Conway County farm a top 8 finalist for Arkansas Farm Family of the Year

By Carol Rolf

Farming in Conway County has been a way of life for the Stobaugh family since 1951.

The patriarch of the family, the late Audy Ray Stobaugh Sr., started farming with his wife, Edith, 96, in the Kenwood community in January of that year, purchasing 80 acres where he first raised a few cattle and grew cotton, wheat, and soybeans. The farm would later be owned by the Stobaughs’ four sons. That operation has grown over the years and is now known as the Stobaugh Brothers Farm. Today, brothers Barry Stobaugh, 69, and Robert Stobaugh, 60, and their nephew Bart Stobaugh, 44, farm 6,000 acres, where they raise soybeans, rice, and corn.

Robert (from left), Bart and Barry Stobaugh own and operate Stobaugh Brothers Farm in Kenwood. Robert and Barry are brothers and Bart is their nephew.

The Stobaugh Brothers Farm was selected the 2022 Conway County Farm Family of the Year in May. And in July, the farm was named the Western District Farm Family of the Year and will be judged along with the other seven district farm families to determine the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, which will be announced Dec. 8.

“The Stobaughs are role models for all of agriculture, for their example of hard work and dedication to produce crops that feed America and beyond,” said Hank DeSalvo, vice president and branch manager of Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and chairman of the Conway County Farm Family of the Year Selection Committee. “The farm’s legacy was started by their parents and grandparents, and the pride they take in carrying on the farming tradition is quite evident. They are a huge asset to our local community.”

The farm was operated from 1983 until 1992 by the Stobaughs’ four sons — Audy “Ray” Stobaugh Jr., Barry, Robert, and the late Bruce Stobaugh, who was killed in a farm-related accident in 1992. Bruce’s son Bart joined the farming operation as a partner after graduating from college in 2001, the same year Ray decided to retire. Barry’s oldest grandson, Cade Chapman, 23, works full-time on the farm and his youngest grandson, Seth Chapman, 16, helps out in the summer, as does Bart’s nephew August Stobaugh, 15, who is a son of Bart’s brother, Kyle Stobaugh.

“Anytime you are recognized for what you do is a big deal,” Robert said about his family’s recent honors. “It’s good to know that someone thinks we’re hard at work. Farming is more than just a little part-time job.” 

Robert said the farm was recognized with the same two honors in 2004.

“Here we are, 18 years later being recognized again,” he said. “It’s nice, especially considering how much consolidation is going on in agriculture … so many smaller farms being sold … consolidated into larger operations.”

Barry noted their parents first received the Conway County Farm Family of the Year award in 1964.

“Our family has been involved in agriculture for a long time,” Barry said.

“This honor was a surprise to us this year,” he said. “We go about our business and don’t think about any honors. When you farm, you do a lot of it by yourself. We meet every morning, make a plan and change that plan several times during the day. You’ve got to be flexible.”

Bart said the Stobaugh family has been “fortunate” over the years.

“We are going to continue to do what we do,” he said. “We’ve got the next generation already working with us. We hope to continue this farming operation for a long time. It’s important to all of us.”

Robert said the biggest crop acreage-wise is soybeans, planted on 4,100 acres, but the rice crop is the biggest “money-maker” per acre; they raise about 1,500 acres of rice.

“We sell most of the rice to Riceland Foods in Stuttgart,” he said. “But we also grow specialty rice, such as jasmine and basmati, for local rice processor Ralston Farms.”

“We hope to keep on farming,” said Robert, who noted they also raise about 500 acres of corn, which is sold to Tyson Foods for chicken feed. “We have the next generation learning the ropes. 

“This year will mark 72 crops we have grown,” he said. “That’s a pretty good little milestone. We’ve helped feed a lot of people.”

Barry and Robert still live in Kenwood, while Bart lives in Morrilton. They are all involved in community activities.

Barry and his wife, Eva, have two daughters, Cassie Chapman and Lindsey Stobaugh. Cassie and her husband, Jeff, are the parents of Cade and Seth. Barry is active on the local Farm Bureau board and Riceland Foods board.

Robert and his wife, Mary Ann, have two adult children, Bryan Stobaugh and Mallory Birch. Mallory is married to Chris Birch and they have a young daughter, Annie. Robert has served on the Blackwell Fire Department since its inception in 1985, including 33 years as chief. He has served as chairman of the Conway County Fire Department board and as a member of the Farm Bureau board. On the national level, Robert served on the United Soybean board and currently serves on the National Biodiesel board.

Bart and his wife, Ashley, have a 13-year-old daughter, Carter, and an 11-year-old son, Bentley. They are active volunteers in the Sacred Heart Church and School community. Bart serves as president of the church parish council, is chairman of the board for the Point Remove Reclamation Irrigation District for Conway and Pope counties, and serves on the Farm Bureau board.