Clint and Sarah Hale are both from farming families, and have careers in agriculture eduction.
Clint has taught 16 years, the last 13 in Prairie Grove, Ark., while Sarah is in her 11th year and teaches in Lincoln.
The Hale’s 20-acre farm, located between the two towns, is where they currently raise two children and show pigs.
Clint and Sarah have consciously developed their lives around agriculture. Their two children, Claire, 6, and Gus, 3, are well steeped in agriculture because their family life also revolves around agriculture.
Years ago, Clint and Sarah selected their property because it contained both the house and land, and had easy access to the rest of Northwest Arkansas without having to cross major highways to get to work.
The previous owners maintained 30 horses on the 20 acres using electric fence, and the land was in rough shape, filled with weeds. The solution to the brush control problem was to begin with Boer goats. The added benefit was that raising the goats provided both Clint and Sarah with hands-on experience with small ruminants, something they believed was essential for their teaching careers.
An additional problem was the electric fence was not as successful with the goats as it had been with the horses. Over time, the couple installed perimeter net fencing and use the electric fences to divide the land into five smaller pastures that were used on a rotational basis to help combat small ruminant worm issues.
The market goats were sold in Centerton or Leach, Okla.
Once the land was cleared, the goats did not thrive on grazing and the worm problem demanded a transition. The couple switched to foundation Quarter horses used for pleasure, show pigs and Australian Shepherds. The horses came from Sarah’s father Bill Heuer in Harrison, where he and his son raise and sell Quarter horses and beef cattle.
“I’ve been told there are 24 hours in a day and I use them all,” said Clint. “Pigs are our family and parenting time.”
“We believe it’s important for our children to see and understand raising livestock from fertilization to fork,” Sarah added.
Because of that belief, the Hales raise registered Chester White show pigs. The breed is known for good maternal traits in addition to a good carcass that produces highly marketable meat. Some of the show pigs are retained for the children to show and then finished for market. The USDA-inspected meat is sold by Sarah’s uncle, Terry, at Fuller Seed and Supply in Popular Grove, Ark.
“Our financial goal for our pigs is for them to pay their own way and for our showing,” Clint explained. “We sell show pigs outside of our area, especially in Benton County and Oklahoma, and make money through competitions and meat sales.”
The farm currently maintains four sows and Eddie, a 750-pound boar who serves as both a teaser and breeder. Because the Hales are raising show pigs, controlled breeding time is essential. They occasionally use Matrix to time heat cycles.
Piglets are needed for the summer showing season, where Gus competes in piglet showmanship in the Arkansas Junior Swine Series with a pig he picks out himself. Claire shows in AJSS jackpots, the Washington County Fair and the breed show at the Arkansas State Fair.
To give Claire more opportunities to show, the Hales also purchase registered show pigs of other breeds.
The Hales closely work with the Lincoln Farmers Co-Op and an MFA salesrep to meet the goals of their program, whether for breeding or showing. The goal is to feed as economically as possible while still getting the desired results.
Ag teachers are very busy people who work year-round with their students. Summer includes home visits and much of the show season. Nonetheless, they don’t view their job as primarily teaching students how to farm.
As Clint nodded in agreement, Sarah said, “What we really focus on is why people farm and use the practices they do. Less than 2 percent of the population is in production farming, but one out of four people in Arkansas is employed by an agriculturally-related job. We try to help our students prepare for a possible agriculturally related career and to be knowledgeable consumers.”