Finch family named Craighead County Farm Family of the Year

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Father and son, Henry Dean and Jeff Finch, have worked side by side for almost 30 years as partners building their farming operation to the present 100 percent irrigated 3,400 acres. Jeff's son, Ty, 14, is following in the family farming tradition and is learning from his father and grandfather as he spends a lot of his summer vacation helping on the farm.

The Finch Family is Craighead County Farm Family of the Year. Pictured are, from left: Henry Dean and Alice Finch; Ty Jeff and April Finch; Slade Hawkins, Madison Finch Hawkins and Heath Hawkins.

Henry Dean started farming in 1966 with 120 rented acres.

Jeff grew up on the farm and always knew he wanted to be a farmer. After graduation from Buffalo Island Central High School, Jeff joined his dad full time and has been farming 28 years.

Henry Dean said he is happy Ty loves the farm as much as Jeff did growing up.

Henry Dean, a Black Oak native, and wife Alice Faye, a Lake City native, met through friends and attended the Craighead County Fair on their first date.

"I knew from the first date he was the one," Alice said.

She is also pleased to see her son and grandson working together.

Henry Dean, like Jeff, grew up on a family farm. When his dad, G.H. "Irish," passed away in 1966 Henry Dean took over his father's farm. He has worked to increase acres.

When Jeff joined the operation they were farming a total of l,749 acres. They have continued to increase and today they own 1,320 acres of the 3,400 total operation.

They presently farm soybeans and corn.

Jeff and his wife April have known each other since they were children. They were married in 1991. Their daughter, Madison Finch Hawkins, is married to Heath Hawkins, and they have one son, Slade, who is 3-1/2 months old.

Like all farmers Henry Dean and Jeff have farmed through some good years and some difficult years. Each year brings different issues to deal with but Henry Dean said 1967 was one of those years and most everyone will remember 1980. Through good farming practices, they have managed to continue and to grow.

Marketing is a very important part of agriculture today. Fifty to 75 percent of their grain is sold at Mississippi River ports. The remaining grain is sold on late rallies or to the chicken industry. They utilize their personal farm storage.

When cotton is raised, it is marketed through the Black Oak Gin Company.

Jeff and Henry Dean are owners in the gin. RTK Guidance System signal is leased to surrounding area farmers. Black Oak Gin optimizes the best option for prices for purchasing chemicals and seed. Marketing cotton through the gin gives them the ability to provide the best options.

They are hands on farmers and are always looking to improve the quality of the farming program.

Irrigation efficiency has long been one of their goals and they have underground pipe, electric wells with soft starts and the ability to control and check the status of well activity with internet access.

They improve the soil fertility by using grid sampling to build and maintain without waste.

There is grain storage with the ability to store the entire crop. Henry Dean said the bins have proved to be one of the best investments they have made.

Father and son agree their farming operation continues to maintain quality over quantity, but at the same time they will increase acreage to maintain up to date equipment and acquire any needed new equipment.

The Finches are very much aware of taking care of the environment, conservation of the soil, water and energy. They recycle polypipe and motor oil; built levees on lower end of their fields with drop pipes to stop erosion; plant cover crops to stop wind erosion; distribute gin trash to replenish soil; grid sampling; plant trees, native grasses or buffers for marginal ground; and when possible convert wells from diesel to electric.

In addition to the family's farming operation, they are very active in their school and community.

Alice taught elementary school in Lepanto in 1965-1966 and 1967-1968 at Caraway. She returned to the classroom for a brief time filling in for a teacher on maternity leave at Monette in 1979.

She was a member of the Extension Homemakers Club in Monette from 1980 to 1984, winning blue ribbons at Craighead County Fair for homemade jelly in 1987. She is a member of Refuge Baptist Church.

Henry serves on the ASC Committee; Federal Land Bank Board; Mississippi River Levee Board; president of Citizens Co-op Gin; president of Black Oak Gin; Black Oak Gin Board; and Arbyrd Cotton Co-op Board.

The family is always willing to help in the community when they are needed. Jeff provided equipment and labor to build bleachers for the Buffalo Island Central softball complex in 2010 and again provided equipment and labor to help Entergy and the community during the ice storm.

April is a kindergarten teacher at Buffalo Island Central West Elementary and is very active as a 4-H leader for Buffalo Island Livestock shows; 4-H leader for District Fair; back pack kits; and brings the petting zoo to schools each year. She is a 4-H leader representative for the Arkansas State Fair and 4-H representative and leader for the American Royal Livestock Show.

April has been called the goat whisperer and the community vet. She loves working with the young people and inspiring them in the care and showing of their animals.

Her goal is educating young people on the importance of agriculture. She receives calls from her 4-H kids if they are having problems with their livestock. They know she is always ready to assist them in the care of their animals.

Ty is a member of the Craighead County 4-H Livestock Club and has received county, state and even national awards with his livestock projects.

In addition to helping on the farm, caring and showing for his goats, Ty is a member of the First Baptist Church and youth ministry. He volunteers for local missions through his youth group. He is a member of the BIC FFA, FBLA, National Honor Society, and plays on the junior high basketball and baseball teams.

Madison is very talented and discovered during her high school years she had a gift for art. She created much of the decorations in their home. She is working on banners for the upcoming centennial celebration. One of Henry Dean's favorite presents is a portrait/painting Madison did of herself and Ty.

Her husband, Heath, works with his family on their family farm. Heath and Madison have started a vegetable business and will be taking fresh produce to the farmers market. Madison designed the logo for the project called "Snowden's Garden," named after Heath's grandfather.

Being Slade's mother is taking priority in Madison's life at the present time and she is enjoying every minute she shares with him.

They are a busy family but they enjoy time together supporting each other in sports or livestock shows.

In addition to working together, the guys love taking time out and hunting together.

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