LONDON — Shawn and Gayla Boxnick were raised on farms — Shawn in Pope County near London and Gayla in Perry County near Rose Creek.
“I was raised on a farm and always enjoyed the work,” Shawn said.
“I’ve been working since I was 12,” he said, laughing. “I’ve been filing taxes ever since.”
The Boxnicks, along with their children, Nate, 18, and Marley, 14, are the 2018 Pope County Farm Family of the Year.
“It is an honor to be named Farm Family of the Year,” Shawn said. “We’re not a big farm. We’re small … minute, compared to some other guys. But we work hard.”
“He does work hard …,” Gayla said. “He deserves the honor.”
The Boxnicks have been farming for 25 years. They farm approximately 300 acres, where they raise hay and 50 head of cows and three bulls. They also sell wheat straw to local businesses and have brought in some alfalfa for resale this year.
They sell their cattle at local auctions and their hay locally as well.
“We can’t just depend on the cow-calf operation,” Shawn said. “We sell our hay, both round bales and square bales. I also do come custom baling.
“I brought the alfalfa in this year,” he said. “I just wanted to dabble in it. I brought it in from out of state to resell it. I just want to see how it goes.
“I’ll try anything to make money so we can get bigger. It costs money to make money.”
Shawn’s parents, Carl and Rebecca Boxnick, help on the farm.
“We couldn’t do what we do without them,” Gayla said of her in-laws.
Shawn, 46, has two brothers, Shane Boxnick of Rogers and the late Joshua Boxnick. Shawn graduated from Russellville High School in 1989. He served in the Navy for two years during the Persian Gulf War era but was stationed stateside, in Great Lake, Illinois, and Norfolk, Virginia.
“I got out of the Navy in 1991 and came back here and went to farming,” Shawn said. “I also work full time off the farm; I work at River Valley Poultry Service, decaking chicken houses.”
Gayla, 45, grew up near Rose Creek in Perry County, a daughter of Ann Rowe and the late Ralph Rowe. Gayla has two siblings — Stanley Rowe of Rose Creek and Pattie Robinson of Ola.
Gayla graduated from Casa High School in 1990 and took some additional classes in management. She works full time off the farm as well, serving as cafeteria manager at London Elementary School, which is part of the Russellville School District.
Rebecca Boxnick also worked as a cafeteria manager for the Russellville School District, retiring after 27 years.
Nate is a 2018 graduate of Russellville High School and plans to become a welder. He attends the United Welding Institute in Pottsville. He plans to graduate in February and will be certified as a welder but will need to complete additional testing.
“My plan is to get out and travel,” Nate said. “I want to travel for 10 years, come back here and buy more land and own two or three welding trucks in my own business. A lot of the local welders do come back to Arkansas.”
Nate has his own cattle, too.
Rebecca said she and Carl gave each of their three sons a heifer to start with.
“We gave them each a small heifer, and we’ve done that with the grandkids, too,” she said.
Marley is a ninth-grader at Russellville Junior High School. She’s been busy this summer getting her animals ready to show in the Pope County Fair.
Both Nate and Marley have been involved with Pope County 4-H activities, including
shooting-sports competitions and raising livestock.
Shawn’s older daughter, Brittany Boxnick, lives in Florida with her 10-year-old daughter, Aly Hill.
“My goal is to retire at 62, but before then, my goal is to achieve 100 cows on the farm and to be able to buy calves for resale,” Shawn said. “We are trying to improve our operation by leasing more land for hay and cattle. We are also trying to purchase more land.”
Shawn, with the help of Carl and Nate, built the log home in which Shawn’s family lives. The three men have also built two barns and are working on a third building that will be used as an equipment shed.
“It means a lot that we have built all this,” Shawn said.
Shawn and his dad are involved in the Pope County Cattlemen’s Association.
The family attends London First Baptist Church.
“I have conducted hayrides for our church for three years,” Shawn said. “Gayla assists in the church nursery, and she helps out with the kids’ 4-H club.”
The Boxnicks will be honored as the Pope County Farm Family of the Year at a reception in October during the Pope County Farm Bureau’s annual meeting.