BY MICHAEL REISIG –
The Youngblood family believes in doing things right, and living closer to nature and God, and it seems to work for them.
Andy was born and raised in Polk County. His wife, Tracy, was born in Texas but raised in Wickes. Both of them went to Wickes High School. Andy was a couple of years ahead of Tracy and graduated before her, but they both ended up at Southern Arkansas University. They were married in 1991 – she was still in school when he graduated.
Using his degree in agriculture Andy went to work for Tyson, and a year before Tracy graduated, they took over the operation of her family farm, raising cattle for Tyson, while Andy still worked for the company. As the years passed they raised two children as well – Ben and Matti.
“It was really just a continuation of our lifestyle, because we were both raised on farms,” Tracy explained. “I started teaching for Wickes Elementary in the early 1990s and we continued to run the farm, but about 2007 we began to change the way we operated. We decided to move away from conventional ranching, which involved changing the process of how we raised our animals. Where before, we would have sold our animals after weaning, we now keep our animals two years longer, which allows us to control the grazing/feeding process. We grass-feed our animals now, and we don’t give them growth hormones or antibiotics, and we don’t give them grain. This process produces a natural, ‘grass-finished’ animal.
Our pigs are pastured as well, they are not confined,” she continued. “However, they do receive some grain.”
It was because of this approach of raising animals that their family was chosen to appear on the recent TLC television show, “19 Kids and Counting” when the Duggar Family from Western Arkansas (who actually have 19 kids and counting) were invited to see what the process of natural farming/ranching was all about.
“We had a good time and it was a good experience,” Tracy said. “But I don’t think I see the Duggar family moving into a farming experience like ours.”
Today the Youngblood family are strong supporters of the farming industry and the 4H clubs that help build it.
“We have found the 4H Club to be good for them and us,” Tracy explained. “It supports a lot of activities for children. It’s great for building leadership qualities, promotes knowledge of farming, and offers opportunities for competitions, as well as developing character. When my children became involved I became a club leader and it was a good experience for all of us.”
Today, both Ben and Matti are home schooled.
“We’ve home schooled our children for 11 years, through HEDGE (Home Educators Devoted to Godly Education) and it’s been another good experience for all of us,” Tracy explained. “We feel it’s benefited us, and the other families involved in this program. There are over 100 families in Polk County in this program. All the parents who use it share the responsibility of teaching. The co-op meets each week, and during the year we put on history, science, and literary fairs.
“Our son is now in college here in Mena, and our daughter is in the seventh grade,” she continued. “We have deep roots here in Polk County and we’re pleased that we chose to stay here to farm and ranch. We look forward to continuing to be an active part of our community, providing fresh, healthy meats to this area through our company, Meatworks Butchery and Market.”