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The social entrepreneurship landscape

The landscape of entrepreneurialism in Arkansas is rapidly evolving. A key element in its development is the concept of social entrepreneurship, or the idea that a business can make a profit while being committed to bringing about positive social change.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, the Clinton School of Public Service, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and the Office of Entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville are partnering to host the 2015 Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp here at the Institute on Petit Jean Mountain the weekend of July 17-19. Teams of aspiring social entrepreneurs went through a competitive selection process to come to the boot camp, and they'll spend the weekend getting valuable input from a host of social entrepreneurship experts, both from Arkansas and beyond.

But we're kicking off the weekend with a public-facing event. Steve Clark, co-founder of Noble Impact - an organization that trains young social entrepreneurs at the high school level - will deliver a keynote address to kick off the Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp. But instead of Steve simply talking about his perspectives on SE (though that would be sufficiently spectacular), we decided to use a different format, and we invited Roby Brock, editor of Talk Business & Politics, to conduct an interview with Steve.

Roby's interview of Steve, which will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17, is free and open to the public. We just ask that you register in advance so we can manage the numbers. You can register for free for the Steve Clark/Roby Brock keynote by clicking here.

The teams of aspiring social entrepreneurs will be on hand, as will some of our mentors, so it should be a great time to network and learn more about this important topic.

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Arkansas MarketMaker highlights local food, brings producers and consumers together

Well-known farmer and author Joel Salatin says, “This magical, marvelous food on our plate, this sustenance we absorb, has a story to tell. It has a journey. It leaves a footprint. It leaves a legacy. To eat with reckless abandon, without conscience, without knowledge; folks, this ain’t normal.”

Millions of Americans agree with Salatin, and as a result, the local food movement has grown in the last decade. Beyond just seeking out local food, Americans are also starting to show a real interest in where all of their food comes from. But this comes with challenges.

The challenge for consumers and food-related businesses, like restaurants or grocers, is finding sources for their food. The challenge for producers, like farmers and farm businesses of all sizes, is finding markets and consumers of their products. Arkansas MarketMaker is a solution to these challenges.

MarketMaker is a user-friendly database operated out of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office. It is intended to help market and connect growers, food producers, retailers, or anyone else with a food-related business to each other and to consumers. Developed by Darlene and Richard Knipe via the University of Illinois Extension Office, the database is used in more than 20 states. Arkansas joined the network in 2010.

So how does it work? Anyone with a food-related business can create a profile with details about what the business does, its location, contact information and other details. MarketMaker then then maps each location and allows users to search by location or business type to find the products they want. For example, in Arkansas a consumer can search for “Tourism” sites and find the Post Family Vineyard in Altus or J & P Ranch in Scott.

As Arkansas MarketMaker program director Beverly Dunaway says, the more participation the database has, the more effective it is for all users, and in the long run, the better it is for the agriculture industry in Arkansas. Farmers probably have the biggest challenge in using the system as they often work long hours and simply do not have the time or energy to devote to marketing their products. MarketMaker makes this aspect of business development fairly simple for busy people. It also consolidates all of their information into one profile so they don’t have to create profiles on multiple directories or databases elsewhere.

Another benefit of participating in this multi-state network is having access to food businesses in other states. If a restaurant in Louisiana is looking for regional produce, it may find a grower in south Arkansas or Mississippi. This type of network can also be a real boon for the farmer who wants to expand his or her sales nationally or for retailers who want to provide regional specialties in their stores or restaurants.

Growers, food producers, retailers, or anyone else with a food-related business is invited to create a profile at https://ar.foodmarketmaker.com/. Creating an account is free, and Dunaway is happy to help people use Arkansas MarketMaker to its greatest effect. The database is also free to consumers to use to track down their favorite peaches or fish to use at their next family reunion or to find a great corn maze in autumn.

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Switch up your routine with Mediterranean cuisine

Has your weekly menu been stuck in a rut? Scared to have more than salt and pepper in your spice rack? Well, now’s the time to change all that. You can learn how at Made From Scratch:  Mediterranean Cuisine. 

On Tuesday, June 2, at 6 p.m., Certified Executive Chef Robert Hall will demonstrate how to make traditional Mediterranean fare. We’re not talking the Mediterranean diet that’s become popular recently. We’re talking food from the region around the Mediterranean Sea. Think Greece, Sicily and Morocco. Think tapenade, tabouleh and baklava. 

Chef Hall will show you how to make a variety of robust, flavorful foods. Foods that are rich with herbs and spices. And he’ll do it with ingredients you can find close to home. Think cinnamon, lemon zest and mint. Think cucumbers, yogurt and walnuts. 

