Relatives rooted in 160-year-old farm

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published January 27, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 25, 2013 at 10:40 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Ricky, from left, Larry and Ronny Carter own the Larry and Michael Carter Farm, which has been owned by the same family for more than 160 years.

Family heirlooms can be as simple as a piece of jewelry, a set of dishes or a knickknack. But for the Carter family of Sulphur Rock, its heirloom is a 720-acre livestock farm that has been in the family for 160 years.

The Carter-Harvison family farm received Arkansas Century Farm recognition in December by the Arkansas Agriculture Department. This recognition is given to farms in Arkansas that have been owned and farmed by the same family for at least 100 years. The Carter-Harvison family farm was homesteaded by Rufus Harvison in 1852 after he moved to Arkansas from Tennessee.

Rufus, his wife, Nancy, and most of their children are buried in the Harvison-Carter cemetery, which is still on the property today.

“Over the many years, [the farm] has been everything,” Rickey Carter said. “Soybeans, corn — even as kids, we raised a few acres of cotton. My dad milked cows for several years. We’ve done a little bit of all of it.”

Rickey, Ronny, Larry and William Henry Carter acquired the W.E. Carter farm in 1996.

Ronny said this happened after he talked to a real-estate agent in the AgHeritage Farm Credit office in Batesville, where Ronny used to work. He said an agent brought a young couple into the office looking for a farm loan. He said the couple told him the farm they were looking into buying was northwest of Sulphur Rock, and it ended up being the farm Ronny and his brothers grew up on.

“I said, ‘You’re not buying the farm; we are,’” Ronny said.

The brothers called a family meeting with their aunts, who inherited the farm in 1947 and owned the farm at the time. The brothers then offered a price that was close to what the couple had offered to pay, and the four brothers purchased the farm from their aunts.

The Carter-Harvison farm is now divided into five operations, all of which received Arkansas Century Farm recognition. These include a farm per brother, and an additional farm run by William Henry’s son, William Scott. William Henry died in 2005, and his farm is run by his widow, Janet Carter.

“It’s an honor that [the farm] has been in the family for that many years,” Rickey said.

To receive Arkansas Century Farm recognition, Rickey said, an application had to be sent to the Arkansas Agriculture Department. The recognition was announced Dec. 18, with farm owners receiving certificates and signs to put on their property and show they received the honor.

“It’s been our life,” Ronny said. “The good Lord blessed us in giving us this opportunity.”

Although the Carter family has different farm operations that are run separately, Rickey said the farms are a way to keep the family connected.

“When it comes to hay or working cattle, we all help each other out,” Rickey said.

Combined, the Carter brothers have around 350 cows on their farms.

“Every day, there’s work to be done, and we just pitch in,” Ronny said. “It takes all of us to keep [the farm] going. If somebody’s gone, the others cover for them.”

Although the farm has been in the family for so long, the three remaining brothers have to have other sources of income to keep their farms going strong.

“It takes nonfarm dollars to run a farm,” Ronny said.

Rickey works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an area loan specialist, focusing on water and sewer loans, Ronny is a loan officer with First Community Bank of Batesville, and Larry recently retired from his position as parts manager for Williams Equipment in Batesville.

“Our great-great-grandfather, he made a living off the farm. Our great-grandfather made a living off the farm, our grandfather made a living off the farm, and our daddy made a living off the farm, but we all work other jobs so we can farm,” Rickey said.

Because the expense of farming is so high, it has become more of a hobby for the Carter family.

“It’s a hobby to a certain extent,” Ronny said. “It’s a hobby because it’s what we love to do.”

Their father died in 1981, and their mother, Lenora, continues to help around her family’s farm.

“If we’re working cattle, she’ll be out there handing out the medicine, the vaccines, needles, whatever she can do,” Ronny said.

Lenora gave each of her grandchildren a heifer calf when they graduated from high school to encourage them to stay involved in farming. Rickey said most of the grandchildren still have their cow or a heifer from their original cow.

While most of their families are still involved in the farm today, family members want the farm to stay in the family as long as it can.

“Hopefully, the tradition will continue,” Rickey said.

Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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