Van Buren County family shares farming history of 100-plus years

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published December 1, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Kathy and Danny Newland of Dennard represent the fourth generation of Newlands to operate the Newland Farm.

Folks traveling along U.S. 65 may have seen the sign for the Newland Farm, 13 miles north of Clinton, right before Dennard. The farm, which sits on a hilltop that overlooks a valley, offers the present-day owners a view of several counties, they said.

The Newland Farm was founded in about 1890, when John Kerr and Emma Jane Newland moved from Adams County, Ohio, to Dennard with their 3-year-old son, Clyde. The couple bought 140 acres from George Baker and began farming. The Newlands had five more children and raised them all on the farm.

Official notification of the land grant came in 1902, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt as part of the Homestead Act of 1862.

The Newland Farm is among 102 Arkansas farms that have been designated Arkansas Century Farms for 2013. Members of the Newland family are among 16 farm families from the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area whose farms have been ongoing for at least 100 years. These families were honored in ceremonies Nov. 18 and 19. Each family received an Arkansas Century Farm sign and certificate from the Arkansas Agriculture Department, the sponsor of the program, which is in its second year.

“We’re excited about the honor,” said Danny Newland, who lives with his wife, Kathy, on the original farm. They have a cow/calf operation of 60 mamma Brangus/Angus cows.

Approximately 18 members of the Newland family accepted the award Nov. 18 at The Poultry Federation building in Little Rock. Joining Danny were his brother, Randy Newland of Greenbrier, and sisters, Sherrin Richardson and Rita McDonald, both of Clinton. Spouses, children and grandchildren also attended.

Richardson said John Newland returned to Ohio, where he died in 1923.

“Grandma Newland [Emma] kept borders, tended an apple and pear orchard,” she said. “She also raised broomcorn, which is a kind of sorghum, and had a broom-making machine, so she sold brooms.

“Broomcorn is said to be ‘the plant that doesn’t quit’ because it is self-seeding,” Richardson said. “It was first raised on our place and is a fitting description of our tie to this acreage.

“Through all generations, it took more than the farm and its bounty to make ends meet,” Richardson said. “Still, it has provided the substance of life for five generations now.”

Danny Newland said that after Emma died, she left the farm to Clyde, who married Minnie Lee Middleton in 1912. Minnie Lee died in 1965 and Clyde in 1976. They had four sons — Harry, Robert, Ralph and Ras.

“Pa (we called them Ma and Pa) had all kinds of animals,” Richardson said of her grandfather. “Goats, mules, horses, chickens. Pa sold pears by the bushel, and even in his 70s, he raised tomatoes and sold them beside the highway. He sold them on the honor system — he left a sign that said, ‘Leave $$$ in the bucket.’”

Richardson said Clyde Newland was a justice of the peace and married many couples in the northern part of Van Buren County. At one time, Clyde and Minnie even had a restaurant, Minnie’s Café.

“They always had a milk cow and hogs,” she said. “The family fed themselves off the farm.”

After Clyde died, the farm came to Ralph, who married Ruby Gildersleeve in 1946. They are the parents of Randy, Danny, Sherrin and Rita; there was also another daughter, Dee Ann, who, at the age of two, was hit and killed on U.S. 65, a few feet from Clyde and Minnie’s house. Ralph Newland died in 2010, and Ruby, in 2011.

Like his father before him, Ralph tried his hand at various things. Richardson said he bought and sold cattle, worked as an auctioneer and served as both Van Buren County tax assessor and treasurer. He also served in the Air Force and as a deputy sheriff. When he was in his 80s, Ralph began a culvert business, which is located on the farm.

“He even tried row cropping with potatoes since there was a grader operating in Chimes,” Richardson said. “One year, he planted 40 100-pound bags of seed. There was no rain, and the harvest wasn’t even enough to eat. You haven’t lived till you pick up potatoes in 100-degree heat on the Fourth of July.”

Danny’s parents sold the farm to him and Kathy, who moved back to the farm in 2002. They had lived for many years in Clinton, where both taught school in the Clinton School District. Danny also took over the culvert operation.

Danny and Kathy have two children. Their daughter Lacey Standridge lives with her husband, Jarrett, and their children, Sydney, 9; Sam, 6; and Shelby Lynn, 5, on the Standridge Ranch right down the road from the Newland farm. Their son Wes and his wife, Randi, also have a farm down the road and have three children, Lathan, 11; Finley, 4; and Weston, 3.

“Our grandkids would make the sixth generation on this farm,” Danny said with a smile. “They spend a lot of time up here, and each one has his or her own heifer.”

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