Brent Clark has been involved in the family farm and 4-H from a young age
For 16-year-old Brent Clark of El Paso, Ark., raising animals and being active in 4-H is something that comes naturally.
With direction and encouragement from his parents, Randal and Tracy Clark, and the example set by his older siblings, Emily and Travis, Brent has become one of the leaders in the Faulkner County 4-H club Hoofs, Spurs and Furs, but his leadership does not stop at the county level. Brent is active on the state level as a reporter for the State 4-H and recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C.
Being involved in 4-H, Brent said, has given him many opportunities and allows him to explore a variety of interests.
“I am able to learn life experiences, which I will be able to use later in college,” he said. “Doing 4-H also helps me get scholarships that I can use to help pay for college. I began with 4-H when I was 5 years old. I started off with poultry and did that pretty heavily when I was younger, then I went half and half with poultry and swine, as well as gardening. I have recently started delving more into the leadership and community service, and the healthy living.”
Not only is Brent heavily involved in 4-H, but he has also exhibited quality leadership, organizational skills, and a passion for things he believes in.
“Brent is an outstanding 4-Her.” said Kami Green, CEA-4-H for the Faulkner County Extension. “He does an amazing job. When I came to Faulkner County a year and a half ago, he suggested and organized our Livestock 101 workshops. He is a pleasure to work with.”
Brent’s projects in 4-H closely follow his family’s farming operation at their Bar C farm.
The family has 120 free-range chickens that are used for egg production.
“We used to raise broilers, which are the 4-H show chickens, and it was a great sustainer so we didn’t have to buy meat, but they ended up being too much work with the pigs too,” Brent explained.
The swine portion of the operation began when Brent, Travis and Emily started showing market hogs.
“I was about 8 years old and pigs were pretty big in Faulkner County, and they still are,” Brent explained. “We decided to get into pigs and once were started showing them we began to appreciate their personalities, as well as the intricacies of walking and feeding them. We were pretty much hooked from then on. When I was 9, we kept a sow and did everything on our farm. We would breed the sows and get our show pigs, then sell other show pigs, and then we have meat to sell as well.”
They currently have three sows in their breeding program that are bred through AI. Sows are bred in November and December, then rebred in August and September.
“Three is a good sustainer for us right now in having pigs and meat to sell,” Brent said.
Brent and his younger sister, Kacie, show their hogs at the county fair, as well as the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show. Their older siblings have aged out of the junior shows.
Eggs and pork are sold straight off the farm, at the Conway (Ark.) Farmers Market and through Conway Locally Grown, an online farmers market serving Conway and the surrounding areas by coordinating with local farmers to provide the freshest and highest quality fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, beef, pork, lamb and dairy
With his involvement in 4-H and agriculture, Brent said he has a sense of ownership in his livestock.
“Being able to breed the pigs, birth the pigs and then show them gives you the own spectrum,” he said. “With the chickens, I have really been able to try different production methods to see what is profitable for a small, under 200-bird flock. Being able to sit there and track all of the costs and see what happens is really rewarding.”
One management practice he researched is rotating layers out of the flock sooner.
“Hens will drop off in production at 4 or 5 years of age, and if you keep them through the molt, you still have to pay for food, and they aren’t going to produce,” Brent explained. “What we’ve learned is that it’s actually cheaper, in the long run, to keep your chickens for two years and one molt, then sell them and immediately have replacements that are already laying. As they get older, you get into the diminishing returns.”
The Clarks raise their own replacement birds by purchasing 1- or 2-day-old chicks each spring, which will be ready to lay by the fall. Chickens that are cycled out are sold to other producers.
Raising animals, 4-H activities, and keeping up with homeschool studies keeps Brent busy, but he does find time for hunting and fishing with his dad and brother.
“I like anything outdoors,” Brent said. “Especially if it involves members of my family. Everything revolves around family.”
College is still a couple years away, but Brent is already thinking about his options, which include attending the University of Arkansas and majoring in poultry sciences.