Ken and Debbie Stettmeier show their six children how farming and showing can be a learning opportunityLike many families in northwest Arkansas, the Stettmeier’s came from elsewhere, in this case Maryland. Ken and Debbie met at a resort in Ocean City, Md. On that day he was jumping rope for football when five girls walked by. Ken said, “I was instantly done so I could meet the girls.” Later the whole group went to a beach party. Ken said, “As soon as they arrived, I sorted out the show cattle to find the one I wanted.” Debbie laughed and added, “I knew he had sorted correctly, but it took him longer to figure it out.” The couple married with Ken following in his father’s footsteps in the meat industry and Debbie becoming a grade school teacher. Ken’s career opportunities took their growing family from Maryland to Seattle.
The family moved to Rogers, Ark., 15 years ago when Ken was invited to work at Sam’s Club and later Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Two years later, they bought 18 acres in Rogers. Upon driving down the lane and seeing the barn, they knew this was the place. Though the family knew nothing about farming, they were eager to enter that lifestyle which included homeschooling their children. Debbie said, “I learned from teaching that I could teach children anything, but teaching character including love and respect for the Lord is an entirely different matter. We decided to home educate our children so we could teach them both content and character and have the greatest impact in their lives.” One of the greatest influences and strengths for them has been the leadership of Ken. He has served as a CEO in business and led his family with the same integrity and character. Debbie said she had originally intended to use the same curricula for all of the children but soon found each child needed something different making homeschooling a perfect decision for them.
Farming was an evolution for this family. They began by raising registered Angus but later found the process too labor intensive with Ken traveling much of the time. When the family grew to six children under nine years, the cattle had to go.
One of their first excursions was to the county fair where they bought a lamb because the children were so excited. Brittany was, and still is, the driving force behind the sheep flock. This year will mark the 12th year the Stettmeiers have been showing market lambs. The entire family travels to compete in jackpot, state and national competitions. They still purchase lambs, but also raise their own including Hampshire and crosses. According to Debbie, “There are too many children to buy for all, so now we buy some and continue to grow our breeding program.” The Stettmeiers currently have 20 breeding ewes, two rams and 25 show lambs. They sell show lambs as well as breeding stock to others. Early on Ken didn’t want any “hay burners,” but when 3-year-old Bailey brushed one side of a friend’s horse and then proceeded to walk under the horse and brush the other side, Ken decided horses were just fine. The Stettmeiers now have three horses along with 40 laying hens.
Everything revolves around family, so much so that they changed 4-H chapters because the first met during the evening, which is considered precious family time. In addition to all of the children competing with lambs across the country, they hold family shows, which usually end with a football game in the field.
Each child is encouraged to develop individual interests as well. Howie, 16, has recently completed building a 12′ x 30’ shed for sheltering mature ewes and rebuilt the flowerbeds. The chickens and climbing trees have become 8-year-old David’s specialties while Bailey, 14, is most interested in the horses and barrel racing. Bethany, 12, enjoys sewing and baking and showing her lambs in a skirt. Ten-year-old Joshua’s outside interests are archery and drawing. Brittany, 17, plays guitar, yet has not veered from her love of sheep.
The animals have provided the children with opportunities for responsibility and perseverance. They have also provided unexpected benefits. Debbie explained that the children have really learned about life and death. They have experienced firsthand what it’s like to work hard and reap the rewards of that work.
The Stettmeier family has evolved into a true farming family that shares everything from chores to pleasure to arm wrestling. Debbie summed it up best when she said, “We love what we do, and all we do is for the joy of the Lord.”


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