During the two-hour class, you’ll sample delicious food and learn proper culinary practices and techniques. All of which you can then replicate in your own kitchen. It’s simple, healthy food made fun. 

So switch up your routine today. Tickets are $15. You can register online or call 1-866-972-7778 (toll free). 

Made From Scratch is part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute culinary program series. Upcoming Made From Scratch classes include Making Nutritious Delicious (June 16), Asian Cuisine (June 30) and Preserving (July 28). See the Classes & Events page for a full calendar.

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The best ways to take in Shakespeare

As the daughter of a poet and English professor, I was raised on Shakespeare. By the time I was 8 or 9, I knew Romeo’s balcony soliloquy by heart, earnestly asking “What light through yonder window breaks?” My dad took me to film screenings at his college, where I saw Franco Zefferelli’s timeless film version of the star-crossed sweethearts, and sat breathless and agog through Roman Polanski’s gory and macabre Macbeth. We went to drama festivals where I laughed as hard at A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s hapless Nick Bottom as at any of my favorite sitcoms on TV, and fell in love with the feisty Katharina, from Taming of the Shrew, the way other girls my age did with Jo of Little Women, or Anne of Green Gables.

Long before the Bard’s plays were required reading at school, I knew them as pure entertainment – just as Shakespeare intended them to be. And though I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of his written words on the page, and the additional meaning that deep reading can reveal, I ardently believe that any reading of Shakespeare’s plays is hollow unless the work is also seen performed.

This June, WRI is facilitating both, with an in-depth seminar on The Merchant of Venice to be held Friday, June 12, through Saturday, June 13; and an outdoor performance of As You Like It by the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Saturday, June 20.

The seminar is open to anyone willing to read, discuss, and think deeply about the text. An offering of the prestigious St. John’s College Great Books program, it’s a unique opportunity to engage with a classic work and discover its relevance to modern issues. Participants will be led through two, two-hour small group sessions by Dr. Victoria Mora, vice president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M. The program will include accommodations and meals, and materials will be provided.

As You Like It will be staged outdoors, my very favorite way to experience Shakespeare. The first time I saw The Tempest – the story of shipwrecked castaways – was on a wind-swept Atlantic coast, and it was unforgettable. What an equally inspired choice to use the beautiful natural landscape of Petit Jean Mountain as the fabled Forest of Arden for As You Like It. All the world a stage, indeed.

The family-friendly performance, part of the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, is free and open to the public. It’s a great way to introduce kids to Shakespeare, or to acquaint yourself with one of his romantic comedies. But first and foremost, it’s going to be loads of fun. See you there!

Arkansas Women Blogger member Kyran Pittman has been chronicling her "big, little life" online and in print since 2006. Along the way, she became a contributing editor to Good Housekeeping magazine, where her work frequently appears; and the author of a memoir, "Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life," published in 2010 to critical acclaim (including a 4/4 star review in People magazine). A Canadian ex-pat, she lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband and three sons, where she continues to tell her "story of us" at PlantingDandelions.com, a Babble Top 100 Mom Blog.

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Chef's Tasting Dinners: more than a gastronomic experience

Food is a powerful thing. In the same way one rich, creamy spoonful of chicken and dumplings carries me straight back to my grandmother’s kitchen table, it can also transport me to places I’ve never been. Capturing the essence of time and place through food, that’s the idea behind the Chef's Tasting Dinners offered as part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute culinary program series.

Intrigued? You should be. Executive Chef Robert Hall’s tasting dinners are masterful. Guests will enjoy 15-20 tasting courses, each crafted to highlight an exotic location, a unique time or a distinctive theme. And most courses will be expertly paired with wine.

Wait, what?

Yes, 15-20 tasting courses spread over four hours. Think flavorful, sophisticated bites enhanced with the perfect small sip.

Think amazing.

During the age of aristocrats, multicourse meals were commonplace, a way to prove social status and make use of massive 24-piece silver place settings. Chef Hall follows the traditional French course flow in his tasting dinners (even when the menu isn’t French). In other words, there’s a rhyme and reason for the flow of food. Appetizer followed by soup followed by eggs followed by pasta followed by… see what I mean?  It’ll be like dining at Downton Abbey, only you’ll be high atop peaceful Petit Jean Mountain wearing more comfortable clothes.              

A native Arkansan and graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, Hall got his food start as a prep cook in Conway at A Place To Eat (now closed).

