long-time customers,” says Mark. “Most commercial peach groves
are planted on a 20-foot by 20-foot spacing; ours are spaced 18
feet apart down the rows and 11 feet between the rows.”
He selects varieties that ripen in sequence, so three or four
varieties are ripe at any one time, starting from mid-June to late
June, continuing through late August or early September. He
grows varieties that are good for canning, but says few customers
can peaches any more. Most of his customers like freestone
varieties with easily-removed pits.
Trees are sprayed to control brown spot and pests such as
peach tree borers, plum curculio, and stinkbugs. He plants clover
to help the soil and encourage beneficial pollinator insects. He
sprays herbicides under trees, but leaves vegetation growing in
row middles to support vehicle traffic. An eight-foot fence keeps
deer from damaging peaches.
Peaches reach maximum production during their seventh year,
and any tree that lives longer than 15 years is a bonus, he says.
Underground irrigation helps keep trees productive.
TURKEYS AND BEEF
Mark and Steve raise turkeys on contract with Butterball; they
have nine houses, and move birds from house to house as they
gain weight. They have about 85,000 birds per flock, and raise
three and a half flocks per year.
They grow the hens that are sold in grocery stores. Mark’s main
role with the turkeys is to handle litter management and dead
bird disposal. “Turkey litter is vital to our cattle operation,” he says.
“It keeps us in the cattle business. We use the litter on pasture and
hay ground, and we sell it locally to other operations. We apply it
with our own trucks, and we keep records on how much is applied
to each tract of land.”
For dead bird disposal, he relies on an Ecodrum, a rotating
drum that composts carcasses. Cost sharing from the USDA’s
Natural Resources Conservation Service helped pay for the
Ecodrum. Dead bird composting also helps the farm comply with
The beef herd includes more than 300 cattle, with 268 pairs
of cows and calves, 62 replacement heifers, and 16 bulls. Mark’s
University of Arkansas animal science education taught him the
importance of collecting data on weaning weights, cow weights,
and reproductive efficiency. The number of calves weaned per
cow exposed is one of the best measures he uses.
He’d like to expand his herd to 500 cows. “We primarily have
a spring calving herd, along with a small fall calving herd,” he
says. He uses a 90-day calving season, and develops mature
cows that weigh 1,100 pounds. He uses primarily Angus bulls,
but occasionally uses Gelbvieh and Brangus bulls to improve
hybrid vigor. “On our Gelbvieh and Charolais cows, we have used
Hereford bulls,” he says.
Calves are weaned at 205 days and backgrounded for 60 days
to 90 days before being sold in tractor-trailer lots during January
and February through the Oklahoma City Stockyards and the
National Livestock Commission. He wants calves to weigh about
750 pounds when he sells them so they will do well when going
directly into feedlots.
The forage program includes bermudagrass hay from about
600 acres, plus ryegrass and white clover. Ryegrass is good for
grazing first calf heifers, he says. Mark Payne is the farm manager
who runs the hay harvesting crew, and he’s also a great welder.
Morgan grew up on the farm, and remembers picking up
dead turkeys as his first farm job. For another childhood chore, he
helped his dad keep track of numbers for cattle that were tagged.
Among his conservation practices, he’s proud of his water-conserving underground irrigation system that utilizes ponds as
the water source. He also follows a nutrient management plan
in applying composed litter and turkey carcasses, and rotates
pastures to allow forage roots time to recover before being grazed
Mark is a Johnson County Farm Bureau board member, chairing
their Beef and Young Farmer and Ranchers committees. He’s a
member of Johnson County Cattlemen’s Association, Johnson County
Conservation District board, and is on the board of the Johnson
County Fair. On the state level, he’s active in the Arkansas Cattlemen’s
Association and Arkansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers.
Mark’s wife, Shay, is present during the Saturday pick-your-own
sales. She also works at Johnson Regional Medical Center hospital
as a registered dietician in charge of food and nutrition services. Her
knowledge of nutrition and food safety is important for the farm’s
operation of tours, consumer education, and community outreach.
She also helps with social media to market the farm and its fruit.
Shay and Mark are active in First United Methodist Church, and
her other activities include Junior Auxiliary of Clarksville, Johnson
County Fair, the Western Arkansas district of the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics, and Arkansas Farm Bureau Young Farmer
and Rancher State Committee.
They have a two-year-old daughter, Kate, who enjoys eating
peaches, and they were expecting a new baby in early August.
says Andy Guffey,
the Farmer of the
Year award in the
state. Morgan was
the honor by Blair
agent in Johnson
“Mark has been a
his family have
of Extension and
research. They are
great examples of
in Johnson County.”
Morgan was nominated for the honor by Blair Griffin.
STORAGE & CARGO
• Portable Workshops
• Pole Barns
• Secure Food Storage
• Rodent & Insect Proof
• Wind/Water Tight
• Implement/Lift Pump Storage
• Cotton, Grain & Peanuts
Visit us in Section
B10-837 of the Sunbelt Expo
Oct. 18-20, 2016