Potts-Hemann Named Farm Family of the Year
By JESSICA RAINWATER
T-D News Staff
A large group of friends, family and associates gathered at the Potts home on County Road 540 to celebrate the Potts-Hemann farm family being named the 2015 Clay County Farm Family of the Year for 2015.
Charles "Sonny" Potts grew up farming. Every day after school he was on a tractor working for his uncle Marshall and his father Charles Edward Potts. Potts said at the time he didn't know for sure farming was his future even though he was the third generation of a farming family.
He attended school at Greenway, where he played basketball and baseball. He graduated with a class of 15 and remained on the farm for five and a half years before deciding to attend college at Arkansas Tech in Russellville. That ended up "being one of the best decisions of my life; if I hadn't waited to go to college I'd never had met Charlotte." He met his wife Charlotte in the lobby of one of the residence halls while playing pool in 1968.
Potts extremely disliked college, so he left only to be drafted in the first ever lottery near the end of the Vietnam War. He was a sergeant in the Army in the 101st Airborne. During basic training he extended a muscle in his knee, which sent him to the infirmary for four months. Due to the injury he lacked 20 percent of the capability to become a paratrooper after hurting his leg, so he became a recruiter.
Charlotte and Potts married in 1972 after she graduated from college. Potts was stationed at Campbell as a recruiter, so Charlotte began teaching at Kennett until the time came that Potts decided to leave the military after two years of service.
The decision to return home to the family farm was an easy one for the couple. "Charlotte's family moved a lot, so she wanted roots," Potts said. So the Potts family returned to Greenway, moved into a four bedroom bungalow across from his dad's home, and Potts helped his father harvest that year's crop.
In February of 1973 Potts' Uncle Marshall retired and gave Potts the option to rent 160 acres of farm land. The next year Marshall gave Potts the option to buy the same 160 acres, and he took it. The original 160 acres is the same plot of land where the Potts home, the small bungalow they originally lived in, two shops and grain bins still sit on today.
In 1977 the Potts family began to grow with the addition of their son Wes, and in 1979 Emily came along. "Emily followed every step her father took," Charlotte said. Emily doesn't remember when exactly she started farming. She just knows she's always farmed. By the age of eight she could drive every piece of equipment on the farm, "except for the combine; she was too light in the britches to keep the seat from triggering and turning the machine off," Charlotte said.
Jimmy Hemann joined the family in September of 2003 when he married Emily. The two had dated the summer before graduating from high school. Hemann attended Kennett High School and Emily attended Piggott High School. After high school Hemann attended Missouri State in Springfield, and Emily attended the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. "You would think that would be where it ended," Hemann said, but the two both decided to transfer to Arkansas State University and their romance continued.
Hemann also came from a farm family. His life was spent on his brother-in-law Rick Jones' farm outside of Kennett, which was the driving force in his decision to pursue a degree in agricultural business. His grandparents, Lorenz and Esther Hemann, also raised corn and soybeans on their farm in southern Illinois. However, he took an "indirect route" back to the family farm. After marrying, he and Emily lived in Little Rock for nine years, where Hemann worked for the Arkansas Farm Bureau. He said that gives him a competitive edge, because he was privileged to see another perspective of farming by traveling to Washington, D.C., and being a part of the legislative and insurance side of agriculture.
The decision to return to the farm came four years ago when Emily became pregnant with the couple's first child, Hattie. "We knew we wanted to teach our children the value of hard work and where food comes from, because so many people think it just comes from the grocery store," Hemann said. So the Hemann family returned to the Greenway farm and things have run smoothly with Potts and Hemann as a team.
"Sonny and I work well together, because he has an engineering background and has been farming for years, and I have the business and economics background," Hemann said. "Today you have to have both -- agriculture has become more business minded over the years and it helps when all of the responsibilities don't fall on one person."
The Potts-Hemann farm is truly a family run business with Potts and Hemann handling the agriculture side, Charlotte taking care of the bookkeeping and making sure everybody stays fed, while Emily raises the fifth generation of the farm family and runs errands. Actually, Emily does whatever is needed from driving tractors to going after parts.
The Hemanns also put extra emphasis on making sure three-year-old Hattie and one-year-old Abigail are part of the process on a daily basis. Although the girls are very young, they are always excited to ride the tractor with papa or daddy.
The Potts-Hemann farm is a combination of rented and owned farm land. Potts began with 160 acres, but now the partnership currently farms 2,550 acres -- 1,750 of the acres rented and 800 owned. Currently, they utilize 800 acres for corn, which generally yields approximately 200 bushels per acre. They utilize 950 acres for soybeans, which yields approximately 55 bushels per acre. Eight hundred acres is allotted for cotton, and normally yields about 1,100 pounds per acre. The final 65 acres is planted with wheat and yields about 45 bushels per acre.
Marketing also plays an integral role in the farming operation. "We play close attention to not only what is happening in the U.S. markets, but also try to monitor the global market, as well" Hemann noted. The partnership also uses commodity futures contracts with local grain elevators and cotton gins, as well as options contracts to protect their price floor.
The family is proud to have been one of the first in Clay County to level their own fields for furrow irrigation. They also enjoy helping neighbors and other members of their community flourish, and Sonny is always willing to help a young farmer set up his irrigation.
Potts and Hemann are always looking for ways to improve efficiency and maximize yield potential. They work rigorously with the local extension office to do so, and were one of the first in the area to apply ESN, which is an encapsulated time released nitrogen fertilizer. By applying ESN at planting they have eliminated the need to apply a second nitrogen fertilizer later in the season.
Also, in an effort to conserve and protect the environment, they have installed timers on their irrigation wells to ensure no excess water usage. They have installed drop tiles to decrease potential of erosion in areas prone to erode, and no till practices are utilized to reduce wind erosion. In some areas of their farm they have implemented stair-stepping in fields to maximize irrigation efficiency.
The family plans to grow the farm in the future by purchasing and renting land as it becomes available, and plans to encourage and lead the fifth generation into a life of agriculture. The family also believes God has helped them along the way. The Potts' belong to the Piggott First General Baptist Church, where Sonny is a deacon, and the Hemanns are members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church.