TUCKERMAN — The Graham family of Tuckerman has a long history of farming.
“My people moved into the area about 1850 and started farming,” said Henry Gustave “Gus” Graham Jr., head of the family that today finds his sons, Henry Gustave “Gus” Graham III and Glenn Graham, and their families still farming.
“They did a little bit of everything,” Gus Jr. said of his ancestors, noting that seven brothers came to the area from Tennessee. “They had a sawmill, a dairy, a filling station and a grocery.”
They formed their own corporation in 1903.
Gus III and Glenn represent the fourth generation of Graham farmers.
The Graham brothers, doing business as G&G Farms Inc., are the 2013 Jackson County Farm Family of the Year. They raise and irrigate rice, soybeans, wheat and food beans on a total of 5,000 acres.
“I am proud of them,” Gus Jr. said of his sons. “They do a terrific job. I’m glad they took up farming and didn’t have to move off anywhere.”
Gus III, 56, and Glenn, 54, are also sons of the late Shirley Graham.
Gus III said being named Farm Family of the Year is “a pretty big honor.
“We’ve gone from ground zero to here,” Gus III said. “It’s a pretty big deal to us. We went off the farm to college knowing that we were coming back some day.”
Glenn agreed with his brother: “It’s a pretty big deal. I never thought we’d even be mentioned for the honor.”
The family is a large one, and many of them help on the farm when needed. They also enjoy life off the farm as a family, spending time at their cabin at Mountain Home and boating, horseback riding, gardening and fishing.
Gus III and his wife, Tami, have three children: Henry Gustave “Ty” Graham IV, who lives in Tuckerman and has two children, Henry Gustave “Will” Graham V, 7, and Levi Yunkin, 10; Sara Graham Steel, who lives in Newport with her husband, Charles Lowndes “Charlie” Steel V, and their 1-year-old son, Charles Lowndes “Charlie” Steel VI; and Stefanie Graham Poe, 31, who lives in Jonesboro and has two children, Haven Holladay, 6, and London Holladay, 3.
Glenn and his wife, Barbara, have five children: Zack Graham, 24, of Tuckerman; Jami Treece, 23, who lives in Tuckerman with her husband, Jett Treece; Tiffany Easter, 22, who lives in Grubbs and has a 3-year-old daughter, Carson Collom; Alli Easter, 21, who lives in Tuckerman and has a 1-year-old daughter, Temperance McCormick; and Abbi Graham, 21, of Cord-Charlotte.
“We have been on the farm our whole life,” Gus III said. “We started off walking down cotton wagons and pulling weeds.
“Education was a big deal for our parents, and after high school, it was off to college, still working on the family farm during the summer months. It wasn’t until 1980 that we both decided we would like to be on our own.”
Gus III said G&G Farms Inc. was formed in 1980. The brothers farmed 240 acres of nonirrigated farm ground and incurred a lot of debt.
“Those were tough years,” Gus III said. “If it weren’t for our wives working and us having second jobs, we wouldn’t have made it.”
In 1997, Gus III and Glenn took over the family farm, which had been farmed by their father and uncle, “still with a heavy debt load,” Gus III said. “Ten years would pass before we could finally see daylight with principal payments becoming more than interest payments at the bank. Today, with careful spending and better management, we are able to stay on top of equipment needs and have also started farming more land.”
The Grahams have added a new crop this year — sesame.
“We’re the first in Jackson County to grow it,” Gus III said. “We planted 80 acres of it. Japan has said, ‘Whatever you produce, we will buy.’ Harvest time for the sesame will be in December. That won’t interfere with the harvest of our other crops.
“Success starts with a good team. Glenn and I have four full-time employees that understand if we fail, they have no job. Communication is key among all of us, and everyone is equal when the
going gets tough.
“We’ve had a lot of help along the way.”
He credits the agriculture agents at the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Service, the Jackson County Farm Service Agency and the Jackson County office of the Arkansas Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“They’ve all been a big help when we need them,” he said. “The same is true for the financial institutions we deal with and the fertilizer, seed and chemical dealers.
“I can’t say enough about them. It would really be tough without them.”
Gus III is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics. His wife, Tami, has a degree in nursing from Arkansas State University and is a registered nurse at White County Medical Center in Searcy.
Glenn attended the U of A. He and his son, Zack, do most of the tractor-repair work on the farm. Glenn’s wife, Barbara, has a degree in education and biology from ASU and teaches science and history at Tuckerman High School.
Today, the sons of Gus III and Glenn help out on the farm but have other jobs, too, learning, as did their fathers, about the world “firsthand.”
Glenn’s son, Zack, owns Zack’s Flying Service, not only providing service for the Grahams but also for anyone with application needs. Zack attended agriculture-flight-training school in Georgia.
Gus III’s son, Ty, has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and works in the oil and gas field five months a year.
“This will definitely help these young men transition to the farm full time someday,” Gus III said.
The Grahams’ daughters have careers as well.
Sarah Steel has a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene from the U of A and is employed as a dental hygienist in Batesville. She is a member of the Service League and treasurer of the Junior Auxiliary.
Stefanie Poe received a degree in licensed practical nursing from the Baptist Medical School of Nursing. She is a hairdresser and owns Southern Belle Dress Shop in Walnut Ridge.
Jami Treece owns Treece Photography.
Tiffany Easter works at the Jackson County Courthouse in Newport.
Alli Easter attends ASU-Beebe and plans to become a teacher.
Abbi Graham attends ASU-Newport and plans to become a nurse.