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story.lead_photo.caption The Stockton family of the Okolona community was selected as Clark County Farm Family of the Year. From left are Bethany Stockton, Dustin Stockton, daughter Georgia Kate and Dustin’s mother, Pat Rowe. The family raises hay, timber and livestock on 550 acres that have been in the family for 135 years. - Photo by Sam Pierce

ARKADELPHIA — The Stocktons, who live in the small community of Okolona, have been farmers and worked in the timber industry since their family settled on the land more than 135 years ago.

The farm is run by Dustin and his wife, Bethany, who were recently chosen as Clark County Farm Family of the Year.

“Our family is honored to have been chosen to represent Clark County,” Bethany Stockton said.

The Stockton family raises hay, timber and livestock on 550 acres. They also tend a vegetable garden that “serves not only the extended family, but area residents in the surrounding community,” according to a press release by the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

“We have a cow-and-calf operation,” Dustin said. “We breed our cows February through April, so the calving season is shortened.

“After weaning, the steer calves will be taken on to a sale. We may nor may not keep replacement heifers, depending on the year. We sell our feeder calves through local sale barns at Glenwood and Hope Livestock Auctions.”

Bethany said families in the community are served well by the garden. Pat Rowe, Dustin’s mother, markets the tomatoes and purple hull peas to locals, and after harvest, the pea hulls are fed to the cows; corn husks and other plants are fed to the family’s pet goats.

Dustin said the recent weather in the area has slowed down his garden this year. He also said it has been too wet to bush-hog.

Dustin Stockton owns and operates Stockton Dozer and Gravel LLC, which serves the Arkansas timber industry and functions as the family’s main source of income. He said he has been doing that for more than a decade, since 2003 or 2004. Bethany works part time for the Clark County Country Water Facilities and Daniell Electric and Refrigeration.

Dustin said having run equipment on the farm all of his life and studied conservation through 4-H, this was a natural transition for him. He said he learned how to operate the equipment from his grandfather.

“I’ve always had a bit of a knack for it,” Dustin said.

“The business primarily serves the Arkansas timber industry by building logging access roads, maintaining woods roads and reclaiming roads,” Dustin said. “The reclaiming process includes water barring for erosion control and planting seed to maintain the ground integrity along the woods roads.

“The business also does all types of dirt work for individuals, including dirt hauling, house pads, ponds and land clearing.”

Dustin said he has “too many irons in the fire,” including an old fence that is rusted. The family currently has 12 miles of fence and the cows are mostly fenced in with an electrical fence.

“Fencing is an ongoing concern,” Dustin said. “Because our family has farmed the same ground for many years, some of our fencing is very old. We are regularly repairing sections of fence to keep it sound.”

The Stocktons, who have been married since 2001, own 550 acres, including 212 acres of hay and 170 of pine timber, and have been doing it for more than 135 years of farming and ranching. Dustin said rotational grazing is something they have worked to improve. They have 45 cattle and two bulls. Dustin said they use natural insemination for their calves.

“We work to keep the cows rotated to get the highest and best use of our ground, as the different elevations grow grass differently,” he said. “Putting up hay also began to be a struggle as the construction business began to grow.

“There was not enough time in the summer to operate heavy equipment, maintain hay equipment and harvest the hay.”

Dustin said that to solve this problem, the family contracted with a local farmer to cut and bale the hay meadows. Dustin said goals for the farm include improving water quality, erosion control and quality of herd.

“Fencing and fresh-water concerns are our main focuses at this time,” Dustin said. “We have signed up with the local [Natural Resources Conservation] Office and are in the process of implementing a program to install concrete water troughs, build ponds, cross-fence, and fence off and plant a riparian buffer on the creeks.”

He said the buffer for the creek will serve the purpose of keeping the cattle from breaking down the banks, aiding in erosion control.

Dustin said his family plans to improve and repair some of the older barns and outbuildings. He said they also have some investment properties but have no plans to increase the amount of land they use for farming.

“In the future, we are looking into beginning a small herd of goats, breeding myotonic goats for pets at hobby farms,” Dustin said.

The Stocktons currently have two fainting goats, Sweet Carolina and Buttercup, as pets. Dustin said depending on interest in the project, they will raise and market their own hogs in the future.

The family attends Third Street Baptist Church in Arkadelphia, where daughter Georgia, age 12, is part of the youth group. Bethany said being outdoors is very important to her family.

“When we are not working during the summer, you can find us camping at Brushy Campground on DeGray Lake,” she said. “The campground is run by our church, and we help with cleanup before the season.”

Georgia is a member of the L’Eau Frats 4-H club and serves as club secretary. She also plays fastpitch softball for the league in Arkadelphia.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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