image of land, rural landscape, land for saleCary Matthews, ARA, remembers catching the property appraisal bug in 1989 when he accompanied his brother Tommy, a designated MAI, on a project appraising flowage easements along the Arkansas River in northwest Arkansas.

“The appraisals involved increasing the elevation of the flowage easements, which allowed the river to rise to higher levels before letting the drainage flow,” Matthews recalls.

It was shortly after that memorable trip when Matthews made the first steps to becoming a certified appraiser himself and, ultimately, specializing in rural properties. Today, he can’t imagine doing anything else.

“After I became certified, I did a little ag work along the way, but I was never really that involved in it. I did mostly residential and commercial properties,” Matthews says. It wasn’t until eight years ago when I joined Farm Credit Midsouth that I realized my passion is agricultural appraisal.”

Matthews’ journey in property appraisal has taken him from working at a small appraisal firm in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to starting his own business in 1994. His wife, Julie, joined the business in 1996, and the work really took off, particularly during the residential boom of the 1990s. The Matthews also performed a lot of commercial appraisal work at the time—office buildings, easements and eminent domain.

Matthews took a job in 2004 as a commercial loan officer and branch manager at a bank in Jonesboro, but the pangs for working in property appraisal soon started coming back. When Farm Credit came knocking in 2008, it just seemed like the right opportunity at the right time.

“I’ve always enjoyed relating to farmers and rural land owners, and working at Farm Credit Midsouth has given me the opportunity to do the rural appraisal work that I have come to really love,” he says. “There’s always a story behind every piece of farm property and with every successful ag producer. I enjoy getting to know the land owners and the production and management decisions that go into Midsouth agriculture. It’s fascinating work.”

Three years after joining Farm Credit, Matthews was promoted to Vice President and Chief Appraisal Officer. Today, he is the office’s appraisal manager and also serves as one of the Association’s operations managers. Matthews and the team of three other appraisers cover the Delta of northeast and eastern Arkansas, and a little bit of the Missouri Bootheel. The work, he says, provides something different every day.

“The Midsouth is probably the only place in the world where you can place a seed in the ground and grow it. It doesn’t matter what it is,” Matthew says. “We grow it all here—rice, cotton, soybeans, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes, milo…you name it. We also do a lot of appraisal work involving cotton gins, grain facilities, and sweet potato processing plants. We get involved with a little bit of everything in the ag field.”

Matthews says he and his staff consult with internal staff (loan officers, analysts) as well as land owners and farmers on property and ag market conditions. As such, they become the eyes and ears of the agricultural real estate industry, staying current with trends ranging from ag economics and land values to agronomics and conservation. To keep up with the changing landscape, Matthews focuses on recruiting and maintaining a qualified appraisal staff. One of his passions is ensuring that the young appraisers on his team are properly educated and trained to complete credible appraisal assignments.

“One of my successes is seeing past trainees become good, solid rural appraisers,” Matthews says. “With more rural appraisers nearing retirement, we need to continue filling the gap and attracting young people to come into the industry. It is difficult for a new appraiser to get into this profession at this time. We need to find a way to help them get in without watering down the profession. I believe that the integrity of our profession can only be maintained by keeping our standards of required education and training high.”

One of the actions that Matthews took early on was to join the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA), earning his Accredited Rural Appraiser (ARA) accreditation as soon as he could (in 2012). He has since found that he receives calls for assignments from clients who want an appraiser with the ARA designation. In 2015, he went further and earned his Real Property Review Appraiser (RPRA) accreditation from ASFMRA. Matthews is currently one of only two RPRA’s with an ARA in the state of Arkansas.

Today, Matthews has completed instructor training and plans to start helping ASFMRA teach continuing education courses for members. He is also active at the local and state levels with other professional organizations, including the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, where he has served on the board and also the Agribusiness Committee. He is currently serving on the Craighead County Farm Bureau Board and was also appointed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the Arkansas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board.

“ASFMRA has offered me a solid foundation of education for my career,” says Matthews, who has rarely missed a national ASFMRA conference since becoming a member. “Equally as notable are the connections that you make as an active member. The networking part of ASFMRA is tremendous. Other members are always willing to help and provide any information that they can.”

The Matthews are a family of appraisers. His wife of more than 30 years, Julie, is Vice President and Chief Appraisal Officer at a bank based in Jonesboro and their youngest son, Houston, is in the process of entering the profession. Their eldest son, Daniel, is a Master Electrician at Arkansas State University and also runs the family’s 50-head cattle operation outside Jonesboro.

Cary and Julie relish the fact that their two sons and three grandkids live close by. Their family time is spent with the grandkids, and Matthews gets to do a little hunting during the winter months. The family also enjoys getting away to their summer home at Norfork Lake in scenic north-central Arkansas.

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