Billie Gene Hudson's farm was among 84 farms to be honored as a Century Farm

The State of Arkansas began a new program this year called the Arkansas Century Farm Program. Agriculture has always been important in the history of Arkansas. Farms remain the backbone of our agricultural industry, and families who have persevered throughout the past 100 years are being honored.
The family farm of Billie Gene Hudson is one of 86 farms that has applied for and been accepted as a Century Farm so far this year. His family has owned land in Boone County, just south of Harrison, for almost 170 years. A patent for the land was issued to his great-great grandfather David Nichols in 1843. The last name has changed through marriage from Nichols to Eoff to Hudson.
Billie Gene and his wife, Wanda, worked the farm together until her passing in 2004. Susan Hudson Keller, daughter of Billie Gene and Wanda, said that her mother could “do anything dad could do.” That included helping to produce crops like corn, alfalfa, hay, garden vegetables, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, apples and sorghum cane.
Billie Gene worked the farm in partnership with his mom and dad, James Clio and Nannie Hudson, until their deaths in 1992. In the 1940s and ‘50s they operated a dairy and in the 1950s and ‘60s raised beef cattle, including registered Hereford cattle. Mules and horses have also been a part of the operation, as well as sheep, hogs, chickens, ducks, geese, honeybees and registered English setter bird dogs. The original home where Billie Gene was born and raised still exists, though it is not in use.
Billie Gene said he used to combine seed for other people. After he wore out three combines, he thought maybe it was time to quit. Now he raises hay, usually producing between 1,200 to 1,800 round bales annually. But this year the number was considerably less due to the drought. This isn’t the first unusual weather conditions they’ve lived through, either. The farm survived the Harrison flood in May of 1961 and the drought during the early 1950s. At that time, Billie Gene had to sell his registered Hereford cows for five cents a pound and Hereford steers and heifers for 10 cents a pound. He hauled cattle to Berryville, Ark., to have enough money to pay for his newborn daughter, Susan. Billie Gene said, “It was drier then than this year, with the ground cracking open because it was so dry.” The drought lasted from 1950 to 1956. But they made it through with lots of hard work.
Both Billie Gene and Wanda had to work jobs off the farm. Billie worked for the Arkansas Forestry Commission for 37 years and Wanda worked for the Revenue Department and the Highway Department for many years.
Of the almost 500 acres that Billie Gene owns now, most of it is cleared, leaving some of it timbered for windbreaks and shade. The farm has 10 to 12 ponds and one or two creeks. He currently runs cow-calf pairs in a mixed breed herd.
One of the biggest changes that Billie Gene has seen in farming over his lifetime has to do with technology. He’s had to learn to modernize with the computers on his equipment. He said, “It can be both good and bad.” In the past he could do just about all his own mechanic work and repairs. Now he has to take it to the dealer. But on the other hand, he does enjoy a heated and air conditioned tractor.
At 84 years old, Billie Gene is as active as he always has been on the farm. He said, “I check the cattle every day, sometimes two times a day.” He added, “I don’t have a doctor, I don’t take medications, just coffee in the morning and a shot of bourbon at night.”
The main thing with Billie Gene is being a good steward of the land. He said, “I want to leave the farm better than it was when I got it.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here