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Larry Parker and Son Raise Outstanding Charolais 
on Fourth Generation Farm

By Jaine Treadwell

When looking for the stereotypical farm family, there’s no need to look any farther than a farm just down the road from Perry Store Community and just out from Kinston in southeast Alabama.

Larry Parker and his family own and operate a 1,200-acre farm that dates back four generations to 1891. The sheepskin deed has a prominent place in the home of Larry Parker, Jr., and his wife, Angela. The young couple is extremely proud to be carrying on the family farming tradition that was started before the turn of the 20th century.

Larry Parker, Jr., proudly shows photographs of how the old home place has evolved since its meager beginnings so long ago.

He is also proud that his mom and dad, Larry and Walkanita Parker, both have farming in their blood and that they passed it on to him.

Larry Parker and Son Farms is located near Kinston in southeast Alabama. The Parkers are well known for the quality of Charolais cattle that they produce. They run about 700 head and their 18 bulls are a source of great pride. Larry Parker, Sr. said Charolais are prime beef cattle because of their lean, flavorful meat. 

"Oh, I tried something else," Larry Parker, Sr., said. "I worked in the sewing factory for 14 years but I wanted to get back to what I really love – farming."

Parker grew up on a farm in the Basin Community just a hoot and a holler from where his wife grew up on the 160-acre family farm they now work along with their other farmland.

The Parkers are a true American farm family. They turned a barn into a gathering place for family and friends and spend much of their time there. Walkanita Parker said the men are at the farm much of the time, so that’s where they want to be, too. Pictured are Larry Parker, Sr. and his wife, Walkanita; Larry Parker, Jr. and his wife, Angela; and their daughter, Mila.

Larry Jr. never wanted to do anything but farm. His parents understood his love of farming and were happy that he wanted to stay on the farm with them.

Larry Jr.’s wife, a city girl, grew up in Opp but quickly adapted to the farm.

All four of the Parkers are involved in the family farm and the women are vital to its operation.

"We are the go-fers. We drive the trucks, haul hay, open gates, vaccinate and do all the cooking," said Walkanita, who retired from teaching after 30 years to devote all her time and energy to the farm.

"It takes all of us," Larry Sr. said. "We do hire a few things out but we do most of everything that’s done here. That’s the way we like it and that’s the way we want it. This is a family farm."

Larry Parker and Son Farms is primarily a cattle operation, although they do grow 200 acres of peanuts, 75 acres of corn, 75 acres of grain sorghum, oats and rye.

The grains are to put meat on the bones of the cattle and the peanuts are to put a little jingle in the pocket. However, this year Larry Sr. said they didn’t make anything on peanuts because of the drought.

"We’ve had droughts before but this one was the worst," Larry Jr. said. "We didn’t have anything to feed to the cows. What little corn we had blew down in a little ol’ thunderstorm that came through. This was a bad year all around."

But the Parkers – all four of them – accept the fact that there will be good years and bad years in farming. And, there is no quit in any of them.

"This is what we do," Larry Jr. said. "I wouldn’t know how to do anything else and I wouldn’t want to do anything else."

What they "do" that brings recognition to their farm and respect from other cattle farmers is produce an outstanding quality of Charolais cattle. Charolais cattle originated in France and were brought to the United States in 1936 from Mexico and in the mid-1960s from Canada. The large white cattle breed are popular cross breeders because of their size, their heavy muscular system and the rapid growth of their calves.

Charolais cattle originated in France and were brought to the United States in 1936 from Mexico. They are known for their great size, heavy muscular system and the rapid growth of their calves.

For all of those reasons, and just because he likes the breed, Larry Sr. chose Charolais cattle for his farm. He started his herd in 1968 with seven Charolais heifers. Today, the herd numbers 700.

"We usually sell about 100 bulls a year and we have 18 two-year-old herd bulls that we rotate in and out," Larry Sr. said, as he looked out toward the pasture where two bulls were butting heads. "The bulls will fight and sometimes one of them will get killed. That bull over there by itself… well, they’ve crippled it. Now, they know that it’s weak. You have to be careful with your bulls."

The Parkers put six to eight bulls in the same pasture. Usually, they don’t butt heads that often but, if a new bull is put in the pasture, it’s almost a certainty that it’s going to be put to the test.

The bulls weigh up to 1,700 pounds, maybe more. "They are big animals and very strong, a good breed of cattle," Larry Sr. said.

Most of the Charolais cattle that are raised on Parker and Son Farms are sold to Laura’s Lean Beef Company based in Kentucky with its feed yards in the Midwest.

"What we like about Laura’s Lean is that they come down and look at your calves and give you a price per pound for the steers and a price for the heifers. That way, you know what you’re going to get for them.

"At market, you might get $1.10 a pound for one and 90 cents for the next one. I’d rather know what I’m going to get per pound. And, if the cattle do good out of the feed yard, you get a premium payment. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve gotten a premium payment every year that we’ve been with Laura’s Lean for five years, now."

The cattle business has been good for Parker and Son but there have been times when the going has been rough.

"Oh, it’s hard when you don’t get rain when you need rain and your cows are hungry and there’s nothing to feed them," Larry Sr. said. "But we’ve never given up. And we won’t."

Larry Jr. said he is on the farm to stay as long as he can make ends meet.

"We’ve got to keep families on the farm," he said. "If we don’t, we’re going to be like a third world country and have to depend on some other country to feed us. And, there’s not one that can do it. As long as we can stay afloat, I’m going to farm."

The Parkers give credit to Opp’s Co-op for helping them to stay afloat.

"We really depend on the Co-op," Larry Sr. said. "We get everything over there – feed, salt, seed, fertilizer, fencing, gates, whatever we need. Ben Courson (manager) does a great job. He’s been in farming so he knows all about it.

"They do an excellent job at the Co-op. Ben’s daddy and me are friends and so are Ben and Larry. We depend on them. They have been good to us and we hope that we’ve been good customers for them."

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006