McCallisters named 2018 Searcy County Farm family
The Brandon McCallister family of Marshall has been named the Searcy County Farm Family of the Year.
The McCallisters' farm is located on South Maumee Road 10 miles east of Marshall. Brandon and his wife, Katrina, have four children: Allie McCallister, 22; Dillon McCallister, 17; Wriston Ricketts, 25, and Ethan Barnett, 19.
“Cattle farming was always a part of our family and I grew up in the business, so it became natural to me to want to be involved in the cattle industry," Brandon said, adding that his grandfather, Jack Simpkins, gave him his first heifer and had her branded with "BJ" for Brandon, whose full name is Brandon Jay, when Brandon was 13. His love for raising cattle has continued since then.
Brandon, an independent operator, has been farming for 24-plus years. He and his family currently operate 420 acres of farmland where he raises cattle.
Brandon said he does "pretty much all things cattle," including carrying on his grandfather's tradition of transporting area cattle to the North Arkansas Livestock Action in Green Forest. Simpkins, who passed away in January, had owned and operated the Searcy County Livestock Auction from 1955 to 2009 when it closed.
Brandon added that he works with farmers in Searcy County and surrounding counties to help market their cattle. Another family enterprise is tourism.
“Because of the fantastic view that the farm affords to the public, the farm is also able to provide us with two other sources of income," Brandon said. "One, in the form of a nightly cabin rental, as well as the opportunity for couples to have a wedding with a spectacular view as a backdrop.”
Brandon said he would like to generate a larger customer base of buyers and sellers, and continually strive to make the operation more profitable for both parties. Another goal is to produce healthier and better quality cattle for consumer consumption.
Brandon said that farmers know there are plenty of hurdles to overcome. One is the fluctuation in cattle prices. “It is hard to plan ahead when you are not certain what cattle prices will be from month to month and year to year," he said.
Another is drought in the summer and the cold harsh winters. "When all is said and done, you just have to persevere and trust God to work it out in the end,” he said.
In the future he said he would like to background more cattle. “I would like to wean my own calves, buy more cattle from farmers or livestock auctions and background those cattle in preparation for the feed lots. This is an operation that has been in existence on the farm but is not current.”
He also stated that protecting the environment is important and that rotational grazing has helped to keep from overgrazing pastures, which leads leads to soil erosion. Also, having a localized feeding area keeps cattle traffic in one area, also cutting down on soil erosion.
In addition to the farm, Brandon serves on the Searcy County Airport Commission and is a member of the Marshall Assembly of God. He also serves as a Roy Rangers volunteer for his church.
By Jane H. Estes