TIMBO — Jackie Martin said she and her husband, Mark, “do like to work.”
Not only do they operate an 867-acre farm; they both have off-the-farm jobs as well. Mark, 51, is a master plumber, and Jackie, 50, is a bookkeeper and tax preparer.
“I had rather be outside working the cows than doing taxes any day,” Jackie said with a laugh.
Now semiretired from the plumbing business, Mark said, “When I was growing up, I loved working the cows. I still do.
“I love watching the grass grow. There’s nothing better that opening a gate and watching the cows come through and graze on new grass.
“I made a lot better living when I was a plumber, but this is what I like.”
The Martins are the 2014 Stone County Farm Family of the Year. They have a 150-head cow/calf operation and a 175-head stocker-calf operation. They also raise hay, which is used in their cattle operation.
Mark and Jackie have two daughters, one son and two grandsons. Their children raised their own stocker calves until they had enough profit to buy their first vehicles. Both grandsons have a cow, and the sale of their calves is put into a college fund for the boys.
The Martins’ daughter Amber Stanley, 31, has a degree in psychology and lives in Cabot with her husband, Tony.
Son Trent Martin, 28, is a graduate of Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge and served as a youth pastor until 2013. He will start pharmacy school this fall. Trent and his wife, Megan, who is a speech therapist, have two sons, Micah, 6, and Jude, 3.
Daughter Kristin Crouch, 27, is a graduate of Arkansas Tech University and is completing her master’s degree in middle-school mathematics. She lives in Russellville and is director of junior high students for the Wesley Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk kids.
“Trent and Kristin both come home to the farm to help with working cattle, building projects and farm maintenance, or whenever we need them,” Jackie said. “Both plan to return to the family farm to live and raise their families.”
Mark was born in Marshall and grew up on a farm in Searcy County, where he lived until he was 8. He is the son of Mary Martin, who now lives on the Martin farm, and the late Daril Martin.
Mark graduated from Mountain View High School and went to work in the construction business after graduation.
“I’ve worked in farming and construction most of my life,” Mark said, noting that he also worked for five years at the McDonnell Douglas Aircraft parts-assembly facility in Melbourne. “We made parts for wings,” he said.
Jackie was born in Leslie and grew up on a farm. She is the daughter of Billy Ray Anderson, who now lives on the Martin farm, and the late Nellie Anderson.
Jackie graduated from high school in Timbo, and her first job was keeping books for a local livestock auction.
“I don’t think I have ever encountered a harder job, but it prepared me for various other bookkeeping jobs,” she said.
In 1968, Jackie’s parents and her uncle, Ivan Anderson, purchased the farm that Mark and Jackie now operate.
“My dad grew up on the other side of the highway on the family farm that has been in his family for over 100 years,” Jackie said. “He traded his part of the family farm for 40 acres that my uncle had purchased as part of the farm we now operate.”
Jackie said the farm has seen many activities over the years.
“Everything from demolition derbies and a dude ranch to a turkey farm before my parents bought it,” Jackie said with a smile. “My mom and dad had egg-production houses that were later converted to broiler houses, and they raised beef cattle. I can’t ever remember living anywhere else.
“My dad worked for what is now NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) in Mountain View, so my mother and I spent many hours working on this farm. My only regret is that my mom didn’t live to be a part of this honor (being named Farm Family of the Year).”
“It’s an honor to get to represent Stone County as Farm Family of the Year,” Mark said. “I was really surprised. I thought they always looked at the younger people.”
“It’s quite an honor for us,” Jackie said.
“There is so much hard work that goes into farming, especially here, with the hills and rocks,” Jackie said. “It’s nice to be recognized for it. You have to enjoy it, or you wouldn’t be doing it. And you can’t beat the benefits of being able to raise kids and grandkids to accept responsibilities and to see God at work.
“It’s beautiful and peaceful up here. The neighbors are wonderful. It’s a great community.”
Mark and Jackie knew each other in high school. They were married in 1991 and started their farming operation in 1993.
“We rented a small farm and bought 25 calves,” Jackie said. “Market prices were so low that we kept them for heifers and started our cow herd using one of Dad’s bulls to breed our heifers.
“The next year we rented a 300-acre farm and bought 80 300-pound heifers and sold them at 600 pounds. We bought our feed by the semi load and were feeding it in 5-gallon buckets. We were rolling our hay out of a pickup in the winter and grazing in the summer.”
Jackie said the couple rented two more farms and increased their stocker calves to around 250 head.
“After trying to feed that many calves with buckets, we bought a feed mixer, a feed bin and an electric feed box for the truck,” she said. “That made life easier for the whole family.”
Mark started his plumbing business in 1996, and that allowed Jackie to quit her accounts-payable job in town.
“Mark would take off to help get the new feeder calves straightened out and put the hay up,” she said. “My mother and I would feed, check and doctor the calves during the week, and we would all work, kids included, on evenings and weekends.”
During the next few years, the Martins leased some farms for hay and purchased a 190-acre farm on which to run their 40 head of cattle. Mark’s business was still thriving, and Jackie started a bookkeeping and tax-preparation business in their home. They also started selling their stocker calves on a video auction instead of at local sale barns.
“Around 2004, my dad’s health started failing, and he started liquidating his cow herd,” Jackie said. “We sold the 190-acre farm, let go of some of the leased land and moved our cows to the family farm. In the next couple of years, Mark sold half of his plumbing business to be able to spend the needed time on the farm as our operation grew. My mother continued to help us on the farm until her sudden death in July of 2010. At that time, Mark and I also took over the care of my dad.
“We are very blessed to be able to live here and do what we love — being stewards of what God has given us. This winter, Mark was diagnosed with a very serious illness, but thanks to the prayers of a wonderful community and the grace of God, he was healed, and we can continue on this journey that we hope will continue for our kids and grandkids if time goes on that long.”
Mark and Jackie also raise border collies for stock dogs. They train them for their personal use and sell a few puppies.
“A trained dog is worth five hired hands,” Mark said.
The Martins are active members of Timbo Valley Assembly of God.
Mark has taught Sunday School, been director of the Sunday School program and served on various committees, including the Pastor Search Committee. He has taken construction mission trips to Belize and Brazil, as well as to other churches and seminaries. He has also been an Awana leader.
Both Mark and Jackie have been active in the community, as well as their church.
Mark coached T-ball and Amateur Athletic Union basketball teams and has been a volunteer for the Mountain View Booster Club. He is a member of the Arkansas Cattleman’s Association and Gideons International.
Jackie has been treasurer and financial secretary at Timbo Valley Assembly of God. She has taught and led youth Sunday School classes and been a leader of a women’s Bible-study group and an Awana leader. She has also participated in mission trips to Brazil and Kansas City.
In addition, she has been a volunteer for the Arkansas Educational Television Network and is a member of the Arkansas Cattleman’s Association and the Gideons Auxiliary.