About Jim and Sam Whitaker
Fifth Generation family farmers Jim and Sam Whitaker, along with their wives, Lesli and Alicia, and their children Jessica, John Arthur, Scott David, and Harrison, run Whitaker Grain based in Southeast Arkansas. Whitaker Grain is a multi-crop farming operation producing rice, corn, soybeans, and cotton.
Jim and Sam grew up farming with their parents, later taking over the operation when their father retired. All totaled, this past year (2022) marked the brothers’ nineteenth crop. They presently farm thousands of acres in the same area of southeast Arkansas farmland on which their forefathers began.
When Jim first started farming, he sought out methods to improve the land he was farming. Jim began to level the land to provide better drainage, irrigate the land, and be concerned about the health of the soil. He quickly understood that he needed more efficiency and better time management.
After incorporating new techniques such as zero-grade farming and water management methods, he saw an immediate return in his farmland and crop yields. Additionally, he became extremely interested in growing better crops with less environmental impact. He believes that sustainable farming is a win-win: a win for the environment and a win for the farmer. He espouses that being a farmer is akin to being a shepherd or steward of the land – not just for us, but for generations to come. Through good farming practices, he believes that he can give more to the planet than he takes from it.
Attention to detail and commitment to producing high-quality products have the Whitakers continually looking for new and better practices to implement in each aspect of their operation. Whitaker Grain leads the nation in sustainability developments and bottom-line results and was recognized in 2016 as the first farming operation globally to sell carbon credits for rice to Microsoft.
History of the Whitaker Family
In pursuit of a more independent quality of life, Jim and Sam’s ancestors migrated across the United States and in 1835 decided to settle in rustic Drew County, Arkansas. Thus began a five-generation love of the land. By 1837, proceedings were established, and agricultural opportunities in the area attracted migrant settlers. Jim and Sam’s progenitors carved out and toiled the land, often working multiple jobs to preserve the family farm. Their ancestors watched and nurtured the growth of crops along with the growth of their families.
The Whitaker family worked in acres, not hours. The family grew accustomed to living where they work and working where they live, and they cherished the measure of independence that farming provided them. Earlier generations combined air, water, sunshine, and soil and turned it into a commodity. Through adaptability, determination, faith, common sense, and a combination of both stubbornness and sense of humor, they continued to toil the land and add acreage to their farm. This farm ground has been cultivated for well over 100 years and is in route to carry forward the Whitaker Farm legacy for descendants to come.
It seems the deeper one gets into farming, the bigger the farm becomes. To those who choose it, farming becomes not just a living but a way of life. A migrant farmer who had lost his land to the dust bowl once travailed: “If I could get my hand on an acre of land, I’d take to diggin’ it with my fingers.” This statement exemplifies how deep the roots of farming grow.
Future of Whitaker Grain
There is a certain reverence when it comes to generational farming. It is not only a memory of the past, but also a dream for the future. Whitaker’s children plan to carry on the farm legacy. Early on, Jim and Sam encouraged their children to become stakeholders in the family farm.
In future generations, the conservation of working farms will help nourish families and support our economy into the next century. Farm families produce the food, the fuel, and the fiber we need to go about our daily lives and to carry on this noble and vital tradition. Jim and Sam believe that our farms will become our planet’s legacy.