Editor's note: The eight district winners in the 72nd annual Arkansas Farm Family of the Year Program have been selected, representing the diversity of Arkansas agriculture, the state’s largest industry. The district winners will now be judged to determine a state winner to be announced Dec. 6 at the Farm Family of the Year luncheon at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock.
Gene and Ruby Davidson of Kingston (Newton County), has been selected the 2019 Northwest District Farm Family of the Year. For the past 39 years, the Davidsons have raised turkeys, run a cow/calf operation and own a logging company that cuts select hardwoods. They have two adult children Dustin and Sam.
KINGSTON — There is no I in TEAM, and for the Gene and Ruby Davidson family of Kingston working the family farm is a team effort. And what a team it is.
Gene and Ruby married in 1980 and began farming after Gene had been logging for many years. The couple decided to build some turkey houses and became contract growers for Cargill. The litter that the turkeys left behind in the houses wasn't put to waste. It was used to fertilize pastures so they would grow lush grass and support cattle. With the turkeys and cattle demanding his time, Gene became a stay at home farmer. It wasn't until recently that he went back to logging with one of his two sons.
Next door lives son Dusty Davidson, his wife, Kara and their three children, Jack, 10; Kate, 8 and Oaklee, 8. Their other son, Sam Davidson and his wife Maggie, live on US 412 just east of Huntsville. They have two children, Drake, 4 and Tinley, 1.
Dusty is a certified welder and machinist. He has worked in the poultry industry 12 years. He is also employed by Wilson Combat, a firearms manufacturer. Kara is the office manager for Family Psychological Center in Harrison. Jack enjoys archery, hunting and fishing. Kate likes horses and is in training to be a barrel racer and trick rider. Oaklee likes playing sports and riding horses, too.
Jack is in the fifth grade and attends Highland Middle School at Ash Flat. Kate is in third grade at Ash Flat and Oaklee is in third grade at Valley Springs Elementary.
Sam has worked 11 years in the poultry business and is now building his own pullet houses and will contract with George's Inc., chicken and poultry company. He also logs with his father.
Maggie teaches kindergarten in Huntsville. She is patient and loves working with children, said Ruby. Drake likes outdoor activities and currently plays T-ball. Tinley is a little jabber box. She is a happy little girl, said Ruby.
Gene said it feels like he works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with everything he has to do. He credits his wife for keeping everyone on schedule. She makes sure everyone is where they need to be, he said.
Ruby has her own career besides being a farmer's wife and a mom. She is employed by the rural and consolidated Jasper School District and works as a paraprofessional at the Kingston School campus.
The Davidsons have been farming for 39 years. They own 316 acres of land and rent 800 acres more for a combined total of 1,116 acres producing mixed grasses. About 150 acres are dedicated for cutting. They yield about 1,050 bales each season. Spraying is done to control brush and thistles and brushy areas are tackled with a rotary cutter in late summer.
That leaves 966 acres of grazing pasture for the herd of mixed breed cattle. There are 180 mama cows, 10 bulls and, depending on time of year, 100 or more calves. The farm is crossed fenced for rotational grazing and some ponds have been built over the years to keep up with the herd's needs.
The poultry operation began in 2005. Today it includes a brooding barn and two grow out houses for light hens. Some new equipment is being installed so the houses are empty at this time. Their contract with Cargill calls for five flocks a year. The farm gets 27,000 birds at each placement. They have the birds for 12 weeks.
The logging enterprise focuses on selective hardwood including white oak and walnut. White oak is used for making barrels and the walnut is used for veneers. The timber is also made into ties. Gene said he missed the activity and right now, the price for timber is good.
Dusty also has an interest in trees and continues to care for his stewardship forest of pine trees. He planted the trees several years ago for a school project intended to provide habitat for deer and turkey.
It also serves as a buffer to a nearby stream to protect the land from erosion.
The family takes a special interest in school and community service activities including blood drives, highway cleanups, student council, FFA service projects and in their church activities.
The family also likes to take time for recreation and the most important time of year is hunting season. All the game harvested is utilized by the family.
Ruby is known for the traditional breakfast she serves at the start of muzzleloader season.