As a hobby, Oxner maintains several old antique tractors. He has two 1968 model John Deere 4020 tractors that have two consecutive serial numbers. “These were among the first generation of the six-cylinder tractors,” explains Oxner.

Oxner has another hobby, raising horses and mules for pulling wagons.

He met Sarah in 1993 at the National Championship Chuckwagon Races, held each September in Clinton, Ark. They married in 2001, and now have three young children, daughters Mary Frances and Laura Grace, and a son, Paten.

The Oxners celebrate their wedding anniversary each year on Sept. 22, during the middle of the crop harvesting season.

“I want to continue farming as long as I am healthy and can find land to farm,” says Oxner. “I want to farm until my son or daughters reach the age when they can farm if they choose to do so. I hope to give to them the opportunity to farm that was given to me.”

Andy Guffey with Arkansas Farm Bureau is state coordinator for the Farmer of the Year award. “Michael and Sarah exemplify the resources and innovation of our Arkansas farmers,” says Guffey. “They are innovative and they face unique challenges in their farming operation.”

White County Extension agent Brian Haller nominated Oxner for the Farmer of the Year award. He says the Oxners are an outstanding farm family who balance their farm, family life and community activities.

Haller says renting the wildlife refuge land requires a good manager and that Oxner is also a steward of the land and wildlife. “He’s the only farmer I know who is required to plant weeds (native plants) on his farm,” adds Haller.

“Some of these include barnyardgrass, sprangletop and smartweed which are enemies to crops but beneficial to wildlife.”