A McGehee family was named the 2013 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year this week at the annual Farm Family Day luncheon honoring the county and district Farm Families of the Year, according to a Arkansas Farm Bureau news release.

Andy and Shannon Gill, along with their son Andrew and daughter Madeline, have a 3,200-acre corn and soybean operation.

After growing cotton for 30 years, in 2012 Andy sold his cotton picker and made the decision to concentrate strictly on corn and soybeans. He has built a new on-farm storage facility to handle their growing corn production. Both Andrew and Madeline are graduates of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Andrew obtained an agriculture business degree and has returned home to help his father on the farm.

Andy grew up working on the farm for his father and uncle Doyle Sims, who helped him rent 265 cotton acres to get started on his own. Over time he added acres and equipment to his operation. He has improved the efficiency of his farm by placing drop pipes for drainage and installing three tailwater recovery systems to capture and utilize surface water for irrigation. Where he can Andy has converted his power units to electricity and participates in USDA Conservation Reserve Programs.

“The Gills are an 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 understand what it means to protect the environment and the natural resources used in growing their crops. This father-son team is a prime model of a hard-working, successful farm family.”

Andy is president of the McGehee Men’s Club and has been a member of the organization for 20 years. As president, he has overseen the remodel of a facility which serves as a community center in McGehee. He also coordinates the annual Oyster dinner, with the proceeds going to fund community activities. Shannon is a board member of the McGehee Community Food Pantry, while Andrew is a member of the Arkansas Young and Beginning Farmers Advisory board. The family is active with the First United Methodist Church.

As Arkansas’ Farm Family of the Year, the Gills will compete in the 2014 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, soybean and wheat 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 68th year, 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.

In addition to the Gills, the 2013 District Farm Family of the Year winners include:
The Aday family of Leslie (Van Buren County), North Central District;
Jeff and Tanya Hill of Moro (Lee County), East Central District;
Mario and Lucina Maya of DeQueen (Sevier County), West Central District;
Bob and Sarah Gorden of Mena (Polk County), Western District;
Larry and Leslie Griffin of Ozan (Hempstead County), Southwest District;
Lynn and Tammy Williams of Huntington (Sebastian County) Northwest District; and
Nick and Deanne Yount of Pollard (Clay County), Northeast 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.