Like Father, Like Daughter
Jerry Fancher has spent the better part of her 81 years on her family’s farm north of Berryville, Ark., in Carroll County. She shared her father’s love for raising cattle and taking care of the land. “I was a cowpoke, I never wanted to go to school,” she said about her life after high school. “I’d rather go to the cow pasture.” She did venture out to California for a couple of years to work in the Kwikset Lock factory in Anaheim, Cali., but left to come home and help on the farm after her father had a stroke. “I came back,” she remembered, “and I’ve been here ever since.”
Fancher Farms is 400 acres of rolling hills and picturesque pastures that Jerry’s father, Clay Fancher and mother Vera pieced together 40 acres at a time. “He never did owe anything,” she said. “If he didn’t have the money (for the land), he didn’t buy it. He was never a person to go into debt.” Every 40 acres he purchased had water on it. There weren’t ponds back then, but springs and trickling creeks you can still see meandering along the crooked bottoms that Jerry and her two sisters enjoyed.
Jerry, named the 2002 Carroll County Supercow Farm Woman of the Year, runs around 100 head of crossbred momma cows on her fields. “They are Limousin and Hereford and I crossbreed with an Angus bull,” she said. “Jerry Youngblood got himself a bunch of bulls and he got me four. They are the nicest, gentlest bulls.” Youngblood helps her work the cattle and hauls them to auction in Harrison, Ark. “He works my cattle for me . . . him and Joe Pat come and we have a cattle workin’,” she added. She used to get into the chute and do a lot of the work herself, but now she’s the supervisor.
Every morning Jerry’s chores include checking the cattle for problems and the fence for mending, or as she says . . “get up and go see what’s wrong.” She checks her cows in her truck or on her four-wheeler that her late sister Juanita bought her as a gift. Usually joining her on her morning round is Billy Dean Parton, who has helped her feed for nearly 50 years. “He comes every day,” she says. “If I have a disaster and need something done quick, all I have to do is call him.” Billy Dean had just unloaded two truckloads of Bermuda grass hay for her she purchased from a grass farmer in Hector, Ark., when she said, “I’d rather have Bermuda grass hay than to have alfalfa. It is a lot higher in protein.” She used to supplement with a protein lick tank but now likes the protein in tubs much better.
“I’m a firm believer in fall calving,” stressed Jerry. “You don’t want them to come before September. You’re not having to dig them out of the snow bank or wrap them up and bring them in the house. They are already up and going. Also, you don’t have the scours or sickness like you have in spring calves.” She believes selling calves grouped together is more profitable.
Jerry’s father raised horned Herefords. She switched to polled Herefords and probably still owns a descendent of her father’s herd amongst her cattle. “I’ve raised everything I have on the place,” said Jerry. “I usually pick out the choice heifers to keep but I haven’t in the last year or two.” Last year’s late freeze and drought required Jerry to buy more hay to feed earlier than usual. “I couldn’t get litter put on because I didn’t have a farm plan. This year I have one, but I can’t get any litter,” she said. “I’m just going to put some lime on it and call it good. We’ll just have to depend on what the good Lord gives us.”
In Jerry’s case, the good Lord has blessed her with plenty. She is surrounded by good friends and neighbors, an extended family of nieces and nephews from as close as Missouri to Texas and California who keep in close touch with her and enjoy weekends of chopping and stacking wood on her porch. She also has her health, years of time-honed expertise in the cattle business and a view from the top of her property that would rival any Hollywood movie scene. “People ask, when you gonna quit this stuff? I tell them, 'when I can’t put one foot in front of the other,'" she said, "that’s when you start turning them up and I’m not ready to go.” Jerry’s still, at 81 years young, content to be busy down on the family farm.