Since 1947, Benton County, Arkansas has recognized outstand-ing farm families each year. This year, Benton County acknowledged the Kent and Carol Swinney family, with the honor of Farm Family of the Year.
“This is our 62nd year to select a Farm Family of the Year, Jim Singleton, chairman of the Benton County Farm Family selection committee said. “The Farm Family of the Year award is three fold, as the award recognizes a farm family, recognizes the importance of agriculture and disseminates information. The Swinney family is an honest, hardworking family who definitely deserve this award.”
Kent is a fifth generation farmer who has been farming for 16 years with his wife and three sons. According to him, Carol is very supportive and always willing to help, whether if it is driving a tractor or going to town for parts, she is always there. His older sons, Troy, who is 30, and Dwayne, who is 22, help when they can but they both have full time jobs other than farming. While the youngest son, Brandon, who is eight, mainly helps in the summer.
“It is an honor for our family to be added to the list of other Farm Families of the Year,” he said. “When I looked down the list of all the other families who have been honored, I know most all of them except two or three, and we are grateful to have some of the past winners here to honor us.”
The Swinney family farms 1,658 acres and raises green beans, soybeans, milo and bermuda hay, as well as cattle.
“There aren’t many farmers left whose only income comes from the farm,” he said. “My wife and I don’t have other jobs, and sometimes it is a struggle, but I love being my own boss and doing something different everyday.”
The Swinney family grows 335 acres of green beans under a contract with Allen Canning Company, in Siloam Springs, Ark., and they are paid by the tonnage harvested. Their 525 acres of soybeans are also contracted and their cattle are sold at the Joplin Regional Stockyards, near Joplin, Missouri. They also have 24 acres of milo and 80 acres of bermuda hay. Their cattle herd consists of 300 cow/calf pairs and approximately 200 head of stocker cattle each year.
In addition to farming, Kent is also a field representative for the Joplin Regional Stockyards, and according to him; the experience helps him keep up with the trends and better market his own cattle.
“Being a farmer is hard work and it brings its own trials and struggles,” he explained. “With the way the economy is, and the expense involved in operating a farm, it makes it difficult for individuals to make a living solely from farming.”
According to him, he has been helping out on the farm ever since he was able to sit on the tractor. In 1994, Kent and Carol bought out Kent’s grandparents and started on their own. It wasn’t until 1997, when they started producing row crops.
Kent pushes to develop the maximum size of the farming operation, while maintaining efficiency, without hiring additional help. According to him, he has been able to do this by updating his equipment and purchasing a semi truck and trailer.
“Despite the struggles, I love farming,” he explained. “The economy is having a big impact on the farming community and it is getting harder to make ends meet with the price of expenses going up. But I am able to work with my family everyday and be outside doing what I love.”
The Farm Family of the Year is selected from a committee of agriculture businesses in the Benton County community, according to Singleton, and through the involvement of the different families the committee is able to select one family. Throughout the year, the committee is able to see the different families and pick the most deserving one.
“The Swinney family is deserving of this award,” Singleton said. “Their commitment and dedication to the agricultural industry alone make them deserving. They are truly dedicated to preserving their quality of life.”