“Our new grain drill monitors how much seed we are planting and eliminates much of the guesswork,” says Long. “Our 36-foot grain drill allows us to quickly finish our planting.”

He has invested in new technology such as global positioning systems. Automated steering and parallel tracking have increased his fuel efficiency.

Long uses several tools to market his crops. “We sell rice to Producers Rice Mill and deliver it at Tichnor Grain,” he explains. “Most of the rice is placed in the seasonal pool. We use either forward contracting for soybean and wheat, or we sell them at harvest. We also use several tools to keep up with changing markets. I subscribe to a commodity news service that sends text messages to my cell phone to notify me of price changes. We also monitor crop prices on our computer and we use some online services to keep abreast of changing market conditions.”

During winter months, he works as a hunting guide for Buckshot Duck Lodge near Gillett, Ark. “I take hunters out onto my family farm and to other land I rent,” he explains. “I enjoy duck hunting, and it gives me the opportunity to meet people from all over the country and from different business areas. It has also allowed me to connect with people who work in businesses related to farming.”

He was born and raised on the family farm. “Some of my earliest memories are of my grandfather picking me up from school and taking me to the farm to work in his garden,” he recalls. As he grew older, he started helping out by driving tractors. In 1994, he graduated from Arkansas State University with an agriculture degree and joined his family as a partner in their farming operation. 

Over the years, he started farming on his own, buying his own farm equipment and renting additional land. In 2009, his mother died and his father decided to retire. The next year, he and his wife Betsy formed Long Planting Company.

Long is very active in local organizations. He’s a lifetime member of Gillett United Methodist Church, serves as a volunteer firefighter and is a member at Gillett Masonic Lodge. He has also served on the board of a local grain elevator. He supports local athletics as a member of the DeWitt Touchdown Club.

In farm organizations, he has served as an officer for a local farm and business association. In the local Farm Bureau, he has been an officer and member of the board of directors. He also serves on the County Committee of the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Long is very active in rice organizations. He is a member of both the Arkansas and USA Rice Councils. He serves on a committee that deals with Latin American issues for the USA Rice Federation. He is also active in leadership development programs for rice producers. In this capacity, he has traveled extensively, visiting with rice growers in California, touring the Chicago Board of Trade and representing the industry in meetings with elected officials in Washington, D.C.

He was selected to represent rice growers on a trip last year to Mexico and Cuba. This group evaluated rice quality issues in Mexico and learned that rice farming in Cuba is fairly primitive. “Cubans love rice, but they farm with oxen, and they have very little money,” says Long. “If Cubans had money to spend, they could become a large market for rice.”

His wife Betsy is also an active member in the Gillett United Methodist Church. She has served as the superintendent of the church’s Sunday school program and is active in the United Methodist Women and other church organizations.

Betsy works off the farm as an elementary school teacher. She is also a member of the Arkansas Education Association and the National Education Association. The Longs have two young daughters, Shelby, 10, and Sydney, 5.

Andy Guffey with Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation serves as state coordinator of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. “Heath and Betsy are diligent protectors of the natural resources,” says Guffey. “They are a prime model of a hard-working, multi-generation farm family.”

Long was nominated for the award by Jason Grantham who works as a trust officer at DeWitt Bank & Trust in Dewitt, Ark. Grantham manages 20,000 acres for the bank’s trust department.