About Island no. 34
Island 34 is a 2600-acre world class waterfowl haven being created by annually flooding hundreds of acres of unharvested crops, moist soil units, and standing timber. It is nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River 45 minutes north of Memphis, Tennessee, adjacent to the 9451-acre USFWS Waterfowl Sanctuary known as the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge.
We are also extremely proud to be located just a few miles due east of the beautiful, meticulously kept town of Wilson, Arkansas (www.wilsonarkansas.com), which is perched on the Blues Highway and has been named one of “The 10 Best Small Towns in the U.S.” by Country Living.
Island 34 is owned and operated by Via Farm, LLC, and managed by Ruste and Sara Jane Via. Ruste grew up in West Tennessee on a family farm and gained an abiding passion for the outdoors from his mother and maternal grandfather, who often took him hunting in the fall while his father was in the fields harvesting crops. His love of the outdoors manifested itself into a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Initially he worked as a wildlife biologist for the USDA-NRCS managing the WRP and CRP programs in West Tennessee and for Ducks Unlimited designing waterfowl impoundments for their Tennessee Partners Project. Four years later, Ruste felt called to go into the medicine and led a successful career as the founder and CEO of Christian Family Medicine, Inc., and later Rural Health Alliance, LLC. Island 34 was purchased in November of 2021 as a retirement present to himself with the intention of merely having a few food plots to manage and making small improvements year after year. However, his “do nothing halfway’ mindset would quickly take him down another road to creating the greatest waterfowl exposition that exists in modern day. (So long retirement!)
Being at the confluence of the Hatchie and Mississippi River adjacent to the Lower Hatchie Waterfowl Sanctuary, Ruste was surprised Island 34 was primarily managed for maximum cash crop production on its 1200 acres of precision-leveled farm ground and remained unimproved for waterfowl. Given its ideal location along Old Man River in the Mississippi Flyway, he made the decision to go all in on a waterfowl restoration and conservation project, which is now simply referred to as Island 34.
The goal of Island 34 is straightforward: Create the best migratory waterfowl habitat in North America and amass enough waterfowl usage to recreate the “Claypool Reservoir” photo. It all starts with a dream, and a dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes the impossible become possible.