The family's 362 acre farm at Sidney houses six 450 feet broiler houses, 90 head of mixed breed cattle, five Charolais bulls and a Hereford bull.
The farming operation is a partnership with Brandon and his parents Ronnie and Jean Shultz. The farm produces Sharp County's only alfalfa crop. The crop is irrigated by a spring fed pond on the farm.
In addition to the 20 acre alfalfa crop, the farm produces approximately 600 round bales and also produces 400 bushels of wheat per year.
The six ultra-modern broiler houses hold 123,000 birds each. The birds are received when they are only a day old and are raised for 60 days. The chickens average about eight pounds. The Shultz's receive a new birds five times a year producing 615,000 birds per year for an amazing total of 4.9 million pounds of chicken for the Townsend Poultry Plant in Batesville.
Brandon and his wife Melinda have been married nearly seven years and have two young sons, Ethan, 5, and Chase, 3. Brandon said that his children are what he works for, so someday, they, like himself, his father and grandfather, can have the privileged of having a farm.
Ethan enjoys T-Ball and pitches for the Modern Woodmen team and will start kindergarten in the fall. Chase loves being as bat boy. Both Shultz boys are active in their church activities at First Baptist Church of Cave City.
Brandon's wife Melinda, a native of Wichita, Kan., is the heart of the home. She fuels Brandon for his hard work on the farm with her cooking. Melinda also takes care of the house, the yard and the boys. Raising two young boys is a job in itself. She helps whenever she can on the farm, and laughed when telling the story about Brandon letting her cut hay last year. She said they work very well as a team.
Melinda gives a lot of credit to her grandparents, John and Bonnie Ketrone, who raised her after both her parents passed away when Melinda was a young child. She said they have a family garden plot in which they raise tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, squash, green beans and potatoes. Melinda would love to learn how to can the produce that is harvested from the garden. She said her granny could probably teach her.
Melinda's love for the farm and her family can be witnessed as she tells about the hard work her husband puts forth for the family. She said, "People think that because we have a farm, we have money." She said there are a lot of expenses and equipment repairs are always costly. She said they make a comfortable living, but it isn't as easy as a lot of people think. She said Brandon works very hard for the things they have and said they are very blessed. From Melinda's statements about farming, perhaps the old adage about farming has some hint of truth to it, "You can make a small fortune in farming -- provided you start with a large one."
Melinda is also a member of the Cave City First Baptist Church choir, works in the nursery and is a member of Sister's in Christ. This group of Christian women help feed families in need, visits those who may be sick in hospitals or nursing homes as well as helping wherever a need may be. She is also a member of AWANA. This full-time homemaker has her plate pretty full being a farm wife and mother to two young boys.
Melinda's pride in her sons shows as she tells about the many pageants her very handsome young men have won and laughs as she says, "This is going to be the first year I get to actually watch the Watermelon Festival Parade," because her boys were always on the floats in previous years. Brandon, on the other hand is a little less enthusiastic about his boys being in the pageants, which is a typical male reaction to beauty pageants for boys.
Brandon graduated from Cave City High School in 1996. He also competed locally in team roping with his horse Fancy and partner Todd Price. Fancy, who was more than happy to greet us as we took pictures at the farm, seems to be loving her retirement on the Shultz farm.
Brandon wasn't sure what he wanted to do after high school, but he said, "I didn't want to farm." His first job after high school was a factory job where he had to sweep floors, evidentially, farming must have sounded better than sweeping. As history would have it, by the time Brandon was 19, he built his first two houses. He said, "It just grew from that."
Brandon said a typical day at the Shultz farm always begins early in the morning. He said he goes out to check the chickens and cattle. He said it takes about two hours to walk the chicken houses, a process in which he walks through the houses checking for injured chicks or ill chicks. The summer months are far busier with hay to tend and because the heat impacts the chickens, more time is spent checking them. Brandon's day is normally 12-14 hours long. In the fall, the heifers are pregnancy checked. Worming and vaccinations are also part of the daily grind at the farm. He said there is always something to keep you busy. Brandon's cattle dogs Penny and Shorty help work cattle. Brandon laughs and said that you can tell Shorty is a good cattle dog, "He has all his front teeth knocked out from running cattle." Even if it is raining, there are things he can do in his shop, and that doesn't even count any equipment or fence repairs that must be made. Brandon said the best part of farming is, "Being your own boss."
The Shultz family also supplement their income by selling their cattle through local livestock auctions.
While life on the farm is rewarding, it does have it's drawbacks, as Melinda said, " We have had to go on vacation by ourselves." She knows that is just one of the sacrifices the family must make to have the lifestyle they enjoy and to be able to raise their sons the way the previous three generations of the Shultz family was raised.
Brandon said the biggest challenge he faces is the struggle with the increasing prices of everything, equipment breaking and maintenance cost.
Brandon's grandparents, E.C. and Ruby Shultz, were farmers also and Brandon's parents were Sharp County Farm Family in 1983 when Brandon was about the age of his sons.
Among some of the family's accomplishments that have added to their farm were the construction of a shop, feed and hay barn and an addition to their home, which Brandon said was just a bachelor pad until he married Melinda.
Brandon and Melinda would love to improve more pastures and at some point to become more self-sufficient by raising their own feed sources. Brandon would also like to clear more of their land to improve the farming operation.
The Shultz are also very conscious of the environment and employ practices in their operation to protect not only the environment, but also to help conserve soil, water and energy.
By taking soil samples of all fields, the family can determine proper nutrient levels to optimize their production. Their alfalfa field is irrigated by a spring fed pond located on the farm. By also testing their hay, the Shultz's have been able to save a significant amount of money on feeding their cattle. These tests allow the family to target optimal nutrition for the cattle and prevent over feeding.
The family utilizes everything to make their operation as cost effective as possible, including using Energy Star light bulbs in all six houses as well as their home and also selling the litter from the houses twice a year.
Hurdles are always present when it comes to farm work. Brandon said that in the past, due to insufficient pasture ground and feed, they could not increase their herd size. The operation now has nearly 100 head of cattle.
While both Brandon and Melinda gives a lot of credit to his parents for their help in building the success of the family farm, he said, "It really takes a family to keep everything going." Brandon offers a bit of advice for anyone who considers farming, "It is hard work, you are tied to it so you better know what you want before you do it, because it is hard work." Both he and Melinda give the ultimate credit for the success of their farm to God. Melinda said, "God has blessed us very much."
Brandon said when he found out that he and his family were chosen for Sharp County Farm Family, "I was very humbled and surprised." Melinda went on to say, " I am so happy that someone finally sees how hard he works."
For more photos of the Shultz family visit our photo gallery at http://www.villageronline.com/gallery/09...