Over the coming months, cameras will be rolling in Arkansas rural communities, capturing the rhythms of life and business in the Natural State’s heartland. Through a new partnership with Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas PBS is introducing a new monthly community program called Good Roots that will focus on rural community life and agriculture throughout the state.
Premiering on Friday, April 16, Good Roots will be broadcast on Arkansas PBS and livestreamed on the company’s website. In May, the program will begin airing on the second Friday of each month.
According to Arkansas PBS Chief Content Officer Greg Gerik, the program is a way of spotlighting those unseen stories in the state that help define what makes Arkansas great. For Gerik, Good Roots is a celebration of the Natural State and its people.
“Arkansas was built on a foundation of farming, and it has incredible communities across the state that drive on agriculture and are prospering,” he said. “Arkansas PBS wants to highlight these communities and celebrate the great things that are happening all across Arkansas.”
Arkansas PBS is participating in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s “Coming Home: Connecting to Community” project, which aims to tell local stories about the people and culture of rural America. As a result, the statewide media network had been on the lookout for ways to highlight agriculture and rural communities when Arkansas Farm Bureau approached them with the idea of rebooting a previous program, Agri Arkansas, which ran from 2014 to 2017. The timing, Gerik said, was “really fortuitous” for Arkansas PBS, and the two organizations hit the ground running with the project.
Arkansas Farm Bureau board president Rich Hillman said in a statement,“Arkansas Farm Bureau is dedicated to sharing the critical role agriculture plays in our lives and economy. Arkansas is built on the foundation of farming, and that story is much more complicated than what is often portrayed. We hope this partnership with Arkansas PBS will help us fulfill our mission of telling the deeper stories of what it’s like to live, grow and succeed in our great state.”
When deciding on the name of the project, the teams settled on Good Roots, which evokes the strength of the rural communities and the agricultural products that the program focuses on.
Gerik said, “You’ve heard the phrase, ‘Those are good roots,’ or ‘They have some good roots.’ Well, Arkansas has good roots. Arkansas has amazing stories, amazing people. We have a key contributor to agriculture in this country and this will allow us to tell those stories.”
Gerik hopes the Good Roots program creates a new experience for Arkansas PBS viewers, exposing them to new ideas and stories. Programming is still being developed, and Gerik called the process an experiment to find what will resonate and be helpful to Arkansas PBS’ audience.
“For right now, it’ll be a combination of interviews, stories and features. There may be more panel-type discussion about particular hot topics,” he said. “But we’re really excited about the way it’s flowing. I don’t know that we’ve ever done this before, not knowing more about what we want to show.”
For now, the broadcaster is starting small with one segment per month, covering one topic, but there could be more on the horizon for Good Roots. As Arkansas PBS gains more content partners and underwriters, Gerik hopes to see the program expand to cover more ground and more stories in Arkansas. “We’re still discovering. One of the great things about where we are today, we’re kind of inventing and creating it as we go,” he said.
Once Good Roots kicks off, Gerik hopes to see the program spark conversations about rural communities and what Arkansas PBS CEO Courtney Pledger called the “agricultural backbone of the state.”
“We will highlight why agriculture matters, why rural communities are the backbone of our country and are how we sustain ourselves. It’s exciting that we are now able to tell some of these stories and highlight some of these amazing people,” Gerik said. “That’s really at the heart of it, and Good Roots is about good people, good harvest, good communities and people that are helping build our society.”
Good Roots segments, as well as bonus footage, will be featured on all Arkansas PBS digital platforms, and the media network is planning a blog series to accompany the segments on the Arkansas PBS website, MyArkansasPBS.org.