BIGELOW — Jason Trantina comes from a farming background, albeit a bit different than the farming operation he and his family have today.
“My grandfather owned row-crop farms in Iowa, and I loved visiting there as a kid,” Jason said. “I grew up in Conway and always wanted my own small cattle herd, maybe 20 acres and 10 cows.”
Today, Jason, 44, and his wife, Christy, 48, raise cattle and hay, and a few bees as a hobby, producing about 70 pints of honey a year. They are the 2018 Perry County Farm Family of the Year.
Jason and Christy have been married for 17 years. They have a blended family — a daughter, Shannon Trantina, 15; son Joshua Trantina, 12; and son Ethan Horton, 26, and his 2-year-old son, Gage. They all live on the family farm, near the banks of the Arkansas River in Perry County. Jason and Christy also own the Toad Suck One-Stop convenience store at the Perry-Faulkner County line.
Jason said he was “surprised” when he learned his family had been named the Perry County Farm Family of the Year.
“When I think of farms that have received this kind of honor, I usually think of row-crop farmers,” he said. “We are just a small operation.”
Christy said she is pleased that Jason is being recognized.
“He runs an efficient operation,” she said. “He always gives 150 percent. He does everything as well as he can.”
Jason said a typical day for him starts at 2:30 a.m. and ends when he’s done.
“Shannon and the kids help, too,” he said. “They do whatever they are asked to do. We work together a lot as a family.”
“He makes us work hard, but he brings us joy as well,” Christy said of her husband. “He can be like a kid at heart. He keeps us laughing.”
The Trantinas have been farming for 17 years. They started with 40 acres and have increased the farm to 208 acres, owning 90 acres and renting the remaining acreage.
They raise registered Angus cattle, which include 30 cow/calf pairs, replacement heifers and bulls. They raise 118 acres of hay, irrigating 50 of those acres, and average four 4-by-5-foot round bales per acre.
Jason said they sell their cattle by word of mouth, as well as to repeat buyers and sometimes through a newspaper ad.
He said they sell their hay mainly “through our convenience store, Toad Suck One-Stop — also by word of mouth, repeat buyers and an occasional newspaper ad.
“Toad Suck One-Stop is our family-owned convenience store and is located next to our main hayfield. In addition to fuel, groceries and a bait-and-tackle shop, we offer resources for local farmers, including off-road diesel, non-ethanol fuel, feed, hay and wheat straw. This provides an avenue to sell our hay and keeps us in communication with area farmers.”
Jason has managed the Toad Suck One-Stop since 1997, and he and Christy bought the business in 2006.
“We believe in doing things the right way, and we want our farming operation to be the best it can be,” he said. “Our goal is to provide top-quality square and round bale hay and top-quality Angus cattle, continually improving fertility and weaning weights.
“We don’t have any major obstacles to overcome, thankfully,” he said, “just the usual weather and animal-related incidents, weed control … and army worms — haven’t solved that yet.”
Jason said future plans include expanding the cattle operation to 50 cow/calf pairs.
And “if the price is right,” Jason said, “we would continue to purchase property to grow our hay operation.”
Christy grew up on a cattle farm in Leslie. Her dad and grandfather raised registered Simmental cattle.
“I really did not want to live on a farm as an adult,” Christy said, smiling, “but that all changed when I met Jason.
“We love our farm life. There is a lot of value in
Jason said that when he met Christy, he lived on 40 acres in the Toad Suck area.
“We had the same goals in mind for a family, so when we married in 2001, we bought a few cows and heifers to get started, and our operation has gradually grown from there,” he said. “Also, owning the Toad Suck store has really helped develop the hay side of our operation.”
Christy previously worked in public education at the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative in Plumerville, where she did adult training for teachers. She retired from there in 2015 and went to work full time at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Conway, where she is director of adult faith formation.
“I’m still teaching,” she said. “It’s just a different curriculum. I do enjoy it.”
Jason said they “joke that she spent so much time there volunteering at the school and church, they finally hired her.
“She helps out on the farm and at the store in her ‘spare time,’” he said, laughing.
Jason was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. His father and mother, Jan and Donna Trantina, now live in Hot Springs.
“We moved to Conway when I was in fourth or fifth grade,” Jason said.
He graduated from Conway High School in 1992.
“I tried college but did not like it,” he said. “I’ve been in the convenience-store business since 1992.”
Jason’s siblings include Michelle Standridge of Bigelow; Jeremy Trantina of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida; Karen Thompson of Dallas; and Carissa Trantina of Hot Springs.
Christy is a daughter of Ann Hargis, who is formerly of Leslie and now lives in Conway, and the late Mike Hargis, who was the first director of the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative. Her siblings include John Hargis of Redfield, Tommy Hargis of Dennard and Beth Harness of Springhill.
Christy graduated from Leslie High School in 1987 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway in 1992. She worked at the Arch Ford Cooperative part time when she was in high school and college, then went to work there after college, serving as the technology coordinator.
In addition to farming, Jason is involved in the community.
He received the 2010 Business Award of the Year from the Perry County Chamber of Commerce.
He is president of the Perry County Levee District No 1.
“This board has worked for the past two years to repair and improve flood management in our area,” said Jason, adding that his farm has been affected by flooding in years past. “Twice in 2016 (January and June), heavy rains flooded homes and farmland along the Arkansas River in eastern Perry County. The levee board has since worked to repair the major floodgate system, clean up the three local watersheds, and repair and build up the levee to manage rising river waters in the future. We hope these improvements will better protect many farmers and families in our area.”
Jason is also secretary-treasurer of the Central Arkansas Intermodal Authority.
“We’d like to get an intermodal port on the [Arkansas] river,” he said. “It’s a slow-go. We meet once a month.”
He is president of the Ouachita Creek Watershed Improvement District as well and is serving his last year as chairman of the St. Joseph Church Bazaar Car Committee.
“I volunteer at church whenever I can,” he said. “Our kids go to St. Joseph School. Shannon is in 10th grade, and Joshua is in seventh grade; Ethan graduated from there in 2010.”
Christy added, “Our life revolves around St. Joe church and school activities.”
Jason said the family volunteers at church and school.
“We also like to spend time together sharing a meal, playing outside or playing games,” he said, “and of course, we all work together on the farm.”