Alfalfa County’s Keith and Marlene Kisling were named Oklahoma Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year Nov. 23 at the 62nd annual state convention in Oklahoma City.
A panel of judges selected the Burlington family from 21 entries in the annual contest, which honors the farm family who best represents farming and ranching and the spirit of Oklahoma agriculture.
They received use of a new Dodge pickup for a year, an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, and other gifts in recognition of their accomplishments.
The couple has three adult children, sons Brent and Chad and daughter Kim Smith.
Keith grew up on his family’s farm and left for college in 1965, but returned on weekends to help as needed. After college, he returned to his hometown as the vocational agriculture instructor and also started farming 80 acres of rented land.
“While teaching, I noticed the number of young farmers was steadily decreasing and I saw the need to help fill that age gap,” he said.
After teaching four years, the opportunity arose to begin farming full time in 1975. The Kislings purchased a retiring neighbor’s home and part of his machinery and rented his land.
“This was the real start of our farming operation. During those beginning years as full time farmers, our family raised three children. All three enjoyed working daily on the farm, giving them a love for the land and rural life.”
That original operation has grown dramatically. There are now four full time employees plus seasonal help. Today’s operation includes wheat, alfalfa, corn, grass, stocker calves and a feedlot. The stockers and wheat provide the bulk of the income for the Kislings.
Through extensive record-keeping and implementation of best management practices, the couple has been able to improve production and output nearly every year.
“Every year we try to increase wheat yields above our 45-bushel proven yield. This is done through research of new and proven wheat varieties, which change yearly, and through experiments with alternative farming practices and fertilizer applications.
“In our cattle program, our goal is to keep death loss under one percent by buying preconditioned calves and to achieve wheat pasture gains of three pounds per day or greater.”
They constantly study per acre and per head cost of production to keep all enterprises operating at an optimal level.
“We know we can’t make the right decisions 100 percent of the time, so we try to offset that by making decisions we can control. Through a total commitment to our business, we are able to achieve success. Celebrating 35 years of marriage this year,” said Keith,” my wife and I are proud of how our farming operation has grown.”
Keith and Marlene are active Farm Bureau members, serving in various capacities from the county to national levels. He is a past chairman and current secretary-treasurer of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and also is vice chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates.
Marlene has held leadership positions with the Extension Club and is the past chairman of the Oklahoma Cattlewomen’s Association.
They are active members and leaders in the local Christian Church, where Keith is a deacon and Marlene is the organist. The couple backs youth organizations like the FFA, where both Keith and Marlene have lent their support from the local to state levels.
“Almost 30 years ago we made the move from vocational agriculture teacher to full time farm family. We have truly been blessed by this increase in our operation over the past 30 years. It’s because of the love of the land and the opportunities that have come our way and taking advantage of those opportunities that has given us some success.”
They said they are honored to represent Oklahoma agriculture.
“We have a great love for the land and truly believe we have the best life possible. We have treated farming as our business and it has worked well for us. God has blessed us with a wonderful life where we have been made stewards of His land.