Press Release from Arkansas Farm Bureau:
LITTLE ROCK - Orelan and Tena Johnson of England (Lonoke County) are Arkansas' 2008 Farm Family of the Year. Arkansas Farm Bureau announced the award Dec. 12 at a luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year.
The Johnsons farm cotton, corn, wheat, rice and soybeans. Cotton usually makes up more than half of their acreage.
Orelan is a 1960 graduate of England High School and earned an agri-business degree from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 1964. He began farming with his father in 1965.
Soil conservation is a priority for the Johnsons. They've used no-till production methods wherever possible for 15 years. No-till dramatically reduces topsoil erosion. The Johnson's have documented a 98-percent decrease in soil erosion.
Cotton yields average 1,200 lbs./acre, corn 200 bushels/acre, wheat 70 bushels/acre, rice 185 bushels/acre, and soybeans 45 bushels/acre. The Johnsons also maintain 200 acres in woodlands, much of it planted through the Conservation Reserve Enhancment Program. They also flood their rice fields during winter to provide habitat for migrating waterfowl.
The Johnsons have two children who also help on the farm. They are Wade Johnson, 42, and Angela Ward, 38. Wade has farmed full-time with Orelan since 1990. He is now part owner and manager of their operation. Angela helps with office duties and bookkeeping.
The Johnsons also run Laser Level, Inc. The company is involved in land leveling, and building fish ponds, reservoirs and tailwater recovery ponds.
As Arkansas' Farm Family of the Year, the Johnsons will compete in next year's 10-state Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program. The competition is held in Moultrie, Ga. Last year's Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, the Kirksey family of Alpine (Clark County), is the reigning Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
"The Johnson family is a fine example of Arkansas' agricultural producers," said Andy Guffey, coordinator of the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program. "They have deftly blended conservation practices into their production techniques and consistently maintained high outputs."
"The Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program is the longest-running farm family recognition program of its type in the United States," said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach, a cotton farmer from Manila (Mississippi County). "Farm families are the foundation of our economy and culture. For more than 60 years, the Farm Family of the Year program has showcased outstanding agriculture, and Arkansas Farm Bureau is proud to be a part of that.
"We congratulate the Johnsons and each of the county Farm Families of the Year."
Orelan Johnson is a member of Lonoke County Farm Bureau, the England Masonic Lodge, is a Scott Products board member and has donated land-leveling services to build a city pond for England. The Johnsons are members of First Baptist Church.
The Farm Family of the Year program, now in its 62nd year, begins with selection of the top farm family in each county. Then, eight district Farm Families of the Year are selected. The process concludes with a banquet honoring each county winner, and the selection of the state Farm Family of the Year.
The competition is judged on production, efficiency and management of their farm operations, family life and rural/community leadership and values.
The 2008 District Farm Family of the Year winners included:
Wayne and Kristi Hays, Alma (Crawford County), Northwest District
Terris and Kim Matthews, Wynne (Cross County), Northeast District
Reed and Becky Koger, Rosston (Nevada County), Southwest District
Orelan and Tena Johnson, England (Lonoke County), East Central District
Rick and Rita Foster, Viola (Fulton County), North Central District
J&M Farms, Gillette (Arkansas County), Southeast District
David and Connie Ruhl, Dardanelle (Yell County), Western District
Kyle and Dana Cowart, Glenwood (Pike County) West Central District
Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Press Association, AgHeritage FCS, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, Farm Credit MidSouth, and Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas are primary sponsors of the annual recognition program. Additional program support is provided by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Education; the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service; 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 227,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.