The flooded Arkansas River languishes between two fields worked by Marty Arnold, the closer planted with milo and the further with wheat. Arnold often plants a crop with a shorter yield time, such as soybeans, in the area currently under water.
photos by TANIAH TUDOR
Teresa Arnold discusses her 29 years in banking while also playing hostess, offering homemade cookies and brownies.
Marty Arnold shows off his field of milo - also known as grain sorghum - to Michelle Buchanan, agriculture agent with the Crawford County Cooperative Extension Service. Planting milo, which is used in the United States for livestock feed, helps Arnold to rotate his crops.
Water is Marty Arnold’s biggest obstacle.
While some of Marty’s crops suffer from too little irrigation, other fields are under constant threat of flooding from the Arkansas River.
Marty, his wife Teresa and their son Cory were chosen as this year’s Crawford County Farm Family. They farm the “Bottoms” along the river’s edge near Alma and Kibler, fighting flooding, wind and rain damage, heat, drought, and bugs.
As Marty and Teresa tell it, these are all part of farming the “Bottoms,” but Marty toils hardest to resolve issues of flooding and irrigation.
In years of heavy rains, Marty said the river is constantly overflowing its banks. His tractor shed, up off the river a good half mile, has been under several feet of water at least three times, he said.
Even now, a small lake of river water cuts off two sections of worked land, one planted with wheat and the other milo, otherwise known as grain sorghum.
“I can’t remember a time in the last year that I haven’t seen some water on it,” Marty said of his property.
Other fields suffer from heat and lack of water, and need more irrigation, he said. The problems have even overlapped, when once Marty was unable to turn on the pump to his irrigation system because it was under several feet of flood water.
But Marty fights the flooding by planting crops with a faster yield that can be planted later in the season, such as soybeans and peas. He has plans to extend irrigation to improve crop yields.
Marty also practices minimum tilling to prevent erosion, he said.
Marty and Teresa own 284 acres, inherited from Marty’s uncle, and rent another 136 acres.
With their son in school and working an internship that keeps him busy most hours of every day, Marty does most of the farm work by himself, Teresa said. Though she does like to ride the combine with him, she said.
Teresa works full-time in the credit department of First Community Bank in Van Buren, where she has been for 11 years. She has been in banking 29 years, the same number of years she and Marty have been married, she said.
But she is a part-time farmer, she said, helping Marty with anything he needs.
“I usually get a call about the time I’m leaving work…whatever he needs me to do,” Teresa said.
While Marty and Teresa have been farming their land for about 27 years, Marty has been farming since he was “old enough to walk,” he said. He helped his uncle, Ivan Arnold, work the same land Marty now owns.
Marty can tell farming stories from when he was as young as five, such as the time he drove through his grandmother’s clothesline with the tractor.
“I don’t think she said anything to me, but she told the others off for letting me drive the tractor,” he said with a laugh.
He tells other stories, of how croplands now covered with soybeans, corn and wheat used to be filled with teens harvesting vegetables and melons.
“Back then, all the kids around here worked on the farm,” Marty said.
The Arnolds were chosen as the Crawford County Farm Family by a panel consisting of members from the Extension Service, Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Services, Farm Service Agency, past farm family winners and others.
They are currently being judged against other families for the title of Northeast Regional Farm Family, with the state winner being announced in December.
Marty has been a member of Farm Bureau for more than 35 years. He also has been a member of the Nitro State Fishing Team since 2010, and is an avid bass fisherman.
While Teresa said farmers never retire, if they ever do, they will “get rid of it all and move to the lake,” Marty said.