BY LEANN DILBECK –
Luke and DeeDee Alston of Mena were named as the Farm Bureau Arkansas Farm Family of the Year at the annual luncheon at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock on Thursday, December 7, 2017, and they historically mark the first time a Polk County Family has won on the state level. “This is what I was born to do. I was born to sit in a tractor seat and look out over a green field,” said a smiling Luke in his speech following the award.
“The reason that this family is here, is because we’ve turned it all over to God. We had good paying jobs but it was not taking us where we wanted to go. We prayed heavily. We took a leap of faith to leave corporate American and to farm full time, which was my dream,” said Luke after the award was presented. He continued,
“I’m a fifth generation farmer. That ground we live on means something to me. The fact that my family joins me everyday with the same sentiment is priceless.”
He said DeeDee is another reason they have had such success with their farm/agri-tourism business, “Deedee is the reason we’re here. She’s a forward thinker like no one you’ve ever met. She puts us at levels I never dreamed of. My son Drey, is my right hand man. My other right hand man, Ryan, is in Fayetteville getting his education.”
Another of Luke’s dreams was to win State Farm Family of the Year and says that his heritage is what led him to where he is. “We couldn’t have been here without the people that came before us – my father and grandfather. It’s an honor to stand here. My father’s looking down from heaven smiling ear to ear.” He also thanked the Polk County Extension Office and agents Carla Vaught and Josh Yates, and Terry Kirkpatrick.
The Alston’s trek in the Farm Family program began in May 2017, when they were named as the Polk County Farm Family. In June 2017, the Alstons were named as the Western District Farm Family, sending them on with seven other district families to the state level. The Alston Family is now in the running for National Farm Family of the Year, which will be announced in 2018.
This is the 70th annual Arkansas Farm Family of the Year Program, which represents the diversity of Arkansas agriculture, the state’s largest industry. The Alstons, along with their two boys, Ryan and Drey, have a diversified operation ranging from strawberries and sweet corn, to cattle, broiler houses and even honeybees. They also have a six-acre corn maze.
The Alstons were humbled by the continued recognition, “So many hard working farm families are just good people and would be deserving of this recognition. We feel extremely blessed to be honored for doing what we love to do day in and out.”
“The contributions made by our state’s farm families are beyond measure,” said Randy Veach, president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. “While collectively, agriculture makes up our state’s largest business sector, it is almost impossible to calculate the impact our family farms have on the economy, our rural communities and to the character of our great state.”
These farm families represent a great cross-section of Arkansas agriculture, from row-crops to livestock to fresh produce and honey production. We congratulate each of these district winners on their recognition.
The Farm Family of the Year program begins each year with selection of top farm families in each county and culminates with the selection of the state Farm Family of the Year who will then go on to represent Arkansas at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Arkansas has had two Southeastern Farmers of the Year, Brian Kirksey of Clark County in 2008 and Wildy Family Farms of Mississippi County in 2016. All winners are judged on their farm production, efficiency, management, family life and rural/community leadership.
“No other business sector has a larger economic impact in Arkansas than agriculture,” Veach said. The men and women of agriculture, and their families, work diligently every day to maintain a business and a lifestyle that represents the very best our state has to offer.
Sponsors of the Farm Family of the Year program are Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, Armor Seed, and the three Farm Credit agencies that serve Arkansas: AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and Midsouth Farm Credit. Additionally, support for the program is provided by the Arkansas Agriculture Department, Arkansas Department of Career Education, Arkansas Press Association, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of more than 190,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.