“I needed a job,” he said. “Cooking got in my blood, and I fell in love with it.”

After such a modest start, Chef Hall has built an impressive resume that includes periods at The Excelsior Hotel (Little Rock, Ark.), Sundance Resort (Provo, Utah) and working as an executive chef for the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing. He also owned his own restaurant and catering company. But even with such a remarkable bio, Chef Hall is not a fancy pants. Guests of his kitchen quickly realize he’s a regular, down-to-earth sort of guy who’s passionate about food and eager to share cooking tips and technique.

Chef’s Tasting Dinners are held in the Institute’s culinary classroom, with many dishes prepared live, demonstration-style. As each course is plated and served, Chef Hall will provide a brief history lesson explaining the flavors and components of the dish and how it embodies the evening’s theme. Infotainment, he calls it. Information plus entertainment. You will learn something. Chef Hall is a natural teacher.

Tickets, priced at $235 per person and sold only in pairs, include overnight accommodations (one room with a king- or two queen-size beds) and continental breakfast the following morning. Whether you seek a romantic getaway or a fun girls’ weekend, Chef Hall’s tasting dinners provide much more than a gastronomic experience.

Tasting dinners scheduled through the end of the year include Food in Film (June 13), Tasting Tour of Italy (September 26), and Christmas Around the World (December 18). In addition to the Chef’s Tasting Dinners, the Institute offers other culinary programs such as Culinary Basic Training and Made from Scratch classes. Check the calendar of events to register today, or call toll free 866-972-7778.

Bon appétit!

Arkansas Women Bloggers member Talya Tate Boerner is a Delta girl who grew up making mud pies on her family’s cotton farm in Northeast Arkansas. After thirty years in Texas, she has returned to the state she loves, settling in Northwest Arkansas. Talya draws inspiration from nature and appreciates the history behind food, family, places and objects. She blogs at Grace, Grits and Gardening and has been published in Arkansas Review, Front Porch and several on-line publications. Talya believes most any dish can be improved with a side of collard greens.

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All the world's a stage

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (AST) has been bringing professional-level Shakespeare productions and musicals to Central Arkansas as the only professional Shakespeare theater company in Arkansas since its first festival in 2007. This year is no different with full productions of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and The Merry Wives of Windsor, a family friendly production of As You Like It, and a musical production of Fiddler on the Roof.

The performances take place in a few different places around Conway and Little Rock, with some shows even being performed in Bentonville and El Dorado, both indoors and out. You can check out the full schedule and play details over at the AST website.

After hosting an AST production of A Comedy of Errors last year, it was clear to us at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute how much enthusiasm there is for performing arts in the state. One of the wonderful things about AST is that it gives Arkansans a chance to experience professional theater from both sides of the curtain. Just as there are shows in their schedule that fit different budgets and tastes, there are many positions available within AST that attract student interns from local colleges and universities and Broadway and off-Broadway talent alike. All of that enthusiasm and talent is why we are thrilled to host a performance of As You Like It on June 20 here at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. We’re looking forward to another great crowd.

Speaking of As You Like It, did you know that it is one of 18 plays that we wouldn’t have today if not for the First Folio? The First Folio is the first published collection of Shakespeare’s plays, put together after his death by two of his fellow actors. If you catch As You Like It here or at the other venues in the state, and you would like a chance to see the book that made it possible, AST and the University of Central Arkansas will be host to a touring First Folio exhibit in 2016 featuring an original copy of the important collection.

As you can see, there are a lot of options for you to enjoy this summer. We hope you’ll get out there and take in one of the great performances happening around the state; we’ll be sure to save you a seat here on Petit Jean.

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Business workshop to help landowners expand and earn extra income

There’s a business school maxim that says “failing to plan is planning to fail.”  When landowners, farmers and hunting clubs try to figure out how to earn extra income and offer other activities for visitors, the plan is the first and most important step.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is helping landowners interested in branching out and earning extra income get their plan started at a Business Workshop for Landowners. The workshop, being held on Thursday, May 14, will provide an opportunity for landowners to seek new and innovative ways to earn extra money.

No one in Arkansas has done a better job of doing just that than workshop speaker Mike Mills, who founded the Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC) in 1976. What began as a business renting canoes to those seeking adventure on the waters of the Buffalo National River is now a thriving, year-round operation that includes a lodge, 19 cabins, the Buffalo Outdoor Center Store and a zipline canopy tour, as well as raft and kayak rentals.

BOC is located in Newton County, which is the largest land mass county in the state yet has the smallest tax base because most of the land is owned by various government entities. The BOC has a significant impact on the county, providing jobs for 35 full-time employees and eight seasonal employees.

