The Lyerly Family of Leachville has been named 2008 Mississippi County's Farm Family of the Year.
The family consists of Phillip and Pam Lyerly, their older son, Phillip Gregory (Greg) and wife, Wanda, and younger son, Erick Wayne, and his wife, Leslie.
Greg and Wanda have two daughters, Bethany Paige, 3, and Brittni Sage, 2.
The family carries on a family tradition passing down the love of the land. Greg and Erick make up the fourth generation of farmers
Phillip called himself a "die-hard cotton farmer." They have 3,200 acres of cotton. Their farm is located near the Buckeye Community near Leachville. The acreage is all within a four mile radius of their shop and homes.
Phillip grew up helping his parents, R.W. and Myrtle Lyerly on their family farm. He chopped and picked cotton.
"The worst whipping I ever got was because of cotton," he said. "My dad found out somebody was stripping the cotton and told my Mom to find out who was doing it and fire them. I didn't get fired but I got the fire put to me."
Phillip graduated from Leachville High School in 1972. Upon graduating, Phillip went to Memphis to work for and attend school at ITT Diesel Institute.
He returned to the family farm in 1975. The knowledge he acquired in diesel mechanics have proven to be very useful on the farm.
Phillip and the former Pam Kisner, married in 1976. Pam worked at Brown Shoe Company and began learning the farming operation part-time. As the farm grew and she gained the knowledge and ability necessary to help on the farm, she left her job at Brown Shoe Company in 1983 to help with the farming operation full time. Phillip and Pam were sole owners of the farming operation starting out with about 400 acres. They worked together on all aspects of the farm.
They both drove tractors, did the financial management, and all the many other things necessary to run a family farm.
As their sons became old enough to help out on the farm, they worked after school, weekends and on summer breaks.
"They started out with the dirtiest jobs," Phillip said. "I wanted them to know what it takes and I wanted them to make sure it was the life they wanted."
It didn't change the boys' love of the farm. Greg couldn't wait to get old enough to get on the big tractors.
"I love it," Greg said. "I've never known anything else."
Phillip, Pam and Greg formed a partnership in 1997 known as Lyerly Farms with about 3,500 acres. Some of the land they farm has been in the family for four generations. Phillip and Pam had the opportunity to purchase 40 acres of land his mother's family sharecropped when they first came to this area. His mother lived long enough to know he had bought it making the purchase even more special to him.
Greg married the former Wanda Imler in 2003. Wanda takes an active role in the family farm where she is needed. When meals are needed, Wanda and her little helpers, Bethany and Brittni, are there on the turn row. Wanda also runs a spreadsheet of production. She keeps track of each module from the turn row until the last bale is settled on.
Erick married the former Leslie Cobb in 2006. Erick has joined Leslie on her family's farm in Lake City.
Family time is very important to all of them. The family attends church together and enjoys a Sunday dinner at Phillip and Pam's house.
"I really enjoy preparing Sunday dinners for the family," Pam said. "It keeps the family together.
Phillip said they try to avoid talking farming on Sunday afternoons, but it is sometimes unavoidable. Three-year old Bethany will always remind whoever words the prayer to pray for the good crops.
Whether it is a trip for the entire, extended family or just one household, they all realize a few days away from the farm is beneficial to all.
When the boys were in school they spent time following them in sports events and made family time to go to the lake.
"I enjoy farming," Phillip said. "I love seeing what we can accomplish with Mother Nature. We put everything we have in the ground, do all we can do and we have to live with the rest. Though we have a lot of resources for good advice and recommendations, final decisions must be made by the entire family. We all work together with love, respect, and a common goal to carry on this tradition.