Doug and Carla Spence named 2022 Pope County Farm Family of the Year | life in the valley

The 75th annual Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program named the county’s 2022 Farm Families of the Year.

Since 1947, Arkansas’ Farm Family of the Year program has served as a vehicle to recognize outstanding farm families statewide.

The 2022 Pope County Farm Family of the Year has been named the Doug & Carla Spence Family of Atkins.

River Valley Now visited and spoke to Doug and Carla Spence after they were named Pope County Farm Family of the Year.

Doug said, “Growing up, I was a farmer my whole life. When I was 21, I wanted to start raising chickens, so we built chicken coops in 1995. Carla and I got married in 1996 and soon after we built two more. Our operation started to grow from there.

Doug continued to state that the family had been raising cattle and chickens for a long time and at some point they ventured out and also got into hauling dirt and starting row farming. Although the family continues to cultivate and move land, they no longer practice row farming. Since starting his own farm, Doug has said, “We just do what we have to do.”

Although it is a lot of work, farming is not the only family activity. In 2015 Carla opened a flower and gift shop at Atkins, Spence’s Flowers & Gifts and in 2018 the family purchased a wedding venue, ‘Meadow on the Mountain’, located at the end of Saint Joe Road. More recently, they opened a tanning salon, Spence’s Tanning, located across from the flower shop on NE 1st Street in Atkins.

When asked how they manage to manage it all, Carla said: ‘Hope, our daughter-in-law runs the tanning salon and Meadow on the Mountain and our daughter Haylee runs the florist. In the meantime, our son is helping Doug on the farm.

Doug and Carla thank Doug’s parents, Al and Joann Spence, for their success and said, “They were the foundation of the farm. They helped us get started. Doug continued, “I wouldn’t have started at 21 without them. When I joined the bank at 21, they wouldn’t lend me money, so my parents helped me start it all.

Although their farm was successful, the Spence family also fell on hard times. Doug and Carla said their toughest year was 2008. “Pilgrim’s Pride pulled out and it was tough. We hadn’t had any chickens for six months, so I went to haul logs for a guy we were going to church with at the time. We were hauling logs and whatever we could do to get by,” Doug said.

After some time had passed and the family had done what they could to earn a living, Doug said he had a cousin who lived in Fayetteville and he once asked if he had gotten a chicken contract. When asked, Doug said he didn’t get a contract, but his cousin reassured him that he was thinking of getting one.

Doug said: “My cousin talked to some people there and he told them I didn’t get a contract and of course it wasn’t long and we had chickens back.”

Around April or May 2009, the Spences received a chicken contract with Tyson in Clarksville and according to Doug, “I’ve been farming them ever since. It was a very trying time back then, but now we have six barns.

Doug said he receives 125,000 chicks per batch and five flocks per year. It houses 25,000 chickens in the large houses and 19,800 chickens in the small houses.

“Right now we’re keeping them around 52 to 56 days and raising a few more seven-pound chickens for Tyson in Clarksville,” Doug said in closing.

The objectives of the Farm Family of the Year program are:

  • Recognize and encourage farm families who do outstanding work on their farms and in their communities;
  • Recognize the importance of agriculture in the community and the state; and
  • Disseminate information on improved agricultural practices and management.

Selection as Arkansas Farm Family of the Year includes production efficiency, energy and resource conservation, leadership in farm and community affairs, home and community improvement. the farm and the management of the house and the farm.

The families were visited by a panel of judges to determine eight district farm families of the year and the state farm family of the year will be announced in December at the Farm Family of the Year luncheon.

The Farm Family of the Year program begins each year with the selection of the top farm families from each county and ends in December with the selection of the state’s Farm Family of the Year, which then represents Arkansas at the Swisher Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

River Valley Now congratulates the Spence family on being named the 2022 Pope County Farm Family of the Year and for all their hard work.

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