When Kenny Qualls retires from farming one of these days, he won’t worry about the person taking over the reins. In fact, his son, Garrett, is already running things, at the ripe old age of 24.

The Quallses farm about 2,200 acres around Lake City, Ark., including 800 acres of corn, 800 acres of soybeans and 600 acres of cotton. Kenny made his son a partner in the operation about four years ago, shortly before Garrett graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in business. Kenny said his son “has been working on the farm since he was five years old. He got it in his blood early.”

The elder Qualls took full advantage of this aptitude, and within a few months had turned over full managing duties to his son, while he concentrated on fulfilling a leadership role outside the farm. It might seem a little unusual, but it was logical, considering his son’s readiness.

“The difference between our farm and a lot of other family farms is that normally the son will take a backseat until father retires, but I’m doing the opposite,” Kenny said. “I’m putting him up front and letting him make all the decisions. I’ve thrown it all on him at once. If he can handle it while I’m here, then he can handle it when I’m gone.

“Plus I can still coach him and help them through the tough decisions. Even though he works here every day, there is a big transition from going from an associate to being the boss. This way he’ll already have had that behind him.”

Some fundamentals had to be in place, Kenny said. “He had to be stable. Loretta (Kenny’s wife) and I were real strict parents, anybody around here will tell you that. We didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense and foolishness. We were very fortunate that our children have been good citizens as well as children. Garrett is more mature at his age than a lot of people.”

 “He’s been guiding me for a long time, showing me the way, so that I would be prepared for this day,” said Garrett, who is building a home with his wife, Lauryn, within walking distance of the farm’s headquarters. “But you can’t be completely prepared in farming. You’re never ready to take on the responsibility because you’re never sure what it’s going to throw at you. But I was very happy that he had enough faith in me to let me do it on my own.”

The job is difficult at times, Garrett says. “It’s just a year round process these days. You’re so connected to information all the time. It’s hard to take it all in and keep up with it. It seems like there’s no break to take off and go hunting for the winter. You have to be on your toes, marketing grain and everything else. But I really enjoy it. It’s not a job to me. It’s a way of life, and I enjoy being out here.”

Kenny isn’t at all fazed by his phase out, preferring to look at the situation with humor.  “I have been promoted to vice president of special projects. That means I get the job that nobody else wants. I am the combine driver, the dirt buggy and backhoe operator. He does the rest. He picks the seed. He buys inputs, locks in prices and handles all the USDA and FSA paperwork.”