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For Immediate Release

Walkers named ARFB young farmer award finalists


Hard work, love of farm life and family all part of success

11/16/10

HORATIO —Growing up in Horatio, Brian Walker, 34, had no idea where his food came from. “I just took it for granted that chicken nuggets came from McDonalds,” he says. He didn’t know anything about farming either, coming from a non-farming family. Now, Walker and his wife, Elizabeth, raise more than nine million pounds of chicken meat - perfect for chicken nuggets - in 10 chicken houses at their Lucky 13 Farm. They also run a cow/calf operation and a feeder calf operation.

The couple is a finalist for the Arkansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Achievement Award. The other finalists are Josh and Melissa Cureton of Cash (Craighead County), who produce rice and soybeans; and Jeremy and Magen Allen of Bismarck (Hot Spring County), who have laying hens, cattle and a feed business.

After graduating from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in biology, Brian went to work as a broiler field technician for Tyson Foods. This sparked his interest in the chicken business. He quickly learned where chicken nuggets come from. He proposed to high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, in 2002. She grew up in a nearby farm family, and the two decided to buy land near Horatio and build their first two chicken houses. Brian also had a small cow/calf herd he’d started in 2001 with 12 cow/calves and a Simmental bull that he pastured on his grandparent’s land.

“I jokingly called them the “Lucky 13,” he says. The nickname stuck and is the name of their farm.

He and Elizabeth married in 2003, adding her 19 cows to the herd and finished building the two chicken houses. Elizabeth, who earned a degree in chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas, already had a good job as a process engineer at a paper mill.

Little by little, the two saved and built their farm, adding the feeder calf operation and four more broiler houses. Now, they own 397 acres of the 480 they farm. Their family grew, too, with daughter Reese born in 2006. Elizabeth kept working at the paper mill, but the itch to stay home and help on the farm started growing for the farmer’s daughter. Son, Rhett, came in 2008.

Their goal now was to take the big step and have Elizabeth quit her job and become a fulltime mom and farmhand. That finally happened in September 2009. Brian jokingly says he had to build another four more broiler houses to make it happen. However, neither would trade the benefits of it for anything now. Reese and Rhett don’t seem to mind either.

“The main goal of increasing the farm income was so my wife would be able to stay home with our children and help more with the farm,” Brian says. “Our farm has been built from the ground up by saving, planning for the future, taking calculated risks and just plain hard work. We’ve come a long way, and it’s been amazing to watch how quickly things have progressed.”

The farm’s efficiency is better, too. Brian handles his own litter removal and its use for fertilizer. He’s converted hog barns into hay barns. And with some study and a better understanding of the intricacies of proper cow/calf feeding and where to sell, he increased weight gain in his calves. He also switched from Simmental to Charolais bulls and improved color consistency and the resulting profits.

Both he and Elizabeth enjoy being involved in YF&R activities.

“The Young Farmers & Ranchers gives us a chance to interact with people our age that are going through the same things; raising young children and farming,” Elizabeth says. “You know, we think we’re facing something nobody else has ever heard of and then you get to talking to somebody, and they’ve been through the same thing.”

The YF&R Achievement Award honors young farmers and ranchers across the state for their hard work, innovation, progress and the general excellence of their operations. The winner of the award will be announced at the 76th Arkansas Farm Bureau Convention, which takes place Dec. 1-3 in Hot Springs. The winning couple will take home a Chevrolet 1500 quad cab, four-wheel-drive pickup truck and an expenses-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Convention in January in Atlanta to compete for the national award.

Brian and Elizabeth are both active Farm Bureau members. Brian presently is vice president on the Sevier County Farm Bureau board of directors, and he and Elizabeth are presently the co-chairman and co-chairwoman of the county YF&R among numerous other community endeavors.

 

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Elizabeth and Brian Walker stand in one of their Lucky 13 Farm's 10 broiler houses. The two now live solely off of income generated from the farm.

 

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Brian (34) and Elizabeth Walker (32) pose with their children, daughter, Reese, 4, and son, Rhett, 2. Their Horatio farm is located near where both of them grew up. Having family nearby is important to the Walkers.

 

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Lucky 13 Farm gets its name from the number of cattle in Brian Walker's original cow/calf operation. Elizabeth added her small herd of 19 cattle when the two married in 2003. They've built the farm's chicken and beef operations, and land holdings during the last eight years to nearly 400 acres.

 

Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of almost 220,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.

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For more information contact:

Steve Eddington
steve.eddington@arfb.com
(501) 228-1383
PO Box 31, Little Rock 72203

or

Gregg Patterson
gregg.patterson@arfb.com
(501) 228-1282
PO Box 31, Little Rock 72203

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