RUSSELLVILLE Rusty and Rebecca Davis, both 49, grew up farming in Pope County. They are continuing that tradition and are the 2019 Pope County Farm Family of the Year.
The family includes the couple’s daughters, Breanna Davis, 22, and Bailey Davis-Watson, 24, and her husband, Randall Watson, 28, and their 4-year-old daughter, Ellie; and Rusty’s nephew, Cole Davis, 26.
They operate Cornerstone Cattle Co., or C3, as well as Cornerstone Construction of Russellville Inc. They raise hay, cattle and broilers.
“I was pretty excited to learn we were being named Farm Family of the Year,” Rebecca said. “It’s quite an honor to even be considered.
“I am a third-generation Pope County Farm Family of the Year. My grandparents received the honor many years ago, and I was about 6 when my father and mother received this same honor. I am very proud of that family history and hope my children carry on that tradition.”
Rebecca is the only child of Jimmy Parrish and the late Kay Parrish and a granddaughter of the late Jimmy and Gertha Parrish, all of Russellville.
“As a teenager, I began helping my father by regularly working in our turkey houses and helping in general around the cattle and turkey farm,” Rebecca said. “My dad had farmed with his parents all his life.”
Rebecca said she enjoyed the farm life and decided to pursue a degree in agriculture business at Arkansas Tech University, where she met Rusty, who was working for a row-crop farmer at the time.
“I give credit to my father for giving me an opportunity to be a farmer,” she said. “Without the opportunity to take over and build on what my dad had already accomplished, I don’t think Rusty and I would be where we are today.”
Rusty is a son of Janis Davis of Atkins and the late Ricky Davis. Rusty has one brother, Richie Davis of Atkins, who is married to Annita; their son, Cole, helps on the farm and in the construction business. Rusty’s grandfathers were farmers — one, the late Leo Davis, was a row-crop farmer, and the other, the late Harold Russell, raised cattle.
“My grandfather took me to a registered polled Hereford sale at the age of 14, where I bought my first cow/calf pair,” Rusty said. “As a teenager, I worked for local row-crop farmers in the Atkins bottoms. The first few weeks that Rebecca and I dated, we spent many hours riding on a combine cutting soybeans.”
Rusty said that when he and Rebecca married, they bought a man’s cows and rented his pasture, beginning their life together as farmers.
“We have always had cattle, no matter what other projects we had going on,” he said. “In 2014, we completely took over the farming operation.
“During the past 26 years, there have been many challenges, including ups and downs of the cattle market, loss of turkey contracts and the sale of farmland. There have also been many opportunities to expand our operation and increase the quality of our products. Farming has changed so much in just our lifetimes. We have learned to take a proactive approach that includes keeping up with technology, environmental factors, trends and legislation that could have future effects on our productivity and product marketability.”
The Davises’ cow/calf operation includes 577 head of cattle, which are mostly Brangus or Brangus X, plus 30 bulls, which are horned Hereford, Charolais and Brangus. The couple operate eight poultry houses, averaging 1.5 million birds a year, which they contract with Tyson Foods.
They operate their farm as a business, with everyone assigned certain jobs.
“It takes everyone to manage the farm,” Rebecca said.
Rusty’s areas of expertise include nutrition, ration formulation, genetics, cross breeding, budgets and timber management. Rebecca concentrates on government programs, spraying, chemical records, nutrient management and cattle records.
Bailey and her husband and Randall concentrate on the poultry operation. She is the operation manager, communicating with Tyson, monitoring the flocks and implementing changes; she also handles the accounting duties for the farm. Randall is the poultry facility manager, maintaining equipment and keeping the facilities in working order; he also is responsible for wildlife management and food plots.
Breanna works in the family garden and manages social media for the farm; she is also learning how to keep records.
Cole handles welding, equipment operation and fabrication for both the farm and the construction company.
“Cole works weekends and evenings for us and is a big help,” Rebecca said.
The Davises have been farming for 35 years. They started by renting 160 acres and now operate 1,960 acres, which include 1,060 acres they rent and 900 acres they own. They raise hay on 290 of those acres, producing 1,740 bales of hay and 1,450 bales of haylage per year.
Cornerstone Construction of Russellville Inc. is a commercial company with a site utility division.
“We are able to utilize our dozers, track hoes and related equipment to make farm improvements and fulfill requirements for [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and related programs,” said Rusty, who serves as president of the company.
The Davises are active in the community. They attend Crow Mountain Baptist Church, where Rebecca is an Awana-program teacher. Both are members of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, the Pope County Cattlemen’s Association, the Pope County Farm Bureau, which Rusty serves as a member of the board of directors, and Young Farmers and Ranchers, a Farm Bureau program.
Rusty has attended the Citizens Police Academy, is a purchaser at the Pope County 4-H market sale and is a supporter of Joseph’s House of Russellville.
Rebecca taught at Russellville Middle School for eight years but left that job about five years ago to concentrate on the family’s farming and construction businesses. She has worked in the softball booster concession stand and has participated as an exhibitor in the Skilled Trade Expo.