Chrystal Willis and her family operate a small farm and have a passion for mules. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

Chrystal Willis and her family operate a small farm and have a passion for mules 

PARTHENON, ARK. – In the rolling hills of their 50-acre farm, Chrystal and Shawn Willis have established a life blending traditional values with modern ideals. 

Along with their two daughters, Ashlyn, 11, and Ellison, 7, the family manages a small farm that includes cattle, horses, mules, chickens, turkeys, and more. From their story, there is much to say about women in agriculture.

“I believe that women bring a more nurturing touch to farming. Often, men are focused on the business side and getting things done. However, women think through things and see a bigger picture when it comes to keeping things running,” said Chrystal.

Together, Chrystal and Shawn run Shop Creek Mules & More. However, this does not stop them from teaching their girls about all aspects of farm life. Chrystal and Shawn have taught their daughters that just because they are girls does not mean they are exempt from the same kind of work as boys. Their girls have learned how to feed and care for the animals, and Ashlyn will even know how to drive the tractor soon. 

“We might not always be doing the big jobs, but we’re handling the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep everything rolling,” Chrystal explained. 

The girls’ contributions are immense, from feeding and caring for the animals to managing social media marketing.

Shop Creek Farm has various animals, including 13 Charolais/Limousine cross cattle, a Charolais bull, laying hens, six mules, two horses, and a pair of Bronze turkeys. The family collects over 100 eggs weekly and distributes them among family, friends and neighbors. The Willis’s raise Charolais and Limousine cross cattle, preferring this crossbreed for its market advantages. “We’ve noticed that Charolais crosses grow faster and bigger,” Chrystal noted, adding that they monitor market trends to optimize their livestock choices. 

They cut hay, an essential for feeding their livestock through the winter months, and rotate pastures on their cattle periodically, ensuring healthy cattle and pastures. 

Together, Chrystal and Shawn run Shop Creek Mules & More. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

Shawn and Chrystal have a particular passion for mules. They started Shop Creek Mules  & More five years ago, but they have always had mules to ride.

“When Shawn and I were dating, he had a mare in foal and a Jack. We have been dating for a month and a half, and that mare had her baby. That was the first mule we ever owned, and we still own her. Her name is Maggie, and she will be 18 on July 17. She was the first one we’ve raised and the gentle mule we ride.

Over the years, they purchased a jack and some mares, raised mule colts, and sold them across several states, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, and Colorado.

Shawn handles the breeding process, and once the colts are born, he and Chrystal focus on imprinting. “Once the colt is born, we both try to imprint the colt, which is making the colt like you and making you his mama when his firstborn.”This gentling process ensures that the mules are more manageable, profitable, and grow out better when sold.

Their dedication to their mules is evident in their specialized feeding practices. They use a unique blend of mule feed from a friend in Iowa, mixed with other nutritious mule feed, to ensure their mules are well-nourished.

The family works their cattle and mules twice yearly, ensuring they are dewormed and vaccinated. They also rotate their pastures to maintain healthy grazing conditions. Regarding breeding, the mares are hand-bred in the spring, with colts typically born in late March.

Marketing their livestock is another area where Chrystal shines as a woman in agriculture. She manages their social media presence, mainly through their Facebook page, Shop Creek Mules & More. “I do all social media marketing for our animals that we sell online,” Chrystal explained.

Initially, social media marketing can be a behind-the-scenes work. Through personality, individual goals, and endeavors, media work is an excellent representation of what women in agriculture are capable of. Thanks to social media usage, Chrystal has brought her little farm to life through its charm and simplicity. 

The farm family’s hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed; in 2022, they were named Newton County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year. This recognition underscores their commitment to agriculture and their community.

Central to their farm life is their faith. 

“Nothing we do would be possible without God. He has blessed us immensely,” Chrystal says. For them, farming is not just a livelihood but a way to live a godly life, instilling these values in their daughters.

Additionally, Judy, Shawn’s mother, and their nephews, Jared, Sawyer, and Jase, play significant roles in their farm operations. “When we take a vacation, Judy always steps in to feed the animals. Our nephews help out with heavy lifting when needed.” Chrystal explains that their girls are still little and incapable of caring for all aspects of Shop Creek Farm. Despite the values instilled in their girls, it is always nice to have a little help from family, even if it is from the boys. 

At Shop Creek Farm, the blend of tradition and modern ideals highlights women’s essential role in agriculture. From nurturing livestock to managing the business, Chrystal and women alike embody the spirit of a dedicated farm wife and mother, proving that women are the backbone of farming.


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