SWIFTON Farming is a family affair at WKW Farms, which received the 2018 Jackson County Farm Family of the Year award.
The family includes Rob Walker and his wife, Andrea, who live in Newport; Greg King and his wife, Laura, who live in Hickory Grove; and John Walker and his wife, Mandy, who live in Swifton. John Walker and Laura King are siblings, the children of Linda Walker and the late John David Walker Jr. Rob Walker is a cousin to John and Laura and a son of Richard and Beth Walker. Rob, Greg and John farm full time and do the majority of the work, with the assistance of three employees.
The families have been farming together since 2013 and have a partnership in the operation of the 3,800 acres they lease in and around the Swifton area. They raise 1,500 acres of rice, 1,700 acres of soybeans and 120 acres of corn that are irrigated, as well as 250 acres of soybeans and 650 acres of wheat that are not irrigated.
“It’s a privilege to receive the Farm Family of the Year award,” Rob said.
Greg said he considers it “an honor” to be named Jackson County Farm Family of the Year.
John said he thinks the award “is a true honor. We were chosen by our peers, and it makes me proud to know that the hard work and effort that we put into the business shows.”
During their first two years of farming together, Rob, Greg and John were on the payroll of Walker Planting Co., which was owned by Richard and Beth Walker and John and Linda Walker. The first year, Rob, Greg and John farmed 578 acres and secured funding through a guaranteed loan at AgHeritage. In 2015, they picked up 200 more acres. They were able to go off Walker Planting’s payroll in 2017 when they picked up 3,000 more acres.
As young kids, Rob and John spent summers working with their dads on the farm. As teenagers, they continued to work at Walker Planting, helping with the wheat harvest, soybean planting and rice watering. Greg, who is from Independence County, learned how to drive a tractor and bail hay at the age of 10 while helping on his family’s cattle farm.
The partners use multiple marketing options during the year to get the best prices for their crops. They consult with people at different granaries where they sell grain and with Rob’s dad, who follows markets closely and works with a marketing consultant. They typically book 35 to 40 percent of their crop in advance, storing some grain in grain bins for sale during the year.
Future plans include constructing more grain storage bins to help make harvest timelier and to aid in the maximization of commodity prices obtained. The partners also hope to diversify the farming operation by getting into other farm-related enterprises.
Rob, 35, and Andrea, 38, have one son, Cagen, 11, who enjoys hunting and riding his dirt bike. He plays peewee football for the Newport Greyhounds and works with his dad on the farm during the summer.
Rob is a graduate of Newport High School. He is a member of the board nominating committee for Farmers Supply.
Andrea is also a graduate of Newport High School. She has a degree in education from Arkansas State University and taught kindergarten at Newport Elementary School for eight years. She is now a stay-at-home mom.
The Rob Walker family attends Central Baptist Church in Diaz.
Greg King, 41, and Laura, 38, have two sons — Jesse, 11, and Jake, 7. Both attend Tuckerman schools.
Jesse enjoys hunting and playing little league baseball for the Tuckerman Bulldogs and peewee basketball for the Swifton Pirates. He is in the Gifted and Talented Program at school. He works with his dad on the farm during the summer.
Jake plays Little League baseball for the Tuckerman Bulldogs and intramural basketball.
Greg was raised in Newark, a son of Herb and Carol King. He graduated from Cord-Charlotte High School and went to work for Gene Melton and Son Farms at Cord, where he learned the ins and outs of row-crop farming.
“I grew up on a cattle farm but always had a passion for row-crop farming,” Greg said.
Laura is a graduate of Tuckerman High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from ASU. She is the district treasurer for the Jackson County School District, a former Jackson County School District PTO officer and a former team captain for Jackson County Rely for Life.
John, 42, and Mandy, 38, have two daughters — Madison, 16, and Elizabeth, 13, who both attend Tuckerman schools.
Madison is involved in Key Club, Beta Club, the Student Council and the art and history clubs and is in Gifted and Talented classes. She plays basketball and softball for the Tuckerman Bulldogs.
Elizabeth plays softball for the Tuckerman Bulldogs. She is also in Gifted and Talented classes and a member of the library club, drama club and Student Council.
John is a graduate of Tuckerman High School and ASU with a Bachelor of Science degree in plant science. He worked for Tyson Foods for six months.
“I decided quickly that the chicken business was not for me,” he said. He then worked for seven years for Poinsett Rice and Grain, where he graded rice.
“And then I was here,” he said, smiling.
Mandy is a graduate of Swifton High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a master’s degree in business administration and a CPA certification from ASU. She owns an auditing and accounting business in Tuckerman. She also does bookkeeping for the farm. Mandy worked for the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit for 12 years. She is a former member of the Swifton City Council.
The John Walker family attends Swifton Church of Christ.