Levonna and Tony Uekman were happy with this week’s rains.
It was only a half-inch, but it was April 3 when the last rain fell on their grass and gardens.
Every bit of moisture is a blessing, Levonna Uekman said.
She had just played hostess on Tuesday to several visitors who were touring their home place, curious about the newest Faulkner County Farm Family of the Year.
They were chosen for the honor and will compete for the district and state titles. The state winner will be honored at a luncheon hosted by the Arkansas Farm Bureau, sponsors of the Farm Family program.
The Uekmans are both full-time employees of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, he in Searcy, she in Heber Springs.
The rest of their time is spent on their 65 acres on Buck Branch Road near Quitman that they’ve worked for 17 years.
They’ve devoted 12 of those years to a rotational grazing operation that handles 130 to 150 head of cattle at a time in two segments a year. With pasture they lease, they oversee a total of 90 acres.
Cattlemen deliver their heifers or steers to the Uekmans’ pastures and pick up the cattle 100 days later when they are 200 pounds or more heavier.
In those 100 days, the cattle have been moved from pasture to pasture, feasting on grass, sometimes moving as often as every 12 hours.
The rotation keeps the grass in good shape and the cattle happy and growing to as big as 450 to 600 pounds. The Uekmans are paid by the amount of weight the cattle gain, about two pounds a day.
The cattle leave the Uekmans to go to the feed lot.
In addition to the cattle operation, the couple raise chickens and an extensive vegetable garden. There also are blackberries, grapes, muscadines, fruit trees and “a little bit of everything,” Levonna said.
They have weekend help from son Trey and his wife Lindsey, students at Arkansas State in Jonesboro. Trey is studying civil engineering; Lindsey is in nursing school.
Tony Uekman built and installed ponds with a new watering system for the cattle and the garden.
That’s a great accomplishment, Levonna said, but there’s nothing like a good rain to keep the pastures from “looking sad.”
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at email@example.com and 505-1234.)