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• As a result of his success as a crop farmer, Michael Oxner has been selected as the 2011 Arkansas winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
Floods prevent wheat crop
“It has flooded during five of the last 10 years in the refuge,” he says. Spring flooding keeps him from growing wheat. And the flooding was bad this past spring. Yet Oxner took it in stride. As a joke, he called his Extension agent and asked for advice on controlling alligator gar in rice fields. Oxner also copes with flooding by seeding rice by airplane.
Farming in the Bald Knob Wildlife Refuge is unusual in other ways. For instance, wildlife officials prohibit certain pesticides from being used. Oxner must also leave a portion of his crops unharvested. During fall, he floods a portion of the refuge land to enhance wildlife habitat and to provide areas for public hunting.
With 15 bins and on-farm grain storage capacity of 440,000 bushels, Oxner is able to market his crops when prices are high.
“Rice prices tend to be higher in June, after a September harvest,” he says. He markets his rice through Medford Rice Sales, and sells his soybeans through Bunge Grain and Bruce Oakley, Inc.
“We prefer forward contracts and basis contracts and speculate on the balance,” he says. “We market our corn through Turner Grain and individually to various feed mills. I also keep in close contact with my commodities broker who provides me with updates on grain prices from the Chicago Board of Trade.”
He employs six full time and two part time employees on the farm. He also maintains trucks to haul grain, gravel, fertilizer and lime.
“When time allows, we custom haul for others,” adds Oxner. He says the trucking enterprise is a “necessary evil” because without the trucks, he would not be able to transport his crops or his crop inputs when and where they are needed. He also relies on a tracked excavator to maintain irrigation canals and drainage ditches on the land he farms.
Oxner is active in a number of community and agricultural organizations. For instance, he and his wife Sarah donated land they owned in the town of Bald Knob, Ark., to Habitat for Humanity. This organization used the property to build a new home for a local needy family.
He is a board member of White County Farm Bureau, a member of the Tri-County Farmers Association and has co-hosted agricultural programs for kindergarten students.
He supports a community theater and is a member of the White County Medical Foundation. He’s also a member of the Humane Society of Searcy and First Baptist Church of Searcy. He’s a member of alumni associations for the University of Arkansas and the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture.
He’s also a member of the Riceland Foods and Staplcotn cooperatives.
He has cooperated with Mississippi State University on a rice project and has cooperated with the University of Arkansas Extension Service for a study of root knot nematodes.
His wife Sarah taught school for 10 years until their children were born. Sarah now supports the farm by doing bookkeeping, paying the bills and caring for their children. She has been active in Searcy County Jaycees, Delta Zeta Sorority and Junior Auxiliary of Searcy.
She is also active in White County Farm Bureau, White County Medical Foundation, First Baptist Church of Searcy, Westside Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization and P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), a group that promotes educational opportunities for women.