By Connie Las Schneider
Franklin County 2017 Farm Family of the Year is Johnny and Bridget Pruitt. With nine children plus 12 grandchildren and extended families from previous marriages, the Pruitts run a multigenerational, multifaceted operation.
“We could not do it without their help and wouldn’t be happy if we could,” said Bridget Pruitt, who likened her family to “more of an untelevised and unscripted sitcom where the Brady Bunch meets the Beverly Hillbillies.”
Bridget spoke with earnest about the diversity within the house, “I’d never be able to make it work without my parents, uncles, my sisters, nieces, our nephews, and even my children’s step-mom. In fact, without the relations we all try to maintain on both sides, none of this would ever work. There are too many moving parts.”
The Pruitt family runs Hindsite Farm Partnership five miles south of Ozark, which includes a 195 acre farm with a turkey-hen growing operation (48-50,000 per batch-3.5 batches per year), 40+ breeding head of Angus Cross cattle and 80 acre hay crop used mainly for their cattle. In addition to farming, the industrious family owns Hindsite Solutions Inc. which sells and services Ecodrum Composters to poultry growers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
In describing how the family got into the farming business, Bridget said, “Johnny, just as I and likely most of us here in Arkansas, were born into it.” However, Johnny’s own farm began with just a few cattle and then he purchased his first laying farm back in 99’. Johnny said, “I sold it back in 2004, against my better judgment, and purchased the land for the turkey operation.” Bridget added, “Turkeys are a LOT of work, but then this IS agriculture. If the elements don’t get you, the world’s perception will.”
The name of the family businesses, Hindsite, says a lot about the family and their “view” on life.
“Johnny so named the farm for the view out our back yard overlooking the simplicity of Etna all the way to the majestic Ouachita Mountain Range with Mt. Magazine’s peak pointing at our sunsets, (yes, it’s that poetic), said Bridget.
“It’s not so much about what you see or reflecting into the past but more about from where you stand or your perspective. In this case, from the back yard you can stand in amazement at the beauty of much of God’s creation. That constant reminder is good for our perspective and our direction. It’s about position. In agriculture and on a working farm you need that kind of encouragement”, said Bridget.
“We are first, a family of strong belief. Being the large blended family that we are means that we are not without our fair share of difficulties and strife. However, there is always one there to help chart our way through it by pointing us to the Son rather than to the North Star,” said Bridget about her deeply religious family.
In keeping with their faith, the Pruitts are a bit shy about success. “Our goals are multifaceted like that of our operation. Therefore, so too are our achievements, “said Bridget.
While most of the hay they grow is retained for farm use, when there is surplus Johnny sells the bales for reasonable market value at 4x5-$20 and 4x6-$26 and refuses to participate in any uptake of the disadvantaged or burdened fellow farmer, said Bridget. “Our increase comes only from increase in production cost and lowers as those cost lower. We often use the hay for barter or trade it out like our ancestors.”
Hindsite Farm has been in operation for 11 years and a contract grower since Farm Credit’s extension back in 2007. “This side of our business has grown from ‘hands-on’ activities such as, clearing the houses by shovel and filling all buckets individually by pail and scoop method to what we have now that includes tractors, a skid steer with buckets and blades, and a feed buggy for automatic filling of the feed buckets. In any method of farming you either work harder or work smarter. We’re choosing the latter when possible,” said Bridget.
Regarding their cattle operation, Bridget said, “Our cattle are, as many poultry growers are finding themselves, often more serving as a safety net for survival. One of those episodes of greater magnitude occurred back in 2013 during a summer batch. We lost our water table supporting our poultry houses and as we do not have city water the impact was potentially devastating to say the least. While we agonizingly waited for a drilling company out of Oklahoma to drill five wells before we finally witched and located a wet one, we hauled and pumped water into our birds of over 7,000 gallons a day on 24 hour rotations for 5 days. If we hadn’t had God’s grace and our faith in His guidance with the cattle for that support I don’t know what we would have done. Any successful individual has learned that their success often comes by way of diversity and contingency planning. That strategy is only amplified in agriculture. We’ve added two 5,000 gallon water storage tanks to execute that theory.”
The family’s latest venture is Hindsight Solution, Inc. Johnny said, “Our need for change in our (poultry) operations management practices in mortality led us to a commercial composter manufactured in Canada that proclaimed bio-security; an issue growers are finding as one of their biggest challenges. We received our unit in 2012 to handle all the daily mortality on our farm. We were so impressed with its benefits and simplicity that we signed on as a distributorship and now serve Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.
The business incorporated last year as Hindsite Solutions Inc. for sales and service of commercial composters serving both growers and integrators. Since they began, they have attended and received certification at the Maine Compost School and various other training and education seminars, said Johnny.
Bridget added, “We also work extensively with agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to collaborate on beneficial changes in programs and directives and advocate for change by contacting and networking with State Representatives, Senators, and Congressmen and women. In addition, we provide a resource for integrators and growers either seeking resolutions to problematic issues or just trying to race ahead of them in the ever developing world of bio-security.”
The Pruitt’s desire to help their fellow farmers succeed in the tough business of farming seems solidly based on hard work, good values and education. Just as their children were taught to operate the shovel, axe, and posthole diggers; so too, they know how to work up an invoice, resolve a grower’s compost recipe through a phone call, or install a unit on delivery. Whether a member is in one of the poultry houses, out in the back forty on the fence line, assisting in a trade show in another state, or just in the kitchen with what maybe one of very many, they are all very well versed in etiquette, skills, manners, and Biblical morals, said Bridget, adding that the members she speaks of extend to borders beyond the immediate family to include, friends, neighbors, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and of course, the grandchildren.”
Summing up the Pruitt family is their motto, “This is a farm life. Not every day can be easy, but every day can still be beautiful.” A beautiful thought for a bountiful life.
This is the 70th year for the Farm Family of the Year contest and judges visit each district farm family to select a state farm family of the year. The Arkansas winner will compete to be the Southeastern Farmer of the Year and will represent Arkansas at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, in October. If you would like more information about the Sunbelt Ag Expo and the Southeastern Farmer of the Year Awards go to www.sunbeltexpo.com.