Kenny studied estate planning to make sure the transition goes smoothly, while minimizing tax exposure. “You have to think long-term.”

“We started off with making him a partner, and I gave him half of the equipment. As we update equipment, he will slowly get the bigger share. I have a daughter, Shelby, who’s not on the farm so whatever I gave him in value, I’m trying to provide her. So we offset the equipment with a life insurance policy to try and keep everything even. It’s a lot more detailed than it seems. I’m putting all my land in a company trust, or LLC, so that it will stay with the family after we are gone.”

Meanwhile, Kenny enjoys his leadership role. He’s a member of the Cotton Board and the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation. And he’s quick to point out that he still enjoys working on the farm.

“I can, pick and choose the jobs, and take off when I want to. And Garrett can take off when he needs to. The one thing that I bring to the table is wisdom and knowledge. Garrett is starting to take advantage of that. He’s been doing a good job, and I can’t complain about what he’s doing. I’m real proud of him.”

Kenny is preserving the history of the Qualls family by maintaining a mini-museum of old implements used by his great grandfather, who also was a farmer. It includes an old planter, breaking plow, corn sheller, mule harnesses and tools. “I have enough old stuff to start my own Cracker Barrel,” Kenny says.

The memorabilia doesn’t exactly conjure up fond memories of the good old days, Kenny says, rather a testament to the diverse skills and hard labor required to produce a crop. “Not only were they farmers, they were carpenters,” Kenny said. “They had to build a lot of their own equipment, and they had to raise livestock too. Looking at that stuff now, it almost looks prehistoric and it was only 60 years ago. It takes you back in time.”

While those days were tough physically, today’s farmers have to deal with much more financial stress, noted Qualls. “Although farmers are receiving record prices, we have a lot less buying power with the dollars we are taking in now. We’re experiencing a hidden inflation in the cost of our inputs. Even though I’m taking in more money, I have less to show for it at the end. I have a lot more exposure and overhead and capital investment.”

Kenny believes the uncertainty in agriculture is tied directly to the uncertainty in the global economy, which is yet to be resolved. To prepare for future repercussions in the economy, “we try to minimize our debt as much as possible,” Kenny says. “We try not to operate in a panic mode or scared mode. I know that everything is going to be all right in the long run, it’s just trying to survive the tough times that may be ahead.”

Even though there is a transition taking place on the farm, the Quallses continue to work together, and have a good balance of skills and foresight.

“My dad is a macro thinker,” Garrett said. He thinks long-term. I’m more of a micro-thinker. I figure out how to manage seed costs, and how I can gain every little bushel.

“He’s the best partner you could have,” Garrett said. “I would hope he would say the same for me. It’s nice having a guy with that much experience in your back pocket. You can go and ask advice when times look tough or you’re having trouble. You can always ask Dad. Chances are he’s seen it or something close to it.”

 

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