The Hughes family have been surprised by the demand for their raw milk and cheese

Two things are certain on the Hughes’ farm just outside Damascus, Ark., there is always something to do, and thanks to four kids, ages 13 and younger, there is never a dull moment. But owners Jason and Elaine would not have it any other way.

There is a little bit of everything on the farm, beef cows, dairy cows, sheep, ducks, chickens and geese. But perhaps the most unusual thing about this family farm, it has only been operation a little over two years.

The Hughes moved back to the Damascus, Ark., area two years ago after spending several years in the oil business in Texas. With four young children, Jason and Elaine felt it was time to move back closer to their roots and their parents. But full-time farming was not on the agenda at the time.

Neither Jason nor Elaine were around farming growing up. But as adults, it was something they always wanted to do. So, when the farm came up, they jumped at the chance to buy and move back closer to home. In fact, the whole farming thing was a novelty, but the Hughes have had a crash course in farming.

“Elaine wanted a little bit of everything to provide some basic ‘farm products’ for the family,” explained Jason. “A few chickens for eggs, a Jersey cow or two for milk, rabbits, horses and a few guineas to keep the place free of insects. You name it, we probably have it on the farm.”

The 100-acre farm comes with a lot of history. It has the original root-cellar constructed around 1914, and a cabin that, according to Elaine, serves as Jason’s man-cave.

The farm even had an old dairy barn built in the 1940, which the Hughes have renovated to milk their small Jersey dairy herd, complete with a new red metal roof.

Jason also has a John Deere A tractor his dad restored that can be used as a backup if needed. One of the most prized possessions on the farm is the dinner bell purchased by Jason’s great-great grandfather. The bell cast in 1886 and is mounted along the sidewalk in front of their house.

The dairy part of the operation has been the biggest surprise so far. The original plan was to have a couple of Jersey cows to provide raw milk and cheese for the family. It didn’t take long for word of mouth to spread the news about the quality of the Hughes dairy products. Thus, the Red Roof Dairy was officially started. The herd is up to four cows and a fifth cow will probably be added soon. With the increase in the dairy business, Jason is finding it more difficult to allocate his time between his dozer/backhoe business and the dairy. Elaine faces the ultimate time management challenge of family, farm and a day job with Nabholz Construction in Conway, Ark.

“We were totally shocked by the response for our milk,” said Jason. “We get several calls every day asking about our milk and cheese. It is just about a full-time job for me. We have more equipment on order to help process all the orders, and we are probably going to buy another Jersey soon”

Social networking and word of mouth have been the big marketing tools for the Red Roof Dairy.

“Facebook has been a huge tool for us,” Elaine said. “But, word of mouth has been good also. We really concentrate on the quality of our products, going the extra mile for testing and processing. It has really paid off for us.

The Hughes four children are not immune to the rigors of life on the farm. Rebekah (13) and Morgan (9), Brian (7) and Cason (6), all have duties on the farm.

Rebekah and Morgan had daunting chores last spring as they raised 100 bottle calves. While feeding came early and late, and had to revolve around their school work, they were up to the task.

“The girls would get up every morning at 5:30 and fed those 100 calves (before school).” Elaine said.” They would feed them again when they got home. It was tough on those cold mornings, especially with snow on the ground, but it was rewarding for them and they plan to do it again this fall.”

Sons Brian and Cason may still be a little young, but they have chores just for them and are anxiously waiting in the wings for their turn to pitch in. Looks like they will have plenty to keep them busy.


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