I.F. Anderson Farms Inc., of Lonoke (Lonoke County) is the 2019 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year. The honor was announced last week at the annual luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year.
Anderson Farms is the nation’s largest baitfish hatchery, raising 1.3 billion fish annually on 3,334 water acres. It is a fourth-generation fish farm presently run by James Neal Anderson and his son, Jamie.
The business employs 45 people and ships to more than 40 states annually.
As Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, the Andersons will compete with nine other southeastern state winners in the 2020 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year program next October in Moultrie, Ga.
“This is such an honor,” said Jamie Anderson. “We don’t do this for recognition. We do it because we love it, it’s in our blood and our DNA. It’s our heritage. That’s why we do this. My grandad and great grandad, they didn’t see this 70 years down the line. Seeing this honor and the fifth generation standing here. Thinking of them and this honor is a pretty amazing feeling.”
Since its inception in 1949, Anderson Farms is known for its water conservation practices, its innovative approaches to breeding, raising, marketing and shipping baitfish and developing and manufacturing equipment for the aquaculture industry.
The company has also worked with other growers to help develop national industry inspection standards for transporting baitfish across state lines. One of the farm’s major successes was its development of the Black Salty, a freshwater-reared baitfish targeted for the saltwater fishing market.
Neal Anderson said water conservation is a high priority. Anderson Farms strives to reuse as much farm water as possible by pumping and gravity flowing it from pond to pond before ever releasing it. The use and reuse of surface water is key to conserving groundwater.
“We congratulate the Andersons on being named the 2019 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Rich Hillman, a rice farmer from Carlisle. “They have established themselves in the aquaculture industry as the unrivaled leader in baitfish production.
“Fishing enthusiasts may not realize Anderson Farms is the nation’s leading producer of golden shiner minnows. Most of the baitfish purchased at bait shops across the country are raised right here in Lonoke, a fact we are very proud of,” Hillman added.
The Farm Family of the Year program, now in its 72nd 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.
Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, and Farm Credit Midsouth are sponsors of the program.
Additional program support is provided by the Arkansas Agriculture Department; Arkansas Department of Career Education; the Arkansas Press Association, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture; and USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Rural Development.