PALESTINE — By the time he was 8, Gene “Geno” Banks Jr. was learning the cattle trade alongside his grandfather. Now 49, Geno and his family are being honored as the 2014 Clark County Farm Family of the Year.
Geno and his wife, Stephanie, 48, have one son, Tyler, who is 16. They farm 565 acres, which includes 251 acres of mixed-grass hay and 92 acres of hardwood timber that has never been harvested. They also have a 60-head cow/calf operation and two bulls.
In addition to his farming operation, Geno is a dealer and distributor of Mix 30 liquid cattle feed, producing 880 tons annually, serving 10 counties in Arkansas; the owner of Banks Feed LLC, which produces 240 tons annually of custom cattle feed; and the manufacturer of 222 tons annually of Deer 365, a mineral-enriched protein supplement for deer that he advertises as “raccoon proof.”
“There are a lot of people more worthy than us,” Geno said when asked about the Farm Family of the Year honor. “Anybody that has a cow deserves it. Anybody that has cattle is a hard worker. You’ve got to love it to do it because of the sacrifices you have to make.
“The Lord has done a lot for us.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” Stephanie said when asked how she felt about the honor. “I know how hard farm families work. Geno works every single day.”
Stephanie is a certified public accountant and a partner in the firm of Malone and Banks, PLLC, Certified Public Accountants in Arkadelphia.
Geno said his grandfather, the late Arnold Banks, “had me at the local sale barn every Saturday from the age of 8, teaching me how to grade, estimate weights and buy cattle.
“I started buying cattle independently when I was 13 and put together a herd of trading cattle that were constantly rotated. After graduating high school, I started working in five sale barns, in addition to the trading-cattle operation for a few years before returning to the farm full time. After my grandpa passed away, I downsized the operation and began being a dealer/distributor for Mix 30 and recently built our feed mill.”
Geno’s most recent endeavor is the development of Deer 365.
“The Lord blessed us with an opportunity to develop a product that could make trophy bucks out of 2 ½- to 3 1/2-year-old bucks in seven months and feed deer and not raccoons and opossums,” he said, adding that he just signed an agreement with a national farm supply company to sell Deer 365 in three states in late July and August.
“The feed mill and deer feed complement each other and the farm, and each represent one-third of our income,” Geno said. “Dad and Tyler help me in all aspects of the farm and feed-mill operations.”
Geno was raised in Arkadelphia, the only child of Pat and Gene Banks Sr. He graduated from Arkadelphia High School in 1983 and went to work farming.
“I got my education at the barn,” he said with a laugh.
“I didn’t chose farming,” Geno said. “It chose me. If Stephanie hadn’t had a good job, we would have starved to death.
“I was even late to our wedding. I had to pull a calf before I left. There were all those people waiting for me, wondering where I was.”
Tyler is a junior at Ouachita High School, where he is a member of FFA. He hopes to go to Henderson State University to study criminal justice, then to law school.
Geno is a former board member of the Clark County Cattlemen’s Association and a former volunteer firefighter with the Hollywood and Okolona volunteer fire departments. He has provided feed for hunts sponsored by Challenged Outdoorsmen of America, which provides hunting opportunities for disabled individuals, and for Sharing Jesus Every Day (JED) Outdoors, a Christian ministry that provides hunting opportunities for young people.
Additionally, Geno has conducted seminars in various counties to provide education on deer-herd management and growing bucks.
Stephanie, who has a business degree from Henderson State University, is the daughter of Jerry and Pat Malone of Arkadelphia. She has one brother and two sisters — Jonathan Malone, Anissa Fryar and Allison Malone, who is Stephanie’s twin.
Stephanie is a member of the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants. She prepares all quarterly and annual reporting in four states in which Deer 365 is sold.