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The Smiths

Thursday, July 28, 2005

(Photo)
2005 Sharp County Farm Family

For this year's Sharp County Farm Family of the Year hard work is a way of life.

From an early age, Phillip Smith learned the importance and responsibility of farming growing up on his parents' farm. Today Smith, his wife and their three children continue the tradition and own and operate a successful cattle and chicken farm in Sidney.

"It seems like it's the same way it was then," Smith said. "We had to get up before the bus came and gather eggs. I still get up every morning and gather those eggs."

Smith, 32, graduated from Evening Shade High School in 1991. After high school, he attended Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. He paid for college by helping his father farm watermelons.

"I hated it then, but now that I look back it wasn't so bad," he said. "I guess it was better than getting a job. I'm not too good working for someone else."

Smith graduated with his degree in animal science in 1996 and moved home and began his own farming career when he built his own chicken houses.

The following year he married his wife, Tonya.

The couple met in 1995 at Pizza PM in Cave City. Tonya was in the restaurant eating when Phillip came in for lunch while he was working on rental homes owned by his dad.

"It was love at first sight," Smith said.

About three months later, the two ran into each other again at a peewee ballgame and their first date was set, although it wasn't like most first dates. Rather than roses and dinner, their date involved an ambulance and a hospital.

A first responder was on his way to a wreck and had a heart attack. He hit Phillip's truck head on. Phillip suffered bleeding of the brain from the impact and Tonya required knee surgery. The man who hit them died. Phillip's other two passengers were not injured.

"We got to know each other very well because of the wreck," Tonya said. "That usually doesn't happen on the first date."

Two years later the two wed. Phillip said he didn't think twice about becoming a stepfather to Tonya's two children, Derek and Lacy.

"I really don't think I thought about it really," he said. "I'm kind of a kid myself, so we got along well."

A few years later Tonya gave birth to the couple's first child, Allison.

Today the couple's lives are divided between family and business, all on the 1,700 acres which makes the PBS Farms, part of his parents' old farm.

Smith's chicken operation is growing strong. Pilgrim's Pride contracts with the family for producing eggs to be hatched for broilers. Each of the four houses has 14,000 hens and 1,200 roosters.

Hens are in production for 45 weeks each year. After the chickens are shipped off, the houses are cleaned and a new batch is brought in. Eggs are gathered four times daily by hired labor. Pilgrim's picks the eggs up three to four times each week. The eggs are hatched by Pilgrim's and placed in broiler houses for meat production.

Smith's cattle operation includes 450 brood cows, half Braford and half Brangus, and 1,000 yearling steers.

The Smiths purchase the steers annually and raise each to approximately 850 pounds. They are then sold directly to feed lots in Nebraska or Iowa. Yearling bulls weighing 600 pounds are purchased each week by a local order buyer. Cull cows are sold at sale barns in Ash Flat and Charlotte.

But those aren't the only ventures the family is involved in. Phillip also has a trucking business with his father, Phillip B. Smith Farms Inc. Four to five drivers haul produce across the country in Smith's Peterbuilt trucks.

"Dad, two or three years ago, he thought he wanted to start a trucking brokerage," Smith said. "Now he runs the office and I have the trucks. It's just something to kind of break up the monotony of farming every day and allows us to make some more money."

The couple also owned the former Country Store in Cave City until September 2004 when they sold to Doublebee's.

"The store was my job and the farm was his," Tonya said. "It was really a task trying to keep everything running and keep up with the kids and our 13 employees. We didn't have the time to run the kids here or there or do anything extra."

Phillip wakes each morning at 6 a.m. He feeds the chickens, checks the cows and feeds them. The remainder of the day is filled with special projects.

Tonya gets up at the same time and begins cooking breakfast. Her day is filled with taking the children to games and practices, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry for the family of five.

One of Tonya's favorite hobbies is cooking.

"The kids' friends come over just about every day just to eat," she said. "I love to cook and entertain. It's my hobby. It's what I enjoyed doing at the store."

Derek, now 16, will begin his junior year at Cave City High School in August. He plays forward and guard for the school basketball team. He is a promising baseball player and plays for the American Legion Baseball Team from Batesville. He is also on the school baseball team. He was named most valuable player of the region. He also made all-conference and all-region. He plays pitcher, center field and infield positions. When he was 12, his fastball was clocked at 70 mph. He also likes to hunt, fish, ride 4-wheelers and take his Geo Sidekick mudding.

Phillip also enjoys hunting, but it's been a while since he made it into the woods or anywhere away from the farm.

"I just don't have any time," he said.

"Vacations are pretty much out of the question," Tonya said. "If we do, it's only for two or three days. It's hard to get away any longer than that."

Lacy, who recently turned 13, will begin her 8th grade year at Cave City soon. She is a cheerleader. She's been cheering since she was in the 4th grade.

"She likes it because she gets to yell and get away with it," her mother said.

Allison, 3, is the reigning Little Miss Sharp County. She has won 10 photogenic contests and had seven titles when she was in the Cave City Watermelon Festival parade in 2004, Tonya said.

"She has a very active imagination," Tonya said. "She pretends all the time and has imaginary friends she talks to. She also loves checking cattle with Daddy."

Each child has their own chores. Derek mows the property while Lacy helps her mom do the household chores. Allison also tries to help.

In the eight years he has had his own poultry and cattle operation, Smith said he has found managing the farm and keeping up with the family challenging. Despite the unpredictable weather and rising costs of fuel and supplies, Smith said his family will continue to farm well into the future.

"We started pretty small and have grown a lot through the years," he said. "Getting to be your own boss and being around the home is the best part of farming."



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