As a fourth-generation farmer, Jim Carroll III of Brinkley is as much a part of the rich east Arkansas soil he farms as the world-renowned soybeans it produces.
"Growing up on a family farm and working side-by-side with my brother, father and grandfather all together is something most people can only dream about," said Carroll, a 1974 graduate of Arkansas Tech University. "Working ground that my family has farmed all these years has been a blessing, and now I have a 9-year old grandson that loves the farm. Life is good."
Now, Carroll is giving back to his profession as 2020 chairman of the United Soybean Board.
He is believed to be just the second ATU alumnus to serve as chairman for a national commodity checkoff program. The other is Tom Jones of Pottsville, who was elected 2011 national chairman of the Cattlemen's Beef Board.
"Above all, I think it’s important to do what we can to help each other," said Carroll. "Working to improve profitability and market opportunities for farmers everywhere is a passion I enjoy fulfilling with these strong organizations."
It’s a sense of community that was developed, in part, during Carroll’s time at Arkansas Tech.
Don Sevier, then an assistant coach under Don Dempsey, recruited Carroll to play football for the Wonder Boys. Carroll’s father had attended Tech and the beauty of the Arkansas River Valley drew him to follow in those footsteps.
"Arkansas Tech gave me more than just a book education — it really prepared me for life experiences," said Carroll. "My bachelor’s degree in biological science gave me a head start in farming because it dealt with biology, chemistry, math and research, which I have used every year in farming. The friendships, how to treat people and the connections to people around the state have been even more than helpful as well. All these things together were blessings."
During his senior year at Tech, Carroll and his wife, Rhonda, served as dorm parents at Dulaney Hall.
“It was the most fun, best learning experience, and we have the fondest memories,” said Carroll. “It was like we had inherited a huge new family overnight. It could have been a TV show.”
These days, Carroll is providing leadership for a 78-member board that works on behalf of all 515,000 U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments.
According to the United Soybean Board, the volunteer board members “invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy."
Carroll said his goals for 2020 include increasing innovation in soybean use and maintaining consumer confidence in U.S. farmers’ ability to meet the demand for soybeans.
"My mission, and that of the full board, is to maximize profit opportunities for soybean farmers in Arkansas and across the country," said Carroll. "We have already achieved a great deal for farmers, including the development of the market for biodiesel and getting soybeans used in making useful products like tires, asphalt and even hand sanitizer. But, I am a big believer in keeping our focus and never resting on our successes. We are going to keep working hard."
It's a work ethic that Carroll developed plowing fields with horses and mules as a youth and refined during his educational experiences at Arkansas Tech.
"Even after you get your degree from Arkansas Tech, the learning never stops," said Carroll. "Agriculture is a way of life, and a lot of it cannot be learned from books. It takes experience. In fact, I think agriculture is close to other sciences, and I like to think it’s similar to space travel. There are things in agriculture that are unexplainable and really mysteries only known by God. But we do all the research we can, study the best practices and, through some experimentation of our own, come out with a product that benefits the world. If you like excitement, hard work and being outside, agriculture is where you need to be."