Kenny and Loretta Qualls and children, Garrett and Shelby, of Lake City have been named the 2010 Craighead County Farm Family of the Year.
Loretta's family did not farm but she was raised in the country near Jonesboro and has enjoyed working with her husband as their farm has grown through the years. She is the daughter of John and Sue Reeves. She has two sisters. Loretta went to cosmetology school and was a hair stylist before joining the family farm full time.
In the home they built on Dennis Street in Lake City, she had a small area complete with mirror, sink, and chair just for the family's hair care.
"Some boys dream of playing in the "Big Leagues," Kenny said. "All I ever dreamed of being was a farmer. My father promised his children he would help us get started in a career of our choosing, if we were willing to work hard and get an education."
Kenny graduated from high school went to ASU for one year with the intention of getting a degree. As he acquired more acres, he had to make a decision between college and farming.
Kenny recalls the unfortunate drought of 1980. Over the next few years, thousands of acres of land changed hands, and there was a flood of used equipment hitting the auctions making equipment affordable for beginning farmers.
"With the help of my Dad, I was able to acquire a little of both, land and equipment," he said.
Loretta said her dream was to have a family.
"We have both been very blessed to be able to live out our dreams," Loretta said.
Garrett, 21, like his Dad, loved farming and became a full partner in 2009.
Garrett makes up the fifth generation of the Earnharts and fourth generation of the Qualls to farm.
"I always knew Garrett would be a farmer," his mother said. "When he was a toddler, he took his tractors, trucks and equipment where he plowed and made perfect rows in my backyard."
Garrett has been busy since his high school graduation from Buffalo Island Central in 2007. He will graduate from Arkansas State University in December with an Agriculture Business Degree. He has worked full time and gone to school full time.
"My Dad was great about giving me the time I needed for my studies," Garrett said. "I feel fortunate to be able to do what I love to do."
Garrett has become involved in the Young Farmers and Ranchers Program with Craighead County Farm Bureau this year.
Shelby, 18, is a 2010 graduate of Buffalo Island Central High School. She plans to start to Arkansas State University this fall where she will major in radiology. Her goal is to be a radiologist and she also wants to own a formal dress shop.
Shelby also has worked part-time on the family farm. She cleans the shop, drives the grain buggy when she needed, helps her mom with the paperwork, helps move the trucks and vehicles from field to field and is on call where she is needed during the busy season.
Shelby performs in many pageants across Arkansas and played basketball during her high school years at BIC.
Both Shelby and Garrett take time to volunteer as counselors at their church camp every year.
The family is members of Community of Christ Church in Caraway where Kenny serves as pastor.
Kenny serves as Craighead County Board member, cotton division chairman, mineral rights committee member, wheat and feed grain division member, Northeast Arkansas Expo Soybean Association-2008-present, and serves on the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation-Board of Directors form 2007-present.
Loretta has been very active serving as youth leader/Sunday School teacher/book steward from 1993 to the present; Women in Agriculture, participated in Annie's Project and has been a member since 2008; Camp Powderfork-Activity Committee-Camp and Kitchen Director form 1993 to present; served as officer and member of the Mustang Club (BIC Booster Club).
They are also co-owners of Southland Gin, Inc. There are 10 partners n the gin.
"Our gin also partners with a cotton warehouse in Trumann," Kenny said. We have the capacity to gin 40,000 bales per year with expansion ability if necessary."
The Qualls farm has continued to grow going from 320 acres to 2,470. They raised all cotton for several years but today they have 2,250 acres of row crop including 652 acres of cotton, 390 acres of corn, and 1,208 acres of soybeans. They have 225 acres of timber in the Imboden area.
They have planted thousands of trees and now have 60 acres of pine and 165 acres of hardwoods. They have a cabin where family and friends go and relax and enjoy each other's company.
"I love to spend time at the cabin," Loretta said.
Kenny said now that Garrett has joined the operation, he has more time and does some land leveling for friends and has more time to work in the timber.
All but about 30 acres of the Qualls' ground is irrigated.
Kenny got an early start on his land leveling and irrigation. Kenny was among the first farmers to start irrigation.
"We invested money, sweat and tears," Kenny said. "We went at the leveling and irrigation seriously. It only took one year to know it was the right thing to do. I can remember thinking all of the land in this area will be leveled and irrigated within 10 years. It did not take 10 years."
Kenny said he does not like mud holes. He likes the ground maintained.
"My Dad does not like weeds," Shelby said. "He wants his fields level and clean."
Kenny said he had considered taking down the five grain bins at the farm headquarters during their all cotton years but is glad he did not. He has added three larger bins.
Shelby said she discovered the grain bins make a great place to practice singing when they are empty.
The Qualls have seen a lot of changes. Kenny has been farming for 28 years. He said one of the biggest problems in farming has been and will always be prices and weather.
"We cannot control either," he said.
They do keep up with technology and try to get the best information available. They currently use David Hydrick Crop Consultant.
They have two full time employees on the farm.
With their land locations a common practice for the Qualls was moving their equipment across the Lake City bridge from farm to farm. Loretta said the widening of the bridge has been one of the best changes for her.
"When the bridge was two-lane my job was to stop the traffic so Kenny could get the equipment across," she said. "I would stop the truck and get out there and wave my arms but people would just ignore me and go around. I had a friend who worked for the highway department and got me an official stop sign to hold up. Motorists would stop when they saw the sign."
Kenny and Garrett work well together.
Garrett said he couldn't pick out just one thing his dad has taught him because he has always given him good advice.
Both Garrett and Shelby agree their parents are very deserving of the recognition for their hard work and efforts.
Kenny has a collection of antique tools belonging to his great-grandfather hanging in the garage. He has everything but the mule they used to make a crop. He calls it his mini museum.
"It is amazing to look at those tools and see what they had to make a crop with," Kenny said. "Farming has come a long way."