Garland County farming operation garners county and district titles

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published June 29, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

The Gross Family of Hot Springs has been named the 2014 West Central District Farm Family of the Year and the 2014 Garland County Farm Family of the Year. The family includes Billy and Mary Gross and their sons, Steve and Scott and their families. Back row, from the left, are Stacy and Steve Gross with their sons, front row, Colton and Seth; and back row, center, Billy and Mary Gross; and back row, right, Scott Gross and his wife, Kay, front row, second from right, and their daughter, Lauren Gross Ault, front row, right. Not shown is Scott and Kay’s son, Allan Gross.

HOT SPRINGS — Farming is a family affair for Billy Gross and his sons, Scott and Steve Gross.

They farm 1,280 acres just outside Hot Springs and are being recognized for their operation.

The Gross family was recently named the 2014 Garland County Farm Family of the Year and more recently learned they have been selected as the 2014 West Central District Farm Family of the Year.

The family will compete with seven other district farm families for the state award, which will be announced at the Dec. 11 Farm Family of the Year luncheon at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Scott said when asked about receiving the district award. “We received a telephone call from Jimmy Driggers (chairman of the Garland County Cooperative Extension Service) telling us that we had been chosen the district winner.

“My dad and brother agree: We are really shocked and honored to be chosen to go to the next level.

“We hope that we can share and pass on some of the great things we have learned about farming to our kids and neighbors so that we can be better stewards of the land.”

The Gross family raises 190 cows, plus their calves and 10 bulls, and has a mixed herd — Longhorns and Angus. The Grosses have a Charolais bull and an Angus bull. They sell their calves at the Glenwood Livestock Auction and keep some of the heifers as replacements.

They also have swine, poultry and horses. In addition to their cattle operation, they raise 50 acres of hay in Garland County and have 142 acres in timber.

The family includes Billy and his wife, Mary, both 67; Scott and his wife, Kay, both 46; and their children, Lauren Gross Ault, 24; Allan Gross, 21; and Steve, 45, and his wife Stacy, 43, and their children, Colton, 17, and Seth, 13.

Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, the family became acquainted with the area when Billy’s parents, also named Billy and Mary Gross, moved to Hot Springs Village many years ago.

Scott and his family moved to Arkansas more than 20 years ago. He and Billy bought their current farm from Weyerhaeuser Realty in 2004. In 2005, Scott picked out a home site and, in 2006, moved onto the property.

“We lived here for four years before dad and mom moved here,” Scott said. “Then Steve moved here three years ago.

“That’s when the cattle operation blossomed. Steve brought his equipment, and we cleared the land and bought more.

“We had more cows than grass,” Scott said with a laugh.

The family literally had to build their farm from the ground up.

“The land was all pine timber and clear cuts when we purchased it,” Scott said. “There were no fences at all and no pastureland. We began the clearing process to create three house sites, where we built homes, shop buildings, barns and one covered arena on Steve’s place. Each homeplace required a well to be drilled.”

The Grosses had to build a perimeter fence around the initial 180 acres. That led to sectioning off potential pastureland, clearing it with a dozer and track hoe and building cross fences. They took soil samples and sent them to the University of Arkansas Agriculture Department. Following its recommendations, they limed, fertilized and seeded the land, dealing with weeds and armyworms.

“Creating these pastures led to the need for water for our livestock,” Scott said. “We now have nine ponds, providing an adequate water supply for each pasture.”

Scott and Steve began raising livestock as boys in Louisiana.

“Our dad brought home several baby calves for us to bottle-feed and to take care of,” Scott said. “We began raising 4-H projects at ages 15 and 14 and competed at the state level with our swine, dairy cattle and poultry. These experiences taught us responsibility and discipline, which [are traits] we hope to pass down to our kids.”

Scott and Kay both have full-time jobs. She has been a dental assistant for seven years, and he has been a firefighter with the Hot Springs Village Fire Department for 24 years. They are active in their church, Glazier Peau Missionary Baptist Church, and served as 4-H leaders while their children were growing up.

Lauren is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She is employed by the Lake Hamilton School District. She has been married to Andy Ault for four years. Andy graduated from Arkansas State University and works as an Arkansas State Trooper in Garland County.

Allan Gross is a graduate of the Arkansas Fire Training Academy associated with Southern Arkansas University. He is a firefighter for the Hot Springs Village Fire Department.

Steve and Stacy’s sons are now involved with 4-H.

Colton, who has cerebral palsy, is a sophomore at Fountain Lake High School. He is a member of the Fountain Lake FFA and the 4-H Club. He works at Abilities Unlimited.

Seth is a seventh-grader at Fountain Lake School. He is a member of 4-H and enjoys fishing and hunting.

This year, Colton and Seth have shown pigs and chickens for their 4-H projects, and Seth hopes to show a bull in the county fair. Seth is also

does goat tying and roping.

Stacy breeds, raises and trains American Quarter Horse Association horses. Seven mares were bred last year, and six healthy foals were born. She and Steve both rodeoed when they first met. She was a barrel racer, and he competed in roping events.

“The deal was, when we moved up here, I promised her I would build her a rodeo arena,” Steve said. “I’ve done that.”

Stacy hopes to open up the arena to the community so local kids will have a place to compete in rodeos.

Steve and Stacy still own several businesses in Louisiana and travel back and forth. They breed registered Black Angus cattle and cut the hay on the farm.

Steve and Stacy and their children also attend Glazier Peau Missionary Baptist Church.

Bill and Mary Gross are both retired. He retired from the Kansas City Southern Railroad after 20 years. Mary retired as a bus driver. They enjoy the outdoor life, which includes landscaping, raising poultry, and deer and turkey hunting. They are also members of Glazier Peau Missionary Baptist Church, where they serve as teachers. Billy is a deacon as well as the Sunday School superintendent.

Billy, Scott, Steve and Stacy are all Air Force veterans.

“We have been blessed to be all together,” Steve said. “We talk 10 or more times a day to each other. For us, farming is a joint effort.”

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