Family moves from city to country, receives farming honor

Carol Rolf Originally Published August 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 16, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
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The Steven Townsend family of the Calamine community is the 2013 Sharp County Farm Family of the Year. Family members include, from the left, Tasha Brock, 17; Elizabeth “Lizzie” Townsend, 5; Steven Townsend; Gabrielle “Gabby” Townsend; Larabeth Townsend, 20 months; and Hannah Townsend, 17.

CALAMINE — What began as a weekend retreat turned into a full-time farming operation for the Steven Townsend family of the Calamine community in Sharp County.

Steven and his wife, Gabrielle, or “Gabby,” lived in Marion in Crittenden County and worked across the Mississippi River in Memphis for a number of years. They owned a small hunting cabin in Sharp County and would spend the weekends there. They grew tired of the city life, found a farm in the country and moved there in 2007.

The Townsends are the 2013 Sharp County Farm Family of the Year. They raise chickens, cattle, dairy goats and hay on 245 acres.

Steven, 45, and Gabby, 35, have a blended family. Son Matt Townsend, 21, and his wife, Alyssa, live in Dayton, Ohio, where both are in the National Guard. They are expecting the Townsends’ first grandchild this year. Four daughters live at home: Tasha Brock, 17, a recent graduate of Hillcrest High School and a freshman at Lyon College; Hannah Townsend, 17, a senior at Hillcrest; Elizabeth “Lizzie,” 5, who is home-schooled; and Larabeth, 20 months.

“It’s a nice honor,” Steven said of the recent recognition.

“I’m glad to see him being recognized for how hard he does work,” Gabby said.

“We had animals growing up,” said Steven, who is from Moro in St. Francis County. “We had enough that we butchered and ate them during the winter. We had a few chickens for eggs.”

He attended Marianna High School and would later obtain his GED.

“I went to work,” he said. He was in the construction business in Memphis before moving to Sharp County.

“My mom and dad moved up here years ago with plans for a poultry operation,” Steven said. “I visited here and liked the area. We had a cabin here and finally found

this farm.”

Steven’s mother, Judy Owens, lives on the farm but in a separate residence and helps out on the farm when needed. His brother, Johnny Townsend, also helps with the chickens. Steven’s father is deceased.

Gabby grew up in Mountain View.

“We had milk goats when I was a child,” she said. “I took care of the goats. I like animals.”

Gabby is a registered nurse and now works as a community home-health nurse for an agency based in Highland.

“I work two days a week seeing people here in Sharp County,” she said.

Today the Townsends have three broiler houses, with 52,000 birds per flock. They average 4.7 flocks a year. They raise the chickens for Peco Foods Inc.

“We sell them about every nine weeks,” Steven said.

The Townsends have 37 head of Charolais-Limousin crossbred cattle. The calves are raised until they are 5 or 6 months old, weighing between 500 and 600 pounds, then are sold at local sales barns.

The family’s six dairy goats are used mainly to provide milk for the family. However, the Townsends do sell some of the goats through local newspaper and

Internet advertising.

“I make yogurt and cottage cheese from the goat milk,” Gabby said.

The hay the family raises on 35 acres averages four to five round bales per acre. The Townsends keep most of the hay for their own use.

In the short time they have been farming, the Townsends have increased their cattle herd from 10 to 37 cows and have improved their farm and grazing land by adding a pond, cleaning up pastures, cross-fencing the pastures and using solar fencing to rotate the cattle. Future plans include clearing brushy tracts of timberland to increase grazing pastures and eventually building another pond.

Although most of their time is spent working on the farm, the Townsends are actively involved in the Foothills Cowboy Church in Cave City. Lizzie sings a special song every Sunday morning, and Gabby works in the nursery. Each Thursday night, the church sponsors a rodeo, and Lizzie participates, running barrels and poles on her chocolate Palomino

pony, Flash.

The family also takes part in a 4-H horse club’s activities and the North Arkansas Western Association, a family-oriented

horse-show group.

“Lizzie rides her pony in several events, and the whole family just enjoys fellowship with people in the community and our church family,”

Gabby said.

Steven volunteers his time as a member of the Grange-Calamine Volunteer Fire Department and is a member of the North American Limousin Foundation.

Gabby is a member of the American Dairy Goat

Association.

At Hillcrest High School, Tasha was, and Hannah is, active in FFA, Future Business Leaders of America, Robotics, the Beta Club and the Student Council.

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