Mike and Patty Stiles Franklin County Farm Family for 2014

Mike and Patty Stiles, owners of Double M Dairy, which is located south of Branch, are the 2014 Franklin County Farm Family of the Year. They are truly a family farm and have used lots of hard work and determination throughout the years to be able to continue their way of life. One of their goals is to someday pass along their enterprise to their children.

Mike and Patty began with 20 acres of woods that they hand cleared from scratch. They began by milking 2 cows by hand under a lean-to shed, slowly but steadily expanding, by reinvesting every year. The hard work and reinvestment seemed to pay off as they increased their herd to 135 head.

But then tragedy struck. In 2002, we received aflatoxin affected feed that had a very detrimental effect on our operation along with many others in our area, Patty said. "Ninety percent of our herd was unable to produce in one form or another, no milk, calf deformities, no reproduction, poor health and death. The aflatoxin disaster left them with a herd of about 14 head that were productive. Due to the carcinogen’s effect of aflatoxin exposure to our farm, Mike was diagnosed with cancer very soon after."

The old saying when it rains, it pours could not have been more appropriate for our farm in those times, they said. "We are just now getting back to managing our farm the way we would like to run it."

Our family fought cancer for 5 years with treatments and hospitalization and fortunately prevailed, Patty said. "We would not have been able to make it without the help of our kids running the dairy while Mike was receiving treatments. We are truly are a family farm."

The dairy was hard work and so was raising kids but we would not have done it any other way if we had it to over again, they both said. "Our greatest accomplishment is our children and how they turned out. We taught them to work hard, be responsible, and be respectful and they have grown to be wonderful kids that carried that into their everyday lives. All of our kids have huge hearts for people and animals."

We wanted our children to have better lives than we had and farm life taught them how to do that, it gave them drive to succeed and achieve what they wanted to do, they said. "What we are most proud of are our children."

Mike and Patty both worked off the farm for many years when they started the dairy. Mike worked on several farms in the area for many years until they were at the size they wanted to be. Patty was able to remain home earlier than Mike, running the dairy the best she could with Mike while raising their 4 children.

We started from nothing and slowly built our herd, Patty said. "We reinvested everything back into the dairy that we could to increase our growth to be more sustainable for many years. We cleared this land ourselves and built everything we could manage ourselves." They plan to continue to maintain their dairy, but due to the declining dairy industry they would like to increase the beef side of our business more than anything. They market their milk from Double M Dairy to the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and market their beef cattle at the local County Line Sale Barn located at Ratcliff.

Mike and Patty have spent their entire lives in agriculture, Patty growing up on a dairy and Mike working as a farm hand on many farming operations.

The entire family has also been involved with 4-H and FFA for their entire lives. Patty was a 4-H leader for many years and still holds the title of 4-H Leader of the Year proudly. They held show clinics, managed poultry chains, ran 4-H clubs, and exhibited dairy at the county, district, and state level. All four children, Michael, 27, Erica Bates, 25, Danea, 22 and Meagann, 18, have been FFA/4-H officers and all have attended the national FFA Convention.

Their daughter Meagann is still involved in FFA at County Line Schools. They also continue to hold dairy clinics for Meagann’s FFA Dairy Judging group and have been responsible for the 4-H club calf.

Danea and Meagann continue to exhibit dairy at fairs and are quite competitive against one another, which makes it even more fun for everybody else. Michael currently is working and helps on the farm. Danea is currently working and attending Arkansas Tech University-Ozark and Meagann plans to attend Arkansas Tech University in the fall as a freshman. Erica (Bates) and her husband Blake both work off the farm and are raising a family-Brayden, 4 and Hunter, 1 with another one on the way. Mike and Patty’s children seem to miss the hard work on the dairy and come back to help as much as they can. We sure like having the help, they said.