There came a time when they realized they were spending more of their lives with other people — not each other and their children.
Nathan and Nicole Hill were very busy in East Texas. He was a coach at Hooks; she was an RN working in a De Kalb nursing home.
The Hills “spent the majority of our time with other people instead of our own kids. Our kids started playing T-Ball and asked a lot why we weren’t at their games and practices. As parents, we wanted to be a close family. We wanted to be there in those important moments with our children. We decided to completely change our lifestyles for our family.”
They decided to find a way to come “home” to the Dierks area where they had grown up.
Five years later, the Hills have been named Howard County’s Farm Family of the Year for their progressive poultry and swine operation in the purple mountains of North Howard County.
There are some great days, and there are some not-so-great days, Nathan told the pair of visiting judges from the farm family of the year program.
Judging day was both great and not-so-great. Nicole received a new load of chickens in the morning. Their hilltop home was undergoing renovations. But the judges came for their interview. There were other visitors — their banker, Tyson serviceman, JBS Pork serviceman, soil conservation district folks, Farm Bureau, and, of course, the media. The reception, and the interviews, took place in the office of their swine operation.
Through it all, the Hills remained calm and, in fact, managed to grill the visiting judges about some of their insights into making a living in agriculture.
After the interview, they took the judges on a tour of the farm. The judges got to see Zeus, Billie and Black Knight, the three goats the Hill children are raising to show.
The children were also present – Melissa, 16, Peyton, 11, Abbie, 9, and Emma, 7 – all blond and charming, and involved in the family farm. Melissa is a Dierks cheerleader and plays on the Lady Outlaw softball team. Peyton, Abbie and Emma are 4-H’ers, and are also on sports teams.
The Hills started their farming operation with 15 acres back in 2012. They currently operate 285 acres where they grow hay, have a 700 sow unit operation and four pullet houses.
And they have expansion plans, including adding 100 head of cattle, increasing hay and building another sow unit on new land they purchased.
The poultry houses are under an independent contract with Tyson’s Grannis/Broken Bow complex. The Hills manage the care of the poultry and equipment “to produce the best poultry that we can. We keep our mortality rate lower than 2 percent. The poultry’s coefficient variation needs to be less than 13.”
The first week that the Hills had chickens, the poultry houses were struck by lightning, taking out three main computer systems and a dimmer switch. Houses were operated manually until the computers were replaced and rewired.
The swine farm is under an independent contract with JBS. Breeding production is kept above 90 percent. The operation has been in the top 10 percent in swine production since 2013.
Now that the Hills are back from Texas……….