The Poughkeepsie family has been named the Sharp County Farm Family of the Year.
Tim Praught, his wife Susan and their 10 children were living in Virginia near Washington, D.C., when Tim retired from the Marine Corps in 1994. It didn't take long for the couple to decide the big city wasn't where they wanted their family to remain.
"We wanted to live in the country," Tim said.
The couple then made a brash move. They sold nearly everything they had, loaded up in a 15-passenger van and headed southwest.
The family was visiting a friend in Batesville when the friend showed Tim a farm for sale at the end of a dirt road near the Nelsonville community. The couple liked it so much they paid cash and purchased it.
"It was just his dream land," Susan said.
"I like to be in control of a situation," Tim said, adding that the location of his home in rural Sharp County allows him to keep an eye on his children and allows the family to remain close and enjoy their hobbies together.
"Then the debt came," Tim said, adding that the family home was just an unlivable cabin at the time of purchase.
Susan and the children went to stay with her family in Florida for a few weeks while Tim made the two bedroom, one bath cabin livable, although with seven children things were tight when they came back to say the least.
Soon after, Tim began adding on to the home.
Susan was pregnant with the couple's eighth child at that time. That child was delivered in a bedroom of the home. Another child was delivered in the car on the way to the hospital a few years later.
Susan said she thinks it is good for children to experience hardship sometimes. Because her children had to live in such a small home when they first moved to Arkansas, she said they were thankful when they were able to move into their new rooms.
"As soon as we put a roof on the addition, the kids moved in it," Tim said.
The house is now 3,200 square feet with seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.
"They have to take a shower in about two minutes," Tim said. "You don't hang around a bathroom here."
Susan said having such a large family means there is a lot of laundry and food doesn't sit around for long.
The family has a small garden and cans some of the vegetables it produces. The garden produces tomatoes, cabbage, okra, bell peppers, peppers, onion, eggplant, squash, watermelon and lettuce.
Susan said the family cans tomatoes the most because they use so many of them. With the tomatoes and other vegetables salsa is a staple at the family home during the summer months and soup is served often during the winter.
"I tried making pickles but I like the store bought better," Susan joked.
Such a large family also means there are lots of hands available to help around the farm.
Of the couple's five children over age 18, all five went to college. Four are married and one is still in college. The remaining five children all live at home and help out around the farm and house when they aren't concentrating on their home schooling studies.
The family makes its primary living from the pullet farm operation.
"I'm just thankful we have the type of operation we have," Susan said. "I just enjoy the family life and the farm life."
The family receives 34,000 chickens every five months. The Praughts tend to the chickens for 22 weeks, until they are able to lay eggs. The chickens are then picked up and transported by Townsend.
The family operates two 630 foot houses.
Tim said he began thinking about getting into the chicken business when the home building business began to slow down a few years ago.
He then learned that the nearby chicken farm was for sale. He figured up how much the family would make in profit and purchased the farm.
The family also had about 20 goats but has sold quite a few lately. He said he uses the meat goats to clear property. He now hopes to purchase milk goats for the family's use.
Tim said he hopes to add to his cattle operation in the near future. The family currently has just one milk cow. He said he would like to use his 35 acres of hay himself rather than selling it year after year.
Before purchasing the chicken farm, Tim worked at Gencorp for a year and a half and then began building houses. Tim is a licensed contractor. He operates Praught Construction.
Tim began building homes in 1996. He said he built a spec home in Cave City at that time. Building was nothing new to Tim. When he was in college he framed houses to make extra money. After his success in Cave City, he then bought six lots in Ash Flat and began building. He said he has continued ever since with the help of his sons-in-law.
In the years following the family's move from Washington, Tim's sister's husband, John, retired from the military and wanted to buy some land.
Tim sold him some and then built a home for the couple. Soon after, Tim's brother also came to the area and wanted to buy some land. Tim sold him some as well and then helped him build his home.
"He's been my best friend since we were little boys," said Tony Praught, Tim's brother.
Tony said his brother and sister-in-law are good neighbors.
"Those two are selfless. They're a real blessing to me," he said.
Tim and Susan met while in college in Florida. Tim was in the Marines. He joined the military in 1981.
He was born in Minnesota and grew up in Florida. He was raised on a farm. The family had orange groves, cattle and a dairy operation among other things.
"Mom is the one who made me tough enough for the Marine Corp," he said with a smile. His mother, Loretta, recently visited. She lives in Florida.
In the military, Tim controlled aircraft and was a platoon commander and instructor at military bases. He said he "trained officers how to be a second lieutenant in the Marine Corp." He retired from the reserves in 2003.
All of the Praught boys want to join the Marine Corp although Tim said he hasn't pushed them.
One of the couple's sons is a second lieutenant in Twentynine Palms. He is currently preparing to go to Iraq in August or September. It will be his second trip there. He has a wife and three children. In all, the couple have seven grandchildren.
Two of his daughters even married Marines.
Susan's father was in the Air Force meaning her family moved around quite a bit while she was growing up. Meeting a military man and accepting his lifestyle wasn't a problem for her. She had lived in Florida about 15 years before she met her future husband.
"This is really the longest I've lived any place," she said.
Having grown up with 11 brothers and sisters, Tim said he knew he always wanted a large family. Susan wasn't so sure.
She was raised a little differently. She had just one brother. After giving birth to her fourth child, she had her tubes tied. Then she was saved soon after and wanted to have the procedure reversed. She did and had five more children. The couple's second oldest child is adopted.
"The Lord just changes your mind about it," she said. "I'm thankful to the Lord for them."
While all the boys are or want to become Marines, all of the Praught girls are or want to become nurses like their mother.
Susan didn't work for the first seven or eight years after the family made the move. Now she's been working about five years.
Susan works at White River Medical Center two nights a week as a nurse in the pediatrics and med-surg wards.
"Being a nurse is like being a mother or a teacher," Susan said. "Each kid is different; each class is different."
Susan said she has encouraged her girls to go into nursing.
The couple's oldest daughter and second oldest daughter both work there also. One went to UACCB and the other went to Ozarka College.
Religion is a big part of the Praught family life. The family attends Friendship Baptist Church in Highland. The church offers a great deal of socialization for the couple and their children who are able to socialize with other home schooled children from other large families, Tim said.
Tim said the couple decided to try the church after he met the pastor at the Sharp County Fair.
The county fair is also a big event for the Praught family. Tim is a 4-H leader. As such, his children work on 4-H projects at their home for the fair. The children enter art exhibits, goats, vegetables and other displays.
Fourteen years after moving to Arkansas, the Praught family still believes it is one of the best decisions they have ever made.
"We bought it and have loved it ever since," Tim said.
While the chicken business can be hectic at times, Tim said it has paid off for his family. He said he gives this advice to others thinking of getting into the business:
"Look at the numbers and make sure they work," he said.
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