Hail Destroys Eagle Farms Crops

A massive hailstorm tore through Lawrence County and other parts of Northeast Arkansas on April 15, resulting in the near total loss of spring crops planted at WBU’s Eagle Farms. The hail devastated a full acre of strawberries, which were within three weeks of harvest, as well as a wide range of other crops.


The storm produced hail as large as golf balls, accumulating six inches deep across the Williams campus. The storm also created a verified funnel cloud near Walnut Ridge. No injuries were reported, and all buildings were left structurally sound. However, numerous vehicles and all building roofs across campus were damaged, leaving the university to pay substantial insurance deductibles for repairs to school property.


“The biggest blow at Eagle Farms was the loss of our strawberry crop,” said Dr. Brett Cooper, who supervises the Williams Works initiative.


“Strawberries are a high demand crop that produce a strong profit margin, and this year’s crop was looking great. We estimate the loss of strawberries, coupled with the loss of the other crops, to be about $42,000 in revenue. That’s money that would have gone toward scholarships.”


Cooper said before the storm hit, Williams Works students had planned to start harvesting strawberries in early May. The intense hail also stripped blackberries, blueberries and raspberries of their foliage and buds, effectively eliminating production from those plants this year.


“The hail also destroyed all of the annual vegetables we had planted, such as squash, okra, peppers, cucumbers and produce like that,” he said. “At least with annual crops like those we were able to replant and still get a crop, albeit a late one. But with all our berries, the year’s crop is lost.”


There was good news to report after the storm, most notably the lack of injuries. It hit on Good Friday, so most students had traveled home for Easter and were off campus. And two new greenhouses at Eagle Farms were, remarkably, undamaged.


However, the storm took a financial toll.


“Between lost revenue on the farm and deductibles on our insurance claims, this storm has proven costly to Williams,” said WBU President Dr. Stan Norman. “Our insurers have worked diligently to assess the damage and work through the process of claims and repairs, but costs from events like this nearly always exceed what insurance covers. This is what we are encountering in the aftermath of this storm.”


The president expressed his gratitude to supporters who have helped fill the financial void left by the hailstorm.


“We are so thankful to supporters who have given at this time to help offset our storm losses,” Norman said. “God has used WBU’s supporters in a special way through this ordeal, providing gifts that helped the university monetarily, but also were a big encouragement to us. We appreciate them deeply.”


Those who would like to support WBU as it recovers from the hailstorm can do so online at williamsbu.edu/ give and type “Hail Recovery” in the “name of project” line.