David Watkins family named 2014 Craighead County Farm Family

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Craighead County 2014 farm Family of the Year are: David and Kim Watkins, seated; standing, son-in-law Casey Grissom; grandson Carter, and daughter Lauren Grissom. Not pictured is Breana Watkins.

David and Kim Watkins of Bono have been named the 2014 Craighead County Farm Family. They are the parents of two daughters, Lauren Watkins Grissom and Breana Watkins, and the grandparents of Carter Grissom, 2. Lauren is married to Casey Grissom. Casey is resource manager at Frito Lay.

The Watkins farm is truly a family farm as both daughters are involved in the daily farming operation. Casey helps during planting and harvest time.

David said he can't remember not being on the farm. One of his first memories of farming is being on a tractor where he had to stand, holding on to the steering wheel in order to clutch and brake for turning and stopping.

At a young age David started helping his dad on the family farm. During his high school years, he and his brother rented a few hundred acres as a way of having money in a checking account. He continued farming with his brother through college and for the first years after he and Kim were married.

David and Kim met while attending college at Arkansas State University where he earned a degree in agriculture engineering.

"The best thing I got out of college was my wife," he said.

The Watkins farm has continued to grow over 33 years. It has increased from 300 rented acres to the current 2,230 acres (1,620 rented and 610 owned).

David and Kim purchased their first land in 1984. When David's brother decided to leave the farm in the early 1990s, he continued to rent more land from family and others and purchase when possible. Kim has played an active role in the operation keeping the books, running errands, preparing meals for farm labor and serving as an occasional tractor driver when needed.

Rice is their major crop with 1,000-1,200 acres following with 500-600 acres of soybeans. Grain sorghum and corn are used for rotation.

A new venture for the Watkins farm is raising Miscanthus grass, a bio energy grass. The crop is in its third year on the farm. Currently they have 230 acres of bio energy grass, which could eventually be a good fuel source.

David is proud of his farm but is even more proud of his family. Daughter Lauren graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BS degree in agri-business. She returned to the farm and works as assistant bookkeeper and can drive the equipment. Younger daughter Breana has a masters degree in agri-business/economics from the University of Arkansas. She did an internship in Edinburgh Scotland. She is currently a broker for Cavenaugh Financial Group and is involved in marketing.

Both girls were actively involved in 4H at county, district and state levels. Breana was a 4-H ambassador. Lauren competed in FCCLA at the national level. Both represented Craighead County in the Miss Rice competition. Lauren placed second in state and Breana fourth. Both are involved in Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers program and are members of Central Baptist where Lauren is an Awana leader and Breana went on her third international mission trip this summer.

The family purchased The Lodge at 6 Mile Lake located on 300 acres. The acres include a 50 acre lake, timber and hay farm.

Future plans include having the lodge and barn as a working farm to bring overnight guests in for the "farm experience."

"When we purchased the acreage that contained what we now call "The Lodge" four years ago, we saw an opportunity to live out a dream we had for years," Kim said.

The Lodge is an old home that was in need of care if it was to be saved. The family could see beyond the sagging roof and need. They saw the beautiful view of the lake, nature all around, near downtown Jonesboro, and a quiet peaceful farm. They also could see a wonderful place for their own reunions and parties, a weekend getaway.

David gives Kim credit for turning the lodge into the beautiful dwelling it is today. The lodge is available to rent for weddings, receptions, corporate events and for overnight guests.

They plan to have a pumpkin patch next year and start on the restoration of the barn on the property.

Kim is a Master Gardener and is responsible for the beautiful landscaping around their home.

"It amazes me how she knows all of the plant names," David said. "Kim calls gardening stress relief. Not too many wives ask for a pile of rocks for their birthday. We carried many of the flat rocks from our cabin at Hardy."

David is always looking at ways of improving the quality of their farming program, staying educated on techniques and programs, and caring for the land for future generations.

Breana got into gardening and was joined by Kim and Lauren who enjoy canning. They canned tomatoes, made jalapeno jam, pickled okra, and homemade salsa.

David and Kim take an active role in agriculture organizations, community and church. This is a trait they have passed down to their daughters.

The Watkins have served and still serve on various committees at the county, state and national level including 4-H, Farm Bureau, NEA District Fair, Young Farmers and Ranchers, Sunday school teacher, assistant church song leader, and City of Bono Parks Committee.

Giving back is what they want to do.

"I feel blessed," David said. "It is more in God's hands than mine."

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