It starts with the tradition, of course, Matt McMahan working with his grandfather at that farm, tending to 200 head of beef cattle off Old Gin Road. And it continues with the tradition going forward, McMahan and his wife Kortney working with their own children, Karley, 5, and Kinley, 3, (and a baby on the way, due in October) planning for 4-H and Future Farmers of America as they travel and show shorthorn cattle, just like Mom and Dad did back in their own day.

But it’s not just cattle. McMahan’s trailer business - providing livestock trailers and truck beds - (you drive through the lot to get to the house) is a busy enterprise unto itself. Started in 2011 the business was named Dealer of the Year for Neckover trailers in 2015 and 2016, and keeps over 30 livestock trailers in stock at all times. (An office was being built on the lot the day we visited.)

But, which it may not be just cattle, cattle is certainly at the center of operations for the Van Buren County Farm Family of the year. Right now the family is running 75 cow-calf pairs, down from the pre-drought 150, along with three bulls. The drought was, McMahan puts it, “a struggle,” a lament any number of farmers have in these times. He said he was able to watch expenses closely and sell calves earlier than normal in order to get through the worst of it.

Still, the tradition continues. Just like the grandfather, just like the father, there were tough times and there was perseverance and for that, for the tradition, for the hard work, for the tough choices made well, the Matt McMahan family is the Van Buren County Farm Family of the year for 2017.