SIMS – The Cranford Farm located just outside of Sims is the eponymous example of a family farm with Jason Cranford working diligently to create a successful farm for his parents.
Steve and Lillian bought the farm in 1999 after he sold his highway construction company. He had grown up on a farm in Poyen, but had sold it around 30 years ago in order to expand the scope of his construction business.
The Cranfords lived in North Little Rock, but Steve’s heart was in the great outdoors. He stated that he loved to hunt and fish, a trait he shares with his son Jason.
After the sale of their construction business, they began looking for a farm to call their own once again. Lillian shared that Steve found their current property online. It only took one trip to know this was the place.
“When we drove up to the property I knew this was it.” Lillian stated.
The farm was purchased in 1999 and the work began to bring their dreams to life. Steve began transforming what had been an emu farming operation into the cattle business they currently enjoy.
They started with the 360 acres where the house sits and have grown their farm to include approximately 800 acres. Lillian joked that it was supposed to be a hobby farm, but it has grown into a successful business.
John was in high school when his parents bought the farm. He went to college for a while and then went to work for the construction company his father had owned and still managed. He found his way to the farm full time and decided to go to school in order to learn more about the cattle industry.
He participated in the Ranch Management Program at Texas Christian University. John stated that this program allowed him to learn about the business side of the cattle industry. While attending TCU he was able to visit large operations within the industry in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, meeting a variety of people within the industry.
One of the most important aspects of the business he was exposed to is the fact that although it is a huge industry, there are only a few companies involved in the end product.
Once he returned to the farm he was able to take this information and use it to produce bigger and better cows for market.
Jason primarily raises Black Angus and Herford cattle. He raises Black Angus because of market demand, but admitted that he raises the Herford cows because he likes the black and white faced cows.
He keeps around 200 breeding cows on the farm at any one time and tries to take 120-130 calves to market each year.
Jason utilizes a 90 day breeding season in an effort to provide uniformity to the calves he will take to market. He preconditions his calves for 45 days when they are put on a diet of haylage and feed. They will get their shots then as well.
Steve stated that Jason pulls his calves for preconditioning in the fall when most people are taking them to market. This is an area where his education has given him an edge.
Knowing market trends allows him to avoid lower prices due to a glut of product. When he does take his cows to the feed yard they are larger than other calves and will be taken to market when there are fewer calves for sale, which helps bring a better price as well.
Although Jason enjoys working on the farm, he admits that at the end of the day you get paid for your cattle by the pound. He believes his program allows him to optimize their return on their work.
Steve shared that watching Jason run the farm is fulfilling to he and Lillian. It has been a part of their dream to see him run the farm. Jason has taken their “hobby farm” and turned it into a successful cattle farm.
Jason stated that he enjoys farming because he can pretty much do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. Working a farm isn’t easy though. Jason points out that although you may have some leeway in your schedule, someone has to be on the farm every day.
Calving season is especially important for the farm and requires a lot of hours that often stretch into the wee hours of the morning. Regardless of the difficulties that come with the business, Jason enjoys being his own boss.
Steve still manages Cranford Construction, which he used to own, and plans to retire in four years or so. His wife Lillian is retired after working at the Veteran’s Hospital.
They enjoy coming to the farm and helping Jason. Steve stated that he isn’t able to come to the farm as often as he would like, but does make his way to Montgomery County on weekends and at least one day each week.
Jason’s sister Jessica and her husband Brook also help work the cattle on the farm, truly making this a family business.
Jason hopes that he is able to work the family farm for many years to come. He stated that as long as the market allows him to, he plans on being there a long time.