Mills will share his wisdom on how taking little steps every year encourages growth, and how his willingness to adapt and expand has led to his best years as a business that not only has strengthened his family (who helps him run BOC) but also his community and tourism in Arkansas.

Learn from Others

Five years ago, Dwayne and LuDonna Parsons started Farmland Adventures in Springdale, Arkansas. “Wherever we go, we try to learn from others who have been down the road we are on. Talking to people and hearing their stories has helped us to not make some of the agritourism mistakes they have made and created a trusted group of advisors that are interested in supporting us.”

Dwayne Parsons will speak at the workshop about the how and why of their business, the challenges, the benefits and the many things they have learned that attendees can avoid and use to move forward on diversifying and growing their businesses.

The Nitty Gritty

Attendees will also learn about recreational enterprise potential; management for natural resources like waterfowl and nuisance wildlife like wild hogs; ways to market their enterprise; cost-share programs that are available; and ways to reduce their liability. The workshop is being held as a partnership between Mississippi State University, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

Registration is $30 per person or $50 per couple and includes lunch, breaks and a collection of reference materials. For more information about the workshop or to register online, visit www.rockefellerinstitute.org/land. Register soon, as the deadline is tomorrow, May 8.

Come join us on beautiful Petit Jean Mountain.

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As you make your summer plans ...

Between the scenic views, wonderful camping, hiking and fishing spots, you probably don't need any more reasons to visit Petit Jean Mountain this summer. But we're giving you some anyway.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute will host five programs and a number of culinary classes over the next 75 days. It all kicks off with the Conference on Normal Tissue Radiation Effects and Countermeasures. That translates to the acronym CONTREC. CONTREC, which kicked off yesterday and continues through Saturday, is an international gathering of scientists who work in the field of radiation injury research. What is radiation injury, you might ask? It's when the tissue in your body is damaged because of exposure to radiation.

The researchers coming to CONTREC will present findings related to three types of radiation injury: cancer treatment (the most common), radiation emergencies (think dirty bombs or nuclear meltdowns) and space travel. Yes, space travel.

It just so happens that we have one of the world's premier radiation injury institutions right here in our Arkansas backyard at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Who knew? Well, UAMS' chancellor, Dr. Dan Rahn, did. And last year he helped us connect the dots to work with Dr. Martin Hauer-Jensen, the director of UAMS' Division of Radiation Health and a worldwide leader in radiation injury research. Dr. Hauer-Jensen has brought in scientists from all over the globe (Switzerland, Australia and the United Kingdom, to name a few) for CONTREC. This conference is NOT open to the public, but we hope to share some of what is discussed through our social media feeds, so keep an eye on @Rockefeller on Twitter later this week.

We go from tackling a health care issue of global magnitude this week to helping spur local agricultural and economic development next week. On Thursday, May 14, we're hosting a Business Workshop for Landowners. It's only $30 (or $50 per couple - cost covers lunch and snacks, too) for a full day of instruction about how to take the farm or timberland you own and turn it into a profitable business, whether through starting a hunting or fishing club, an agritourism venture or a host of other opportunities.

This program was developed by the Natural Resources Enterprise folks at Mississippi State University. Adam Tullos and Daryl Jones are walking encyclopedias when it comes to land management for business purposes, and we're excited to have them here. We're also partnering with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and they'll bring their Arkansas-specific expertise to the workshop. The registration deadline is Friday (May 8), so sign up soon.

June is Shakespeare month here at the Institute. On June 12-13, we're hosting a St. John's College Great Books seminar, in which participants will read the Bard's The Merchant of Venice ahead of time and then be guided in discussion of the text by Dr. Victoria Mora, a vice president at St. John's and an expert in classic literature. Then the following Saturday, June 20, we're hosting the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's performance of As You Like It. The performance will be an abridged (1-hour), family-friendly version of the play, which includes one of Shakespeare's most famous lines, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." The free performance, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, literally, will be held on the Institute's front lawn. It makes for a great family outing.

And finally, we're gearing up for our Social Entrepreneurship Boot Camp in July. We'll have more details later, but suffice it to say it's shaping into a pretty spectacular program. The keynote of that event, an interview of Steve Clark conducted by Roby Brock, will be free and open to the public.

And we haven't even touched on our amazing culinary classes, including Table for Two (still some openings for summer classes), Chef's Tasting Dinner, Made From Scratch and Basic Training.

There's something for everyone at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute this summer. We'll see you soon.

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