Phillips family takes Izard County Farm Family of the Year title

Carol Rolf Contributing Writer Published July 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf / Contributing Photographer

The Bryan Phillips family of Franklin has been named the 2013 Izard County Farm Family of the Year. Family members include, front row, Cindy and Bryan Phillips; and back row, their sons, Ethan Hale Phillips, 14, left, and James Hayden Phillips, 16.

FRANKLIN — When Bryan Phillips of Franklin was asked how he got into farming, he quickly answered, smiling: “I was born. I grew up around it all my life. I pretty well knew it was what I wanted to do.”

Bryan, 44, and his family — wife, Cindy, also 44; and sons, “James” Hayden Phillips, 16, and “Ethan” Hale Phillips, 14 — have been named the Izard Country Farm Family of the Year. They farm 925 acres, raising hay, wheat, corn and soybeans; they also raise 225 head of cattle.

Bryan said he was “honored” to receive the Farm Family of the Year honor.

“My dad and uncle received the same honor in 1981,” Bryan said.

“This is a family farm,” he said. “My sons will be the fifth generation on this land if they farm.”

Bryan said his great-grandfather, Isaac Plumlee, started the farm that Bryan now owns.

“He owned several farms,” Bryan said. “He ran cattle and was a sharecropper. Then my grandparents, Cecil and Atha Phillips, married and farmed elsewhere. They moved back here in 1957. We live in the house that Granddad built in 1960.

“My parents, Hayden and Rachel Phillips, and my uncle, Garland Phillips, farmed here. And I farmed with my dad a few years out of college. Then when my uncle decided to retire and my dad was getting a little older, I stepped in.”

Bryan’s dad still helps on the farm if needed.

Bryan is a 1986 graduate of Violet Hill High School, which is now Izard County Consolidated High School. He attended Arkansas State University-Beebe for two years, then transferred to ASU-Jonesboro, where he graduated in August 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.

After college, he worked for Tyson Foods in a hog operation in Springdale. It was in Springdale that he met and married Cindy in 1992. Cindy was born in Texas and grew up in Idaho but moved to Northwest Arkansas when her father, who is a retired Church of Christ minister, accepted a position there. Her parents, Jim and Melinda Hale, still live in Springdale.

Cindy has a full-time job off the farm. She is the secretary in the Admissions Office at Ozarka College in Melbourne. She also has a home business in which she sells jewelry.

“We moved back here, and I taught school for a while and still farmed a bit,” Bryan said.

He taught agriculture at Melbourne High School but gave that up to become a full-time farmer.

Bryan said he raises commercial cattle “mainly with an Angus influence.

“The calves from the livestock operation are sold in the spring at a local livestock market. We raise the corn and hay to feed the cattle. Extra hay is sold to local farmers. The soybeans are sold at a grain elevator.”

In addition to the farming operation, the Phillipses run a small fertilizer business.

“Sales are around 450 tons a year,” he said. “This business helps offset the cost of fertilizer used in the farm.”

Bryan has one brother, Mark Phillips, who helps on the farm, and one sister, Bonnie Coleman, who is a secretary at Mountain Home Middle School.

The Phillipses’ sons help on the farm.

“James is a big help on the farm,” Bryan said. “He works in the hay, feeds the cattle and watches over the irrigation, plus many other things.

“Ethan is learning very quickly,” Bryan said of his younger son. “He helps with feeding and checking the cattle. He is interested in welding and building things.”

Ethan also is a gardener, helping his mother raise red and yellow watermelons, cantaloupes, sweet corn and zucchini squash.

James and Ethan attend Melbourne High School, where they are involved in FFA, archery and trap shooting. They also participate in the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program sponsored

by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and both qualified for the state competition.

Ethan was a member of the junior high quiz bowl team, which was the runner-up in the state competition. James runs track and cross-country.

Both boys plan to attend college.

As for future plans for the farm, Bryan said, “I’m always thinking about what to do and how times have changed. I may expand the number of acres of irrigation so we can raise more crops, install a cattle-watering system on the south end of the farm and build more storage for hay and equipment.

“I feel protecting the farm for future generations is very important. I was taught, growing up on this farm, methods such as rotational grazing, planting cover crops and leaving areas of trees for wildlife. We now use practices such as no-till farming, improved watering systems for cattle and fencing off areas near the river.”

Bryan said his favorite part of farming is harvest time.

“I like the running of combines,” he said. “Fall is my favorite time of year. It’s time for slowing down, hunting a little bit and enjoying the change of colors.

“Summer is my least favorite time of year,” he said. “That’s when we get in the hay. The wheat won’t be ready yet, but by the time it’s ready, we’re already three weeks behind. We bale the straw behind the wheat and sell it to stores and greenhouses. Then we have to get the beans in. Summer’s a very busy time for us.”

Cindy said her favorite part of farming is “working the cows.

“I don’t do so much anymore, but I enjoy seeing the cows being brought up to the barn, and Bryan and the boys working them.

“I had always dreamed about marrying a farmer. I’ve always liked the western atmosphere, the outdoors. It’s amazing to me the hard work Bryan does to keep the farm running.”

The Phillipses attend the Church of Christ in Melbourne. Bryan is a song leader, Sunday School teacher and deacon. Cindy is a former Sunday School teacher and now teaches a women’s class.

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