By Chad Hooten, Arkansas Farm Bureau
Former Malvern mayor and retired state representative Bill Scrimshire (85) sold 15-year-old Blake Riggan a pair of red limousine heifers and loaned him a bull in 1995. Almost three decades later, stock from his ‘original set of cows’ range on Riggan’s Grazin R Farms near Donaldson, about 10 miles southwest of Malvern.
“As a kid, I always enjoyed farm life,” says Riggan. “The most important thing now is that we do everything as a family here. We have raised our children to appreciate this way of life.”
Credit Riggan’s grandparents and great-grandparents for his ‘way of life.’ His maternal great-grandfather, Aven Brecendridge, traded a bus route from McCrory to Newport so he could farm near the Beedeville community in Jackson County (soybeans and rice are still grown on it). His maternal great-grandparents (Leila and Jesse Riggan) had a bigger cattle and hog operation in Grant County between Leola and Carthage. Riggan’s parents were not farmers, but as a child he kept smaller animals at his grandparents when they moved from Jackson to Hot Spring County.
A generation later, Riggan and his family work cattle, goats, chickens, 100 acres of hayfields and a small garden. They run about 50 momma cows at three different locations near their home. The herd includes Corrientes, a smaller longhorn, coveted by ropers and steer wrestlers for rodeo practice.
“We try our best to provide quality cattle to other farmers and ranchers and quality meat to customers,” Riggan says. “It is a farm-to-table experience for some who don’t have other means to provide fresh beef for their families.”
Grazin R Farms has also been a go-to farm for fresh dairy in the area. Riggan’s daughter, Hannah (19), raised registered Toggenberg goats as a 4-H project the past decade requiring twice-a-day milking 9 months out of the year. They couldn’t keep up with demand since this milk can be used for anything from soap to cheese and for raising other animals. When Hannah left for college in August, all but two goats were sold.
Little sister Blakelyn (12), an outgoing and fun-loving homeschooler, french braided her golden hair in pigtails before flaunting the reserve grand champion commercial heifer, reserve grand champion dairy goat and winning a junior showmanship buckle, of course, in mid-September at the Hot Spring County Fair. She has started helping with the hay, too, driving the tractor to rake while dad follows with a 50-year-old, baby blue 532 Ford square baler. Another baler produces 4×4 round bales for sale to hobby farmers or those who use smaller tractors.
Riggan, who married Michelle 23 years ago and has been Hot Springs County assessor for 23 years, serves on multiple boards, including county fair board president and volunteers as a 4-H leader. He says it’s important that his community-minded family seizes opportunities to share the importance of agriculture.
“We have an awesome circle and support and thank God for them and allowing us to be part of the great family business of farming and agriculture,” Riggan says. “Through this wonderful way of life, we work together, laugh together, fuss at each other sometimes and even cry together when we lose an animal that has a special place in our hearts.”
The Riggans were named Hot Spring County Farm Family of the Year in 2022.