New Addition to Judd Hill Farmers’ Market Opens
story and photos by Audrey Poff
A new addition to the Judd Hill Farmers’ Market on the A-State campus is being described as a “game changer” for students, faculty and the community.
Officials from Arkansas State University and the College of Agriculture celebrated the expansion of the Judd Hill Farmers’ Market on Aug. 21 with a ribbon-cutting for the new building. The new facility includes indoor spaces, classroom facilities and other amenities to significantly expand the operations of the Judd Hill Farmers’ Market.
“Since 1994, Arkansas State has been the beneficiary of over $2.8 million in support from Judd Hill Foundation Trust,” said A-State Chancellor Todd Shields. “The positive influence across the campus can be seen in infrastructure, faculty development, in research and in student success. In fact, the Judd Hill Building is where the ASU System and Foundation are housed. There are numerous scholarships and a newly established Judd Hill Scholars Endowment in the College of Agriculture.
“Through many, many years they have supported almost every area of campus. From nursing and health professions to the Delta National Small Prints Exhibit, the Johnny Cash Music Festival and The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Restoration Project, there really isn’t any area on the campus where the Judd Hill Foundation has not had a very positive influence on faculty, students and buildings, such as this great new facility.”
The Judd Hill Foundation’s combined support for planning and construction provided more than $2.4 million for the facility expansion, which doubles the space at the market, according to A-State officials. In recognition of gifts in support of College of Agriculture projects, the Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees named the facility the Judd Hill Farmers’ Market in March 2021.
The new facility extends the ability of the operation to be open more weekends per year, as well as provide the opportunity for student-based products, educational outreach and other agri-business entrepreneurial projects to have a home on the A-State University Farm.
The building is adjacent to the previously erected open-air structure. The market began operations in 2006 and quickly developed into a seasonal fixture of Northeast Arkansas.
The Judd Hill Foundation was created in 1991 after the death of Mrs. Esther Hill Chapin to establish a legacy for her family. Named for her father, the Judd Hill Foundation’s mission is to create a perpetual benefit to the family’s native Poinsett County and the region, particularly through supporting educational and agricultural pursuits. Former ASU System Board of Trustees member Mike Gibson has served as the trustee of the Judd Hill Foundation since its inception.
Gibson said his involvement with the project began three years ago when Dr. Mickey LaTour, dean of the College of Agriculture, asked for a meeting about a future project that he had in mind.
“He presented a plan to expand the existing farmers’ market … which would include a new indoor building where the community could purchase fresh, local produce, arts and crafts, and an ASU brand of meat,” said Gibson. “Well, that got my attention. Dr. LaTour wanted to teach not just agriculture, but also how to market and sell those products. He wanted a setting in which the school of agriculture could teach something about entrepreneurship.”
Gibson said the new building is entirely the vision of LaTour and the many people who have helped him fulfill this vision.
“You know there are a lot of people who will never come here to this campus for a concert, a football game or a basketball game, but they’ll come here for fresh food,” said Gibson. “We really hope this building will be a gathering place, not just for ASU, but for this entire community and region.”
“It was no easy feat to get to this point, but together, we accomplished this major achievement,” said LaTour.
A few years ago, LaTour said an A-State colleague and friend, Dr. Donald “Bud” Kennedy, said he believed the new facility would be a game changer for the College of Agriculture.
“I agree,” he said. “This will be a game changer.”