Teacher Leigh Ann Brents splits her time between the classroom and her family farm
Leigh Ann Brents is no stranger to hard work, seeing as her days are filled with two jobs: teaching kindergarten at Wonderview Schools and helping her husband Strap Brents run their family farm in Jerusalem, Ark.
Leigh Ann was not born into farming like her husband, whom was raised in poultry houses and a cattle farm. Instead, she was just a simple country girl who was comforted by her love for horses. However, this all changed when the two married in 2009.
“When we married, we had two cows, $500 dollars, and two run-down vehicles,” Leigh Ann said. “We gradually built our herd over the years, but in 2016 my husband was laid off from the oilfield. The opportunity to buy a poultry farm came up, and we closed on it in January 2017.”
Today, the family has 250 acres of land, while leasing another 400. The farm consists of around 130 cows, six bulls and several calves. Red Angus, Angus, Hereford, Simmental and Charolais are the main breeds the couple works with.
“We currently pick out heifers that suit our wants/needs, and we keep them. We usually breed them to a small bull so we don’t have any issues with first time calving.” Leigh Ann mentioned. “We chose to add Herefords into out breed program to enhance our calf crop. We also control breed, seeing that we like to have fall and spring calves.”
Leigh Ann and Strap produce their own forages, but their grain comes from local suppliers. The fertilizer for their fields also comes directly from their farm, utilizing the litter from their chicken houses. The soil is tested yearly.
“Currently, we have five poultry houses, with two of those being mega houses.” Leigh Ann explained. “We grow broiler chickens, which are any chickens that are raised and bred for meat production. The chickens we get come from the hatchery, at one day old. After keeping them for 30 to 35 days, Tyson comes and picks them up.”
A mega house is 60-feet-by-600-feet and holds 50,000 chickens. However, they also have three houses that are 43-feet-by-500-feet, and these house 30,000 chickens.
Farming hours are extremely daunting, but seeing as Leigh Ann has two jobs, her time is more occupied than ever.
“I work on the farm whenever I am not teaching my kindergarten class,” Leigh Ann said. “This year has been extremely difficult with the pandemic. I had to move my classes to an online platform. One day, before teaching my children online, it hit me that the kids would love to see and learn about our calf, Rosie.”
Leigh Ann showed her young students how she fed Rosie, where she needed to live and how she was being taken care of. This was then incorporated into their writing time, in which she asked them to write about Rosie, draw a picture and post it to their class Facebook page.
“Rosie was a huge hit. This helped the students practice their sentence structure, spelling and text-to-picture connections,” Leigh Ann explained. “This led to more videos, such as ones pertaining to our farm dogs, barn cats and even the horses.”
Parents gave wonderful feedback to Leigh Ann about how amazing it was seeing their children meeting and learning about the animals on the farm, while also being able to see their teacher’s face. There was excitement all-around for more farm videos in the future.
Leigh Ann and Strap have two children, Audie and Kolton. Audi, 4, loves the horses, much like the young Leigh Ann did. While Kolton, 7, is more into dirt work, such as digging, tractors and driving the Kubota around.
“Even though I am always on the farm or in the classroom, I try to find fun around our land,” Leigh Ann said. “I love gardening, which has become a time of fun for the whole family. We love to can tomatoes for salsa, which I cannot seem to keep on the shelf in our house. Plus, my kids enjoy helping me water and pick the garden.”
Leigh Ann also has a passion for photography, and she keenly utilizes the farm for unique photos. During the quarantine, on top of farming and teaching, Leigh Ann picked up a guitar and can now play a few songs.
“There are a lot of things that people don’t know about me, such as my hobbies of the guitar and gardening, and the fact that I can drive and operate every piece of equipment on our farm,” Leigh Ann said. “The most important thing, though, is that I never depend on my husband to do anything. Instead, I go and do it.”