John Michael and Rachel Bearden of Friendship (Hot Spring Co.) and Chris and Brooklyn Heiser of Lamar (Johnson Co.) earned the top Young Farmers & Ranchers awards Friday during Arkansas Farm Bureau’s annual Officers & Leaders Conference at the Hot Springs Convention Center. The awards honor young farmers and ranchers ages 18-35 for the general excellence of their operations and their hard work and innovation.
With the YF&R Achievement Award, the Beardens received a $35,000 cash prize and a trip to the 2024 American Farm Bureau Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah to compete for the national award. The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers in Arkansas who have excelled in their farming/ranching operations and exhibited outstanding leadership abilities. The award is designed for an individual or couple involved in full-time production agriculture with a majority of their income subject to normal production risks. The Achievement Award is sponsored by the Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Company.
Left to right are Young Farmers & Ranchers Chair Monica Paskewitz, Lexie Grace Bearden, John Michael Bearden, Rachel Bearden, Young Farmers & Ranchers Vice Chairs Tara and Brad Peacock, ArFB President Rich Hillman, and ArFB Vice President Mike Freeze.
The Beardens own and operate Fowler & Bearden Farm, where they raise 250 cow-calf pairs. In addition to their cattle, they own a track of timber, grow hay and raise horses, and cross-bred sheep. The Beardens are sixth-generation and seventh-generation farmers and had the unique opportunity to purchase their own part of the family farm. The Beardens are the first family in ArFB history to win all three YF&R awards; the Achievement Award, Excellence in Agriculture Award and Discussion Meet.
The Heisers received the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of individuals or couples who earn the majority of their income through off-farm efforts, but who are involved in farming and Arkansas Farm Bureau. They are evaluated on their understanding of agricultural issues, as well as leadership, achievements and involvement in Arkansas Farm Bureau and other organizations. The Excellence in Agriculture Award is sponsored by Arkansas Farm Bureau Mutual Company and Publishing Concepts Inc.
Left to right are Young Farmers & Ranchers Vice Chairs Tara and Brad Peacock, Brooklyn and Chris Heiser, Young Farmers & Ranchers Chair Monica Paskewitz, ArFB President Rich Hillman, and ArFB Vice President Mike Freeze.
As winner of the Excellence in Agriculture Award, the Heisers received an $11,000 cash prize and a trip to the 2024 American Farm Bureau Convention to compete for the national award.
The Heisers have a commercial and registered cattle herd of SimAngus and angus cattle. Off the farm, Chris manages Wilkins Farms and Brooklyn manages Sweet Treats Sandwich and Pie Shop.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization with almost 190,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.