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Arkansas loans for poultry houses. Arkansas poultry financing. Financing for poultry equipment and improvements. Arkansas loans for poultry houses. Arkansas poultry financing. Financing for poultry equipment and improvements.

Navigating Hard Times in Agriculture

Six years of perseverance saved JC Marks' Ouachita County poultry farm when adversity hit.

Biostar

Farm Credit of Western Arkansas

Marketing & Communications Team

Determined to succeed, longtime logging contractor turned poultry farmer JC Marks refused to take no for an answer when faced with adversity that tested his faith, patience, and fortitude for six long years. 

"You can't give up, or you lose," JC Marks of Marks Farms explains when asked what fueled his focus to save his Ouachita County farm and livelihood. 

Six years. That's probably five years more than the average producer would have given what many thought were impossible odds. 

After a 30-year career as a logging contractor, JC and his wife, Debbie, transitioned to raising poultry in their early 50s. The couple had always had cows and thought raising chickens would be a good fit as they aged.

With Farm Credit financing, they built their first four broiler houses in 2004. After three years of success, they decided to build two more. 

Everything was going according to plan until their integrator shut their southwest Arkansas plant in 2008. The closure affected 110 poultry producers, including the Marks. Looking at four-year-old poultry houses without a contract to grow birds was daunting. No birds meant no poultry income. No poultry income meant no immediate way to repay their Farm Credit loan. 

JC vividly remembers the day he learned there wouldn't be another coming when they finished their current flock. 

"I had a friend from the timber world who worked at the feed mill call me," JC remembers. 

"He said the good Lord told him I was going to be O.K. and that he should call and tell me. I'm embarrassed to say I was a bit weak in faith at the time." 

But true enough, two days later, four representatives from their original integrator visited his farm, liked what they saw, and offered him a contract. 

The new contract bought the Marks more time until the contract was canceled three years later due to their farm's distance to the nearest processing plant.

"They offered to buy our contract, but it would have only given us half of what we still owed on the chicken houses," JC continues. 

"I had to say no and take my chances even though there was no guarantee of another offer." 

Determined a solution existed, JC began exploring every avenue for growing birds. He secured a commitment to grow three flocks of pullets from a small producer. Those two opportunities carried Marks Farms to 2011. 

Poultry work dried up in 2011, though, JC says. They scraped by with cows, hauling gravel and timber work. During this time, he and Debbie also began raising their grandchildren full-time. 

JC found work where he could for the next almost seven years. He also made a habit of networking with poultry company personnel. He called one broiler manager every Monday morning for months. The man took his calls and learned his name. He smiles and remembers how he and that manager got to know one another over time. There was talk of a contract opportunity two or three different times, but they all fell through. His farm's distance to feed mills and processing plants was often the issue. 

JC even offered to haul his feed since he had the truck and experience, willing to do whatever it took to put his poultry houses back into production.  

Grit, persistence, and faith paid off in late 2017. Sadly, the call he and Debbie had prayed for since 2011 came three weeks after Debbie passed away following a brief illness. Not having Debbie there to celebrate the hard-fought win made it, understandably, a somber victory. Debbie and JC were married for 44 years and were partners on the farm for all of their marriage. 

"Faith has a lot to do with it," JC continues. "God helps those who help themselves. I'm a true believer, and we prayed a lot." 

Foster Farms offered JC a six-house contract growing broilers in 2017. Since then, he's been able to afford upgrades out-of-pocket and quickly work toward paying down debt.

Farm Credit advertises they're there for western Arkansas producers in good economic times and bad. We can only make that claim by pointing to real-life examples. Working with JC and his situation over six years demonstrates firsthand our commitment to farmers. 

"Thank goodness Farm Credit is designed for farming people,"
JC Marks Ouachita County Poultry Farmer

When the bad news struck in 2011, JC visited his Farm Credit loan officer to explain the situation.

"There was never a formal agreement," he remembers. "They understood and allowed my loan to accrue interest while I made whatever payments I could." 

"There was never a period when Mr. JC wasn't making payments of some sort," remembers Milly Lindsey, former longtime Financial Services Specialist at the Magnolia branch. Milly has since taken a new position as Consumer Loan Officer in Texarkana but welcomed the opportunity to visit Marks Farms and reconnect with one of her favorite members. 

"I've never seen anyone work harder to get a contract," Milly shares. "JC's determination and confidence are inspiring, and I truly admire his work ethic and character." 

Character is an essential consideration in the credit process. Borrower character weighs heavily in loan decisions at Farm Credit. 

"There was never any doubt JC was good for the loan," Milly continues. "Working with him through the situation made sense. He was going to find a way to pay for it. We had an exemplary lending relationship with him from 2004 to 2011. He had some bad luck in 2011, but because we knew him and had a history with him, it was a given that we'd work with him." 

"If I'd been with a bank, I would've lost everything," JC speculates. "Not to say anything against banks, they just operate differently. I don't think I'd have had the years of flexibility Farm Credit gave me." 

When asked what kept him positive and determined for more than six years, JC points to his 30-year logging career. 

"Logging is hard work and is stressful," he explains. "At one point, my operation had 14 employees and their families relying on our success. There were many nights I lost sleep back then." 

Those six determined years paid off. His operation has been thriving since 2017, and he loves the freedom that comes with raising chickens. 
According to JC, you only lose if you give up. He's offered us all a valuable lesson in perseverance by demonstrating how true it is. 

This story is from "You Only Lose If You Give Up," originally published in the summer 2021 issue of The Rural Scene magazine.

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