Axios Northwest Arkansas

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It's Thursday.

☀️ It'll be sunny today, though, with highs around 60.

😎 Situational awareness: The Springdale Public Library will give each household up to six pairs of eclipse glasses. Anyone in NWA is eligible.

Today's newsletter is 870 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: A rollercoaster ride for Peterson Farms heir

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Editor's note: This is part four of a series about the sudden suspension of operations by Cooks Venture of Decatur.

Blake Evans, the current leader of Cooks Venture, can be found at the edges of several historical economic storms in Northwest Arkansas.

Why it matters: The closure of the five-year-old poultry company in Decatur is the latest in a series of booms and busts across his career.

State of play: Evans was appointed CEO of Peterson Farms in 2004 at age 29. At the time, the poultry enterprise founded by his late grandfather, Lloyd Peterson, made an estimated $128 million in annual revenue.

The big picture: The global financial crisis of 2008 was a turning point.

  • The recession hit banks with overextended real estate portfolios, but also impacted poultry companies plagued by high grain prices and low demand.
  • Evans was at the intersection of both.

Catch up quick: Evans and his parents held about a 30% stake in ANB Financial of Bentonville when the bank failed in May 2008. All three were on its board of directors, and the family lost an estimated $50 million.

  • The Evans family still owned Peterson Farms but sold its meat-producing and propane operations to Simmons Foods of Siloam Springs later that year.

They also owned Decatur State Bank. Run in part by Evans and his mother, the bank lost money in 2010 and 2011. Chambers Bank of Danville acquired controlling interest of the holding company in 2012.

In 2013, Crystal Lake Farms was launched upon much of the old Peterson Farms land and infrastructure. Evans was a co-owner and president in 2017, when Crystal Lake was sold to West Liberty Farms of Iowa.

  • Under the new ownership, Evans was named a VP.

The latest: West Liberty Foods sold the company in 2018 to Matthew Wadiak, who created Cooks Venture, of which Evans was named an executive vice president.

What they're saying: Wadiak, who left Cooks Venture last August, declined to talk with Axios about Evans' employment at the company, citing personal reasons.

The bottom line: Evans also declined to talk on the record with Axios for this story despite several attempts spanning three weeks.

Read the full story

2. Musselman could leave Arkansas

Arkansas head basketball coach Eric Musselman. Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Arkansas Razorbacks men's basketball coach Eric Musselman is interviewing for a coaching job at the University of Southern California, Whole Hog Sports reported.

State of play: Musselman led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in 2021 and 2022, and the Sweet 16 in 2023. The 2024 season was the team's first losing campaign on his watch.

By the numbers: Musselman would owe Arkansas a $1 million buyout if he leaves for another job, per Whole Hog Sports. His annual salary is $4.2 million.

Background: He graduated from the University of San Diego and has held three head-coaching jobs in California.

Share with a Razorbacks fan

3. Kitchen Sink: News bubbles

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🏠 The Fayetteville City Council unanimously supports declaring a housing crisis. (Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

👩‍⚖️ Washington County plans to cancel its lease with the state for the Women's Community Correctional Center in Fayetteville. (KNWA)

⚡️About 1,800 people in Benton County lost power in Wednesday's storms. (5 News)

4. Spring is getting warmer

Data: Climate Central; Chart: Axios Visuals

Northwest Arkansas' spring seasons are getting warmer, Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report from a recent Climate Central analysis a trend that reflects human-caused warming, the group says.

Why it matters: Much of the seasonal climate change discussion is focused on summer and winter, when temperatures are typically at their annual highs and lows. But the "between seasons" periods are affected, too.

By the numbers: Springtime in NWA warmed by 2.2°F on average from 1970 to 2023, per Climate Central, a climate research and communications nonprofit.

  • Ours is right at the average across nearly 230 U.S. cities.

Stunning stat: Average seasonal temperatures have risen by more than 6°F in some areas of the Southwest.

Zoom in: The greatest average springtime temperature increases were seen in Reno, Nevada (+6.8°F), El Paso, Texas (+6.3°F) and Las Vegas (+6.2°F).

What it did: The group's analysis is based on NOAA data and looks at meteorological spring, which begins March 1 and ends May 31.

What it's saying: Warmer springtime temperatures cause a variety of knock-on effects, per Climate Central, including earlier snowmelt (which, in turn, affects drinking water supplies), longer allergy seasons, changes in agricultural growing seasons and more.

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5. Eclipse prep: Bill Nye's tips for viewing

Bill Nye, sporting a nifty pair of eclipse glasses. Photo: Courtesy of the Planetary Society

Bill Nye — yes, the science guy — chatted with Axios Austin's Nicole Cobler ahead of his trip to central Texas for Monday's total solar eclipse.

What they're saying: Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, offered up seven tips for a spectacular eclipse experience.

  1. Stop and listen: "When it really goes completely dark, it's just amazing. The birds chirp; the crickets cricket."
  2. Skip the selfie: "Try to be in the moment. Do not focus — pun intended — on taking pictures. Try to just really be there. It's cool."
  3. Look up: "While looking through your eclipse glasses, look out for a couple of bright points of light at the edges, as the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. You might see two or even three very bright points of light, and that's where the light is passing by mountains and valleys on the moon. If I may, how cool is that?"

Read the rest

Thanks to Fadel Allassan for editing and James Gilzow for copy editing this newsletter.

🗞 Alex is listening to AP elections analyst Chad Day speak at the University of Arkansas.

📖 Worth just preordered the book "Just the Good Stuff: No-BS Secrets to Success" by Axios co-founder Jim VandeHei.