In rural Arkansas there are many places where where farming is a way of life and has been for generations, that is the case for The Hempstead County Farm Family of the Year, Chris and Denise Sweat.
Down in McCaskill, Ar, the Sweats come from a long line of farmers, beginning with Chris’s great grandparents who started a beef and dairy farm. His dad began farming as soon as he was old enough, first working on his family’s farm and later establishing his own chicken and cattle operation, where Chris learned the trade as a child. When Chris was young, they sold the dairy cattle and chickens, but turned the houses into lamb houses. The Sweat family has raised sheep seasonally ever since, while running about 300 head of cattle on their 500 acre farm.
Chris and his wife Denise have been farming together since they were married roughly 25 years and have two daughters, Sarah and Anna who also help out on the farm. Sarah, a senior, Anna, an eighth grader at Nashville School, both show livestock and plan to continue to continue their education in some area of animal science. Anna, who enjoys animal photography, helps to promote the farm, creating advertisements for registered cattle. Sarah, who plans to get a degree in animal genetics, assists with artificial insemination, as well as feeding and checking the animals in the summer. “Both girls can run tractors, cut and bail hay. They can do everything from running a skit steer, loading the grinders with feed, cut and bail hay, anything that needs to be done,” the Sweats said about their daughters.
The Sweat’s were announced as Hempstead County Farm Family of the Year in May, and recently found out they have been selected as Farm Family of the Year for their district. State selection will be a little different this year due to COVID-19. Typically it’s more of a community event but this year they’ve asked for only immediate family and judges to be present. “That’s what farming is all about, taking whatever is thrown at you and making the best of it,” Sweat said.
When asked how they felt about receiving the honor of Farm Family, the Sweats had this to say, “We are extremely thankful, not only to receive farm family of the year for our district but thankful to be in the industry and be able to raise our kids in a rural setting that promotes values and we’ve always said from the time we were in college, we wanted to make sure that we was in a job where we could give back; what better way to do that than to be in production and agriculture. Nothing makes you feel better than getting to feed your neighbors.”
Photos courtesy of Kaylie Stone Photography