of Corrections Cummins Unit is the largest prison farm in Arkansas and now the largest producer of sunflowers in the state. Something farm Manager Davey Farabough says was just a test.
"I've been pleasantly surprised with it. We came in, planted it, put one shot of herbicide down and pretty much forgot it.
The unproductive fields the sunflowers now cover are flourishing and Farabough says the crop will save the state cash.
"Sunflowers, we can use it in our feed rations and it's fairly easy to grow, so we decided to give it a chance. In our feed rations we're trying to replace the high cost of soybean mill."
Farabough says it's a more nutritious and cost effective way to feed the state's cattle.
"The soybean mill is costing us over 400 hundred dollars a ton. This crop is probably going to produce me a ton of sunflowers at a rate of about 35 dollars a ton."
Once the sunflowers are harvested, they're sent through a roller mill where the seeds are extracted and put into feed. A crop, Farabough says is fairly unique to the Prison
"We're the only ones that I know of. Everybody else uses them for food plots. We're the only ones I know that's trying to do it commercially. We have all of our own livestock in big numbers, so we're looking for feed and this fits that need."
The fields have also become a roadside attraction along highway 65. So Farabough says he decides to make use of the land along the road as well.
"If it's dry land, it's hard to raise anything, so we put these out there and from time to time they're would be six vehicles stopped. People out there taking pictures of their grandkids and everything else out there. It's been kind of a novelty."
Shedding a golden light on a typically dark place.
"I think we've had enough positive feedback from folks liking the looks of it. I'm anxious to see how these form in our feed ration, but yeah I think we have niche market or a niche place for these every year."
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