Luke and Deedee Alston of Mena are the 2017 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year. The honor was announced Thursday(Dec. 7) at the annual luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year.
The Alstons have two sons, Ryan and Drey. As Arkansas’ Farm Family of the Year, the Alstons will compete in the 2018 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program. A winner will be named from among 10 southeastern state winners next October in Moultrie, Georgia. The Alstons were surprised to receive the honor.
“Unbelievable. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it or think that possibly we had worked hard enough to earn such a title,” Luke said. “I was born to do this. Few people I know get to wake up every morning and spend all day long working at something they love. Since I left corporate America I haven’t had a job. This is not a job for me. It’s my way of life.”
The Alstons have a diverse farm known as “Holly Springs Homestead.” In addition to Angus cattle and an eight house broiler chicken operation, the farm also includes a large variety of fruit and vegetables. Strawberries, sweet corn, blackberries, pumpkins, muscadines, honeybees, cut flowers, tomatoes, okra, peppers and others are grown as part of the Alston’s agritourism enterprise. Luke offers a commercial hay and haylage service where he mows, rakes, bales, wraps and stacks hay for neighbors.
“We congratulate Luke and Deedee Alston on being named the 2017 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach. “Luke and Deedee left successful off-farm careers to develop their farm and Holly Springs Homestead has become a successful, family-friendly agritourism business in just a few short years. This honor is testament to their faith and determination to make their farm a destination for many.”
The Alstons are active in the Polk County Farm Bureau and Luke serves as vice president of the Polk County Cattlemen’s Association and is a member of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association Board.
The Farm Family of the Year program, now in its 70th year, is the longest-running farm family recognition program of its type in the United States. It begins with selection of the top farm family in each county. Then, eight district Farm Families of the Year are selected. The competition is judged on production, efficiency and management of farm operations, family life and rural/community leadership and values.
“These families work tirelessly to ensure we have the food and fiber we rely on daily and they are more than deserving of our praise and recognition,” said Maddison Stewart, coordinator of the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year Program. “Our selection process, which is made possible by our outstanding program sponsors and partners, is extremely thorough from the county to the state level. At the end of the process each year, we’re confident our judges have selected the right family to represent Arkansas Agriculture.”
The Alstons were selected from the eight 2017 District Farm Family of the Year winners, which included:
• Brandon and Jessica Chapman of Scott (Pulaski County), East Central District;
• Chris and Heather Tharp of Floral (Independence County), North Central District;
• Eddie and Annette Wray of Trumann (Poinsett County), Northeast District;
• Cedar Corner Farm of Stuttgart (North Arkansas County), Southeast District;
• Rocking CK Farms of Garland (Miller County), Southwest District;
• Gittlein Farms of Maysville (Benton County), Northwest District; and
• Will and Sidney Bailey of DeQueen (Sevier County), West Central District.