Clay Parker hopes to help farmers put more money back in their pockets

The average age of the American farmer is in their late 50s, and this average increases with each passing year. Production agriculture is facing many obstacles, and young people are choosing to pursue lifestyles other than continuing in the field. For one student at the University of Arkansas, his degree in crop science will directly impact his life back home on the farm.

Clay Parker, a junior honors student at the University of Arkansas, is pursuing a degree in agricultural business and minoring in crop science. Parker grew up in central Arkansas in a small town called Carlisle. His family farms 8,500 acres of rice, corn and soybeans. Clay is a young farmer with plans to return to his family farm and focus on furthering the development of production agriculture.

“I’d like to keep [the farm] in the family, as far as ownership goes,” Clay said.

Clay said he explores side ventures outside of his family’s traditional crops. This past fall, Parker grew 4 acres of pumpkins to sell to local pumpkin patches and community members. The local FFA chapter helped harvest pumpkins and in return were able to receive pumpkins to sell for chapter profit.

Parker said he wants to utilize his hobby ventures to integrate different support systems for production agriculture and vertically integrate to increase efficiency and provide necessary services to farmers.

“Small portions of the food dollar goes back to farmers,” Parker said.

With this fact in mind, Parker plans to explore the idea of diversified operations for his farm.

Aside from his involvement in Kappa Sigma fraternity, Collegiate Farm Bureau and the Bumpers Honors Student Mentor Program, Clay is completing undergraduate research through the Honors program.

Clay’s research is focused on the economies behind rice drying in Arkansas.

Mills typically charge farmers for drying rice, which is essential for the product to enter the market. Parker is researching the cost structure of drying rice and investigating whether farmers could benefit from building their own facilities and drying their rice on sight operation.

Parker said he first became interested in this area of research after a conversation with a gentleman from the Jonesboro, Ark., area who dries his own rice crop. Parker said he knew he wanted to investigate the prospect of farmers drying their rice and how it fits with certain operations.

“I want to produce research for farmers to look at so they can be more profitable while creating efficiency and more jobs,” Clay said.

As a future goal, Clay said he would like to move toward more sustainable practices and venture to solar panels, grain merchandising and other diversified operations.

Parker said he recognizes the importance of outside help, and he plans to continue to expand outside of family with people he trusts.

“You have to have outside help to have an operation of our size, but I also want to keep my future kids involved too,” Clay said.

Clay’s vision for the future of his family operation is every day motivation for him to return home after graduation.

While production agriculture may be fading with the traditional farmer, young agriculturalists, such as Clay Parker, have a passion to continue the art. The future of farming is in good hands.

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