The DeSalvo family of Center Ridge (Conway County) is the 2012 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, announced at the annual Farm Family Day luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year.

Tony DeSalvo, along with his son Phillip and daughter-in-law Beth, own Big D Ranch, a 1,300-acre cattle and hay operation. Phillip and Beth have two children, 8-year-old Benjamin and 6-year-old Isabella.

Big D Ranch consists of a 350-head commercial cow-calf operation, 150-head of registered Ultrablack cattle, which includes 30-40 registered bulls. The DeSalvos are believed to have the largest herd of registered Ultrablack cattle in Arkansas. Additionally, they grow around 900 acres of wheat and sorghum sudan silage and bermuda hay.

The first generation of DeSalvos settled near Center Ridge in the late 1800s and since 2003, Tony and Phillip have worked diligently to ensure the commercial and seed stock cattle operations run efficiently. Phillip is proud to work the same land his ancestors established more than 100 years ago. He is raising Ben and Isabella to share his passion for ranching and they are learning to work on the farm in a number of ways.

Phillip works directly with a beef nutrition specialist and Land O’Lakes Purina Mills Feed Co., to ensure his cattle’s nutritional needs are met. Artificial insemination and careful genetic selection among their bulls is a reason for the success of their operation.

“The DeSalvos are another great example of the many successful and efficient family farming operations that exist in Arkansas,” said Andy Guffey, coordinator of the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program. “They are diligent protectors of the natural resources used in growing their forage and pastures, and are a prime model of a hard-working, multi-generation farm family.”

Phillip is a member of the Conway County and Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Beth is a substitute teacher and volunteer at Nemo Vista Elementary School, where Tony drove a school bus for 13 years. The family also serves in numerous capacities at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

As Arkansas’ Farm Family of the Year, the DeSalvos will compete in the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program. A winner will be named from among 10 southeastern state winners in October in Moultrie, Ga.

“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). “We congratulate each of the county and district winners for this well-deserved recognition.”

The Farm Family of the Year program, now in its sixty-seventh 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 the selection of the state Farm Family of the Year. The competition is judged on production, efficiency and management of farm operations, family life and rural/community leadership and values.

The 2012 District Farm Family of the Year winners included:

  • Gene and Mary Jo Crouch of Harrisburg (Poinsett County), Northeast District.
  • Tom and Margaret Vanemburg of Desha (Independence County), North Central District.
  • Keith and Jill Jones of Palestine (Lee County), East Central District.
  • Scott and Cassie Davis of Prairie Grove (Washington County), Northwest District.
  • J&J Holzhauer Farm, Jared and Joli Holzhauer of Gillett (Arkansas County) Southeast District.
  • Perry and Colleen Watkins of Banks (Bradley County), Southwest District.
  • David and Miesha Carver of Lockesburg (Sevier County), West Central District.

Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Arkansas Press Association, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, AgHeritage FCS, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, and Farm Credit Midsouth are sponsors of the annual recognition program. Additional program support is provided by the Arkansas Department of Career Education; the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture; and USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Rural Development.