From pastures to ball fields-Taylors have more than farm life to keep them busy
Softball, cattle and the feed mill.
For the last 10 years Dennis and Deana Taylor of Franklin have worked to build up their cattle farm and feed mill and watched as their two daughters blossomed into softball prodigies.
Because of their hard work, the Taylors have been named the 2005 Izard County Farm Family.
But they won't have much time to enjoy this honor. They are getting ready for another run at the World Series of fast-pitch youth softball.
"The ballfield is pretty much our second home," said Deana from their Franklin based farm July 8. "When we're not working the cattle or the feed store, we're playing ball."
The Taylors' oldest daughter, 14-year-old Sarah, pitched two years ago for a team that won the World Series of fast pitch softball in her age division. She was named MVP of the tournament, which was held in St. Louis.
Last year her team was runner-up in the World Series finals to a team from New Mexico, but Sarah said she hopes this year the outcome will be different.
"This could be the last time this team plays together so we want to go out on top," Sarah Taylor said.
Dennis, who serves as an assistant softball coach at ICC, said his other daughter, 9-year-old Molly, is following in her older sister's footsteps.
"Sarah started playing when she was 4 and Molly didn't seem interested in it when she was that age, but she's coming around," Dennis said. "Right now she pitches and plays a pretty good shortstop."
When the Taylors aren't running from baseball field to baseball field they operate a Black Angus cattle farm and two feed mills, one in Franklin and one in Mt. Pleasant.
"It's the only thing I ever wanted to do," said Dennis Taylor. "I've always been around it my whole life."
The Taylor farm is a 520-acre spread in which 110 cattle, primarily beef, are raised and sold.
The herd is wormed and vaccinated in the spring and fall.
Dennis said he owns 138 acres of the farm and leases the remaining 390 acres. He said within a month the family is planning to more than double its land.
"The paperwork should be completed by the end of this week, maybe even today," Taylor said. "We're gonna lease 320 more acres and buy another 312 acres."
With this added acreage, Taylor plans to add 30 or more cattle to his herd.
Taylor said farming has been in his blood since he was a child.
Before owning his own farm, Dennis Taylor milked cows as a teen-ager and worked for his father, Don Taylor, at Taylor Feed Mill in Franklin.
Don Taylor's health deteriorated, and in 1999 Dennis bought the feed mill from his father. Since then he has opened another feed mill in Mt. Pleasant.
"It just felt like the right time to take over the mill," Deana Taylor said.
Don Taylor opened Taylor's Feed Mill in 1983.
Just after he bought the feed mill, Dennis, who had been farming hogs, switched to cattle.
The drought which has caused problems for other area cattle farmers hasn't affected the Taylors.
"We still have plenty of grass," said Dennis. "We fertilize every blade. The hottest weather will pass in about 60 days and we'll be fine."
The Taylors use a blended fertilizer high in phosphates and potash during the summer, and in the fall they use nitrogen on their fescue grass and potash on their bermuda grass.
They raise hay and fescue to feed their cattle. Dennis constructed several ponds on his property with fences around them to water his cattle.
Deanna said business at the feed store has been steady because of the drought.
"We've been delivering liquid feed," Deanna said. "We usually don't do that until the dead of winter."
Deanna said she didn't grow up on a farm but has grown to love her new lifestyle since she and Dennis married in 1988.
She said the two met while she was a bank teller at a bank in Calico Rock.
"He use to come in there and wave at me," said a laughing Deana. "He would stare at me and I got the idea he liked me."
When she's not working at the feed mill or helping her daughters with their softball, Deanna serves as the vice president of the ICC School Board.
Besides softball, Sarah and Molly participate in many activities.
Sarah plays basketball and softball and is a member of the FCCLA, Builder's Club, FCA and 4-H. She bales hay, bottle feeds calves and helps her father vaccinate livestock.
"She gets out there and works with me all the time," Dennis Taylor said. Sarah is also a junior member of the Junior Angus Association.
Molly is a member of 4-H, likes to ride her two horses, Lightning and Pudding, and likes to work with her show calves. She bought her horses with her own money.
Deana said Sarah and Molly have their own herd of cattle within the main herd. She said both girls have between seven and eight cattle.
"It teaches them responsibility," Deana said. "They take care of their own cows and buy and sell them."
Sarah's and Molly's softball prowess cannot be attributed to their parents. Dennis said he played football and basketball but never baseball. Deanna said she played basketball and slow pitch softball while she was in high school but not on the level of her daughters.
"Momma and daddy always had to work so sometimes we would walk down to the park and play ball, but it wasn't like this," Deana said.
Deana's father, Ronnie Guthrie, is the mayor of Calico Rock.
Next to their house the Taylors have constructed an enclosed batting cage.
"We play in there almost everyday," Sarah Taylor said.
Dennis Taylor coaches Sarah's and Molly's summer softball teams. Molly's team is comprised of girls who live in the area, but Sarah has teammates who live as far away as North Little Rock and Vilonia.
Sarah has pitched as many as five games in one day to help her team.
"When they're that young there is no limit to how much that you can pitch," Deana said.
Molly said she likes to pitch but tries to be a team player.
"I'll play wherever they ask me to," Molly said. "It doesn't matter if it's first base, shortstop or wherever."
Throughout the summer the family travels across the state and country, watching and playing in softball tournaments.
Sarah had a tournament in Bentonville the same day as the media day honoring their family as the farm family of the year.
Dennis said his family is lucky to be named the farm family of the year, but hoped that luck would extend a little further.
"I hope we're lucky all weekend," Dennis said, talking about Sarah's softball tournament. "Because if we are, that means we'll have a chance to go back to the World Series."