BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Early Days
The Bob and Sarah Gorden family, a name that is synonymous with the local cattle industry, has been named as the 2013 Polk County Farm Family of the Year. Farming for over 56 years, Bob said he always knew that nothing could make him happier than the life of a farmer.
Raised on a small farm himself, Bob said he always knew he wanted a large cattle operation of his own someday. After serving his country in Korea and marrying the love of his life, Sarah, he purchased his first 115 acres and began what is now a 650-acre, 600 head operation. During that time, he also built and ran the “sale barn” (a.k.a. Gorden’s Livestock Auction) at Potter for four decades.
The home the couple still reside and raised their two sons in is at 154 Polk 412 near Potter, which they built shortly after purchasing their first 115 acres.
Gorden said the first “sale barn” was opened in 1963 located on Morrow Avenue where Baywash Car Wash and Bob Carver’s dealership are now. They built the new sale barn and moved to Potter where the structure still stands but is not in operation. It was heavily damaged by fire four years ago.
The couple welcomed their first son in 1959, Brent, and then Kent in 1961. The farm began with just a few head and grew by continuing to purchase additional land and growing the herd. “My goal has always been to raise top grade cows to produce top grade calves. To accomplish this, I began using Charolais bulls. The Charolais breed really built my heard and in doing so the breed was also built in Polk County.” The Gordens still maintain 17-top grade Charolais bulls.
Bob said both the boys were raised helping build the farm and working at the sale barn. Brent still works on the farm on a daily basis and Kent resides in Jacksonville, Ark. with his family.
The two reminisced about the early days and all of the work that went into building the current operation. “There was a lot of woods we had to clear,” said Bob. “We burned a lot of brush-piles,” joked Brent. The 650-acres is now pristine pasture and meadows.
“Sarah was always the one taking care of all us,” said Bob. Sarah was a homemaker and also assisted at the sale barn in the early days. “She sure had her work cut out for her,” said Bob and jokingly spoke of Brent’s continuous accidents, telling stories that led to several broken bones, skinned knees and scars. “I’ve always been trouble,” said Brent laughing.
THE OPERATION NOW
The Gordens will be the first to tell you like many farmers will, farming is a 7-day a week business that recognizes no holidays or inclement weather. “Every day is different,” said Brent, “but it is always daylight to dark.”
They now run 600 head, 300 mother cows and 300 calves that are eventually sold off to feed lots in the west. Some are sold locally at the Waldron sale barn.
Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 round bales per year are required. The Gordens used to cut and bale their own hay but now purchase it and use that space for grazing.
The biggest challenge isn’t the long hours or the hard labor involved in the operation, but it’s mastering the breeding said Bob, “Learning which breed bulls to cross with which breed cow to be easy calving and fast growing and bring a good price at market.”
Bob said he also keeps good cover on the ground and strives to keep grass growing. “I also use ponds to help with erosion and water shed. We have done some cross-fencing to help with rotational grazing.”The favorite part of farm life for Bob is the cows. “I love feeding them…probably why they are all so fat.” And the cows are certainly conditioned to him, coming as soon as he would step out of the truck. [bottom left and above pictures show the obvious before & after] He didn’t even have to have a feed bucket or sack in hand. He admitted to even having some of them named.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything different,” said Bob and Brent echoed the same interest, saying, “It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s all I know.”
Bob has spent most of the last 56-years working and strategizing how to grow the operation but says he now looks forward to passing it on down to the third, fourth and fifth generations to continue what he and Sarah have built together.