BLACK SPRINGS – If you were to ask Mark Cogburn the secret to being a successful farmer he would quickly tell you that it starts and ends with being a good steward of what God has blessed you with.
Mark Cogburn, his wife Katelyn and their daughters Cambri, Kinsley and Carsyn were selected in May of last year as the 2020 Farm Bureau Montgomery County Farm Family of the Year. To say the Cogburns have a few irons in the fire is an understatement. Their farming operation includes 165 head of Angus and Brangus cows and a chicken farm that holds 28,500 chickens in two laying houses. They also own a logging company that employs nine people and chicken house cleaning crew and a storm clean up operation.
All of it started with a wagon, a bucket and a dream.
Mark shared that all he has ever wanted to do was raise cows and chickens.
“Some people are meant to drive garbage trucks, some are meant to flip burgers, and I guess I was meant to be a farmer.” He said.
He shared a childhood memory regarding a conversation he had with his mother. He said that he was leaving his yard pulling a wagon with a bucket. His mother asked him what he was doing. He quickly responded that he was going to feed his cows.
Mark didn’t get his first cows until he was 14 years old. His family had raised a few cows, but they never farmed on the scale he does now. His father bought him a bull and two heifers. He raised them until they calved and he sold the calves. A couple calves later he sold them all and bought better cows.
Mark’s life as a farmer had begun.
While Mark enjoys raising cattle, chicken farming is his passion. He graduated from Caddo Hills in 2004 and went to SAU on a rodeo scholarship. While majoring in Ag Business he decided that what he really wanted was to work in the poultry industry. At age 18 he shared all he wanted was for someone to let him have half a chicken house. All he wanted to do was raise chickens.
He worked hard at finding a poultry farm, but wasn’t able to get his hands on one. He stated that he went all over the area and didn’t care where he had to move. All he wanted was a chicken farm.
After one of several failed attempts at purchasing a farm he found himself driving into Glenwood. As he passed the Glenwood church of Christ he noticed a verse on their sign.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Instantly ne knew what he needed to do. He pulled into the driveway and turned it all over to God. Mark will tell you wasn’t a murderer or anything, but he knew he wasn’t living a life pleasing to God.
He started going to church. Once there he started teaching a Sunday school class and eventually found himself leading the music at church. Things started to turn around for Mark. He met his wife, Katelyn. After they were married they moved to Cabot where her Father offered to let them farm just over 100 acres of land.
Mark’s dream of becoming a farmer was being realized, but he had no idea what would happen next. About six months after moving to Cabot he got a phone call from Rodney Standridge. Rodney worked for Keith Smith farms and was in need of someone to take over the operation of two houses owned by Tommy Moore.
Mark explained that Rodney didn’t know of his dream of owning a poultry farm. Rodney told Mark that Tommy Moore had a contract to raise chickens and was looking for someone to take over the operation when a new batch of chickens was delivered.
“I give all the glory to God for all I have, but I am thankful for men like Rodney and Tommy who were willing to give me a chance.” Mark stated.
Mark had one huge obstacle to overcome. At 24 years old he was much younger than other growers who sought a contract with Keith Smith Farms. Initially he was denied a contract, but he wasn’t going to walk away without a fight. He persisted until he was granted a meeting with the heads of the company. Two hours later he walked out with a contract to grow chickens.
He leased Tommy’s farm for eight years. In that time he grew chickens for another company after a while, but returned to Keith Smith Farms when he bought his own farm two years ago.
With the fervor of a Southern evangelist Mark shared how the farm he now owns had almost been his over 10 years ago. He tried to by the farm 10 years prior, but once again his age had gotten in the way. Ten years later and a closer relationship with God Mark found doors opening that allowed him to finally buy his dream farm.
Shortly after buying the farm he started logging. His family has a history in the logging business and it seemed natural to start a crew.
He found himself with equipment he used to clean his chicken house and decided he might as well start cleaning other farms also.
An opportunity to help family clean up after a hurricane in Florida a couple years ago opened the door for his storm clean up operation.