WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – Williams Baptist University (WBU) officially broke ground Friday, April 8 on a 4,200 square foot United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified meat processing facility that is scheduled to open later in 2022.
The facility will help address the shortage of meat processors in the state of Arkansas and help train and educate new workers within the field. The facility will also provide jobs to students in WBU’s Williams Works initiative, which gives them the opportunity to work there through college to receive a debt-free degree.
The operation plans to harvest 20-25 animals per week and will help bring relief to many in the region who find it difficult to get into a processing facility in a timely manner. The need for additional meat processors in the state of Arkansas was evident prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and this shortage has become more pronounced in the ensuing months.
The Arkansas Beef Council, in conjunction with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, conducted a survey of beef producers that revealed commercial cow-calf producers will be in demand in the future.
In addition to the economic benefits of the processing plant, it will also serve as an educational facility to train others in meat processing who can create additional facilities throughout the state. The certification program will be open to any interested persons, including those not enrolled in degree programs at WBU.
Students in the Williams Works initiative will also see the greatest benefit, as they will provide much of the workforce needed to run the facility.
Williams Corner Store
Additionally, WBU held a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Friday, April 8 for its new Williams Corner store that features produce and bedding flowers, grown by the students at WBU’s Eagle Farms, and other gifts.
Williams Corner officially opened in March and recently held its grand opening ceremony. Many of the items for sale in the store were grown and selected with the help of Williams Works students, who help run and manage the store’s day-to-day operations.
“The opening of Williams Corner is another step in our Williams Works initiative and serves as an outlet for the produce and other goods grown on Eagle Farms,” WBU President Dr. Stan Norman said. “We are thankful to all the community leaders and members and the WBU Board of Trustees who gathered with us today for this historic day. We thank you all for your generosity and continued support of Williams Works and Williams Baptist University.”
The store serves as the official outlet for produce grown by Williams Works students on Eagle Farms. Much of the produce begins in the greenhouses and is transferred to the fields to finish its growing process. The store currently offers tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and pecans that were picked and shelled by the students.
Strawberries will be available for purchase in May and watermelons and cantaloupes will be ready for purchase in the summer. Other vegetables will also be sold as they ripen throughout the year.
The store also features other gift items and seasonal options to suit the needs of anyone looking to purchase a gift or home décor item. In addition, the store has bedding flowers for purchase based on availability.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response of the community in our first-month,” Store Manager Angela Flippo said. “We will continue to stock our store with items and very soon we will have fresh produce from Eagle Farms that will be for sale. We hope everyone will continue to shop with us and check in regularly to see the new merchandise we will rotate.”
Williams Corner helps support students in the Williams Works program. Williams Corner is located at 3894 Hwy 67N in Walnut Ridge, next to the entrance of Williams Baptist University off highway 67.
For more information on Williams Corner visit the store’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/WilliamsCornerStore.
Students in Williams Works work 16 hours a week through the fall and spring semesters and in exchange for their work hours, have their cost of tuition and much of their fees covered. In addition, students have the opportunity to work through the summer to have their room and board covered for the following year, giving them a real opportunity to graduate debt-free. For more information on the Williams Works program visit www.williamsbu.edu/williamsworks
This article was originally published at williamsbu.edu.