Among the rolling hills of Hector, Arkansas you can find rows of chicken houses, freshly cut hay meadows, and cattle scattered across pastures that belong to the Small Family Farm.
A couple who share an equal passion for farming, Terry and Gail Small are named Pope County’s Farm Family for 2017.
“I’ve always wanted to be a farmer ever since I was old enough to think about farming,” Terry said.
The farming lifestyle is nothing new to the Smalls, as both were raised on cattle and chicken farms.
Gail grew up in Oak Grove, Arkansas where her grandparents, Quentin and Edna Wright, raised chickens.
“I was raised 30 miles north of here in a little ole community called Tilly, Arkansas; up in the Ozarks,” Terry said. “And of course my grandparents own cattle.”
Terry and Gail both graduated from Hector High School in 1982. Being high school sweethearts, they will be celebrating their 35-year wedding anniversary this August.
“She’s the glue that holds this place together,” Terry said.
They have two sons, Eric and Cory Small. Eric is a 2007 graduate from Arkansas Tech University and has worked for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers as a Natural Resource Specialist for the past ten years at the Russellville office. Eric and his wife Hailey have a 2-month-old son, Emmett. Cory attended the University of Arkansas Community College in Morrilton and graduated from a four-year apprenticeship program as a licensed electrician. Cory and his wife Kala have two children, Natalie 5, and Corbin 2.
Gail and Terry began their farming venture in 1987 with a small herd and support from their family.
“My dad gave me 10 head, we bought a bull and we leased land from Gail’s grandparents,” Terry said.
“We scrapped up the money to buy the bull and we would go out and look at the bull all the time because that was our money right there,” Gail said. “We didn’t have much to start with. We didn’t own a tractor at the time, we borrowed one from my grandfather Quentin. Terry’s parents and my grandparents helped us a lot.”
Reminiscing about the early days, Gail talked about how running the family farm has always been a group effort.
“Terry and his dad both worked at Firestone and when he would get off of work, both of them would come in and start doing hay,” Gail said. “The boys were little, and so Terry’s dad would rake, I would bale, and Terry and the boys would haul.”
In 1999, the Smalls bought their first piece of land, 37 acres in Hector along with three chicken houses.
“We just had 37 acres and then we picked up 15 acres here and ten there,” Terry said.
“I think back to the first little tractor we had and a square baler and a pillow for a seat,” Gail said. “We’ve come a long way. Terry had the dream to have a farm and
to have more cattle. The only way to do that was chicken houses. The chicken houses were how we got the income to have the farm and the land.”
The farm has grown from its humble beginnings. The family purchased additional land in 2013, just two miles down the road from what they call the “old farm.” The Smalls now run 120 cattle with five bulls on 350 acres of farmland with an additional 300 acres of leased land.
“When I retired and we bought that farm over there,” Terry said with a laugh. “I had to have something to do, I didn’t have a job.” Terry retired from Firestone after working there for a little over 30 years.
When it comes to breed of cattle, the Small family have a little bit of everything.
They have horned white Face Herefords, Black Angus, Brangus, Charolais, Bremer, Simmental and Black Angus bulls.
Terry added that many of the mixed breed cattle stay on the older farm and are part of the original stock that once belonged to his grandmother Donie.
“A lot of that old stock was my grandma’s, so I can’t bring myself to sell them,” Terry said.
The most recently purchased acres are used for the Angus and White Face Herefords. “We are breeding the Black Angus with the White Herefords to try and get the Black Baldies,” Terry said.
When it comes to selling cattle, the Smalls sell most of their cattle at the Ozark I – 40 livestock auction.
“Now we do send some to Blackwell and some to Ola, but I’d say about 90 percent of our cattle go to Ozark,” Terry said.
As for raising chickens, the Smalls have ten chicken houses where they raise chickens for Tyson’s in Dardanelle. They raise six batches in a year each producing ,on average, 110,000 chickens on one farm and 120,000 chickens on the other. The chicken houses collectively yield 1,760 tons of litter that the Smalls then use back on
“Every year when we clean out the chicken houses, we apply the fertilizer through out pastures and hay meadows,” Terry said. “By applying the litter you better have a tank sprayer,” he added. “It really makes the grass grow but it also makes the weeds grow. So we do apply chemicals to keep down the weeds.”
When asked what had been their biggest challenge through the years, they agreed that the weather has be the most difficult.
“We got hit last year with storms and then we got hit this year,” Terry said. “The biggest challenge is the weather. It’s too wet, it’s too dry or you’re fighting army worms. It’s a part of farming.”
Farming might not be for everyone, but for Gail and Terry they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a honest day’s work, it’s a honest living,” Terry said. “Every day is a different day and a different challenge. I just love it.”
“Everything has to be fed and taken care of every day,” Gail added. “There is no day off. You work every day. You have to love the land and love the animals and
that’s why we get so upset about the animal welfare is because they think we hate the animals. We don’t. We love our cows and we love growing chickens.”
Through hard work and a shared passion, farming in many ways can bring families closer together.
“With the storm damage, family and friends that who you have during those times,” Cory said. “Baler breaks down in the field, that’s your family, that’s us. It does draw you closer. You spend a lot of time together. In the hay field and a sandwich in the back of a truck, that type of stuff.”
The brothers said that since they have gotten older they have grown to appreciate the farm more than they did in their younger years and both now have a starter herd of their own.
“I think growing up on a farm has instilled in both of us a good work ethic. I feel like that is important today, especially with having a new born now,” Eric said.
It is easy to tell that Terry and Gail adore their grandchildren and enjoy being grandparents.
“We are hoping to raise several generations of small farmers,” Terry said.
The grandkids already help their grandparents check the cows and other fun farmyard chores.
Gail’s said her hope for the future is knowing that they gave their children and grandchildren a place to build and have a head start.
“To let my kids know that we did all of this for them,” Gail said. “We gave the grand kids a place to build. We were blessed with a start; not necessarily land but our parents and grandparents helped us a lot. I tell my kids all the time you better be as generous to my grandkids as we’ve been with ya’ll. They work hard but we’ve helped them. I guess my hope for the future is that my kids and grandkids appreciate farming and appreciate the land and appreciate what God gives us.”