PRATTSVILLE — Chad Harper has always been around livestock, especially horses. He competed for several years professionally in team roping and was part of the winning team that captured the Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Championship in 2006 in Reno, Nevada.
Harper, 41, his wife, Katie, 37, and their two young daughters, Roanee Kate, 7, and Raynee Belle, 3 are part of a winning team this year — they have been recognized as the 2019 Grant County Farm Family of the Year.
“Being named Grant County Farm Family of the Year is an honor,” Chad said.
The Harpers raise hay, cattle, horses, chickens and guineas. They farm 1,070 acres, renting 710 of those acres and owning the remaining 360.
“I have personally always loved the cattle side of agriculture. Someone in my family has always had a few cows,” Chad said.
“I have always ridden and trained horses and have felt that combining the two would be a good way to complement each other financially. This will give my family the opportunity to grow up in a lifestyle that requires them to make decisions and work for what they want and believe in. I want my children to be able to understand that the harder you work for something, the more you are rewarded,” he said.
“The kids share responsibilities on the farm,” Katie said.
“They help Chad when he tags the new calves,” she said. “They help when we work the cattle. … Everybody helps. The whole family works the cows on horseback.”
The Harpers have been farming for 13 years.
“We market our farm simply by word of mouth or social media,” Chad said.
‘We mostly sell our calves at sale barns. If we have replacement heifers, bulls or hay to sell, it is done by word of mouth or social media,” he said. We bale square hay for irrigation control for the family’s construction business. We harvest approximately 10,000 square bales a per year.
“My father is the backbone of our whole operation. He owns and operates a successful construction business, [Harper Construction Co. in Little Rock]. This is how we all got started. My father helps with the hay and all other aspects of the farm when he is not at the office or on a construction site.”
Chad is a son of Jimmy and Sandra Harper of Prattsville and has two brothers, Danny Harper and Jeremy Harper.
Chad attended Prattsville schools through the 10th grade, then transferred to Sheridan High School, where he graduated in 1996. He attended Arkansas Tech University in Russellville but decided college was not for him and returned home to Prattsville. He competed in the professional rodeo circuit and traveled frequently across the country.
“I started participating in rodeos in high school,” he said. “I started team roping when I was about 16. I still do it, but I don’t travel like I used to.”
Katie is a daughter of George and Mary Louise Newcomb of Benton. She is a 2000 graduate of Benton High School. She attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, completing a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene. She works part time as a dental hygienist.
Chad and Katie met at a rodeo in Texas and have been married 13 years. Katie participated in rodeos as well, competing in barrel racing and roping events.
Roanee and Raynee are following in their parents’ footsteps as rodeo competitors — Roanee does barrels and poles, and Raynee races her stick horse.
Katie is a leader of the Prattsville 4-H Club, a member of the Grant County 4-H and the Sheridan Quick Start Program. She also teaches in the Awana program at their church.
Roanee shows cattle, chickens, rabbits, goats and pigeons through the 4-H program. She also gathers eggs and sells them, as well as baby chicks. She uses the money she earns to buy show rabbits.
Katie said Raynee will participate in 4-H as soon as she is old enough. She already works with animals on the farm.
The whole family belongs to the Southern Junior Rodeo Association, where Roanee and Raynee compete in events.
Chad is a member of the Grant County Cattlemen’s Association, the Grant County 4-H, the Arkansas Rodeo Association, the Arkansas Cowboys Association, the Louisiana Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Cowboys Regional Rodeo Association, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the American Quarter Horse Association and has participated in the Untied States Team Roping Championships since 1995.
The Harpers continue to improve their farm.
“Our goals are to continuously improve our hay and cattle quality,” Chad said. “Hay shortage is always a factor for us. We try to plant more winter forage when we believe we are going to run low on hay.
“We are constantly looking for more land to either buy or rent. We are always clearing grown-up thickets to provide more land for grazing.”
While the family continues to work on their farm, they are also gearing up for the Grant County Fair that will take place Sept. 17-22. Roanee has been working with her animals, hoping to win that perfect blue ribbon.
“The Harpers are an excellent choice for Grant County Farm Family of the Year,” said Brad McGinley, Grant County Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and staff chairman. “They are great advocates for agriculture. I have personally been to their place on several occasions and know the time and effort they put into their farm.
“They are also highly involved in our community. There is rarely a 4-H activity that Katie
doesn’t attend with the girls. Their family has been key to the success of the Prattsville 4-H Club, which has now grown to one of the largest 4-H clubs in the county in only two years.”