The Farmkeepers is the official blog of NC Farm Families. It is here that words will flow, our voice will be heard, a stand will be made, and the farm families of North Carolina will be protected. In these posts, we'll set the record straight. You'll see the faces of the families who feed us. Here, you'll receive all the updates and news. It is here that we will fight for farmers and be the keepers of the farm in NC. We hope you'll join us. Follow along on social media and by joining our email list.
N&O Serves Up More Attacks on Hog Farms–Suggests Crickets Should Replace Bacon on the Menu
December 12, 2017


Imagine it’s Christmas morning and the children have unwrapped their gifts and emptied the stockings.Everyone sits down for a breakfast of bacon, sausage and eggs … but you serve them a plate of crickets instead.

This isn’t some cruel new form of punishment from Santa. It’s an idea that was floated in The News & Observer last week.

Sound odd? We thought so, but The N&O editors deemed it an idea worthy of print. It published a guest column with this headline: “North Carolina should switch from hog farms to cricket farms.” (They later changed it to read, “For a healthier N.C., let’s eat crickets.”)

The column was written by a UNC student and originally appeared in The Daily Tar Heel. We won’t judge what students choose to write about, but why would the state’s major newspapers reprint such a column?

Well, it fits The N&O’s long-running and misguided attack on North Carolina’s farm families. The column repeats falsehoods about hog farming in North Carolina – and then makes a quantum leap to suggest that we should start eating crickets instead of bacon.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Can you imagine eating crickets for Easter lunch? Tailgating with cricket biscuits from Bojangles? Chowing down on crickets and hushpuppies at your favorite BBQ spot?

Ask a roomful of people if they want to go for that and you’ll likely hear… crickets.

One Farmer’s Story
November 28, 2017

Fake news isn’t just a political phenomenon. If you click on the internet you’ll also find dozens of stories by the groups who are set on tarring and feathering hog farmers. Those stories say a lot of unfair things. One story I read said a woman couldn’t go outside and was a prisoner in her own home due to the odor from the hog farm next door. The problem was the lady was sitting on her front porch, outside, when she said it. Another political-type story – creating more fake news – used a long-discredited ‘study’ to say that hog farmers discriminate against people of color.

But, every now and then, you’ll find a story that wasn’t written by a group with an axe to grind. Here’s one from a local newspaper, about a third-generation farmer who raises hogs on his 66 acre farm near Clarkton.


Jobs & Wages: How do Farm Families of NC Impact Your Community?
November 20, 2017

22.8 million jobs. $763 billion in wages. $146 billion in exports.

That’s what the food and agriculture sectors mean to our economy, according to the latest study.

And what about North Carolina? 677,000 jobs. $20.4 billion in wages. $2.69 billion in exports.

N.C. Farm Families: Feeding America. Providing jobs.


News & Observer Loses Touch with Eastern NC
November 9, 2017

There once was a time when The News & Observer had its finger on the pulse of eastern North Carolina – back when newspapers had large, bustling staffs with reporters who closely covered the agriculture industry and wrote about the latest happenings in places like Goldsboro and Mount Olive.
The newspaper and its staff have since shrunk, and The News & Observer has lost touch with eastern North Carolina. That was evident when The N&O published an editorial last week lamenting the impact of hog farms.

As most people who live in eastern North Carolina understand, hog farms have a positive economic impact on our communities. In the state’s two largest hog producing counties, Sampson and Duplin, the growth in median wages and annual income have outpaced state averages over the past 10 years.

People are not shying away from these communities. The population has increased sharply over the past 25 years. That growth is driven in part by the success of our hog farmers, and new housing developments and businesses are popping up near long-established farms.

Here is one example from Onslow County. These photos show how the area grew from 1998 to today, with new homes and a new church spouting up beside an existing hog farm.




There are countless other examples just like that in small towns across our state.

The pork industry is boosting our economy across eastern North Carolina — not harming it. It provides valuable jobs and serves as an important economic engine that helps rural communities survive and thrive.

The N&O has been losing circulation in eastern North Carolina for a long time. Now it’s losing touch, too.


The Reality of Living Next to a Hog Farm
June 6, 2017

by: Marisa Linton

If you listen to some activist groups and read some news accounts, you’d think living next to a hog farm is a miserable life.

What you should do is talk to people who do live next to hog farms. Like farmers who live on their farms. And people like me who have lived beside a hog farm for 10 years.

“I built my home near my farm because it is beautiful out here,” says Gaye Crowther, a hog farmer. “With the pig barns and the cattle and horses grazing in the fields, there is hardly a more picturesque setting.”

Photo first appeared in the NC Pork Report

It goes beyond the aesthetic beauty of living on their farms, though. For many farmers, it is family land, and living on that land is part of continuing a legacy and tradition. Dale and Angie Dunn chose to live in a small house across from their hog farm when they were newly married.

“I didn’t even have a clothes dryer, so I hung all my clothes out on a line, and we lived right across from the hog farm. I worked at the hospital as a nurse, and I never had anyone tell me my clothes had a smell of hog odor,” says Angie Dunn.

When it came time to build a family home, the Dunns had other spots available but they chose to build right across from the hog farm to be close to family and carry on the tradition.

“It was important to us to build our home on family land where we could be close to our family. Our children were able to grow up with their cousins,” says Angie.

Dale and Angie Dunn with their children Mary and Daniel

There is also a practical side to living within eyesight of the hog barns.

“We can keep our eye on it and monitor for intruders…we can also see if the lights and fans are on. If they go off, that endangers the pigs’ health. It’s really nice to be able to look out our window and see those things,” says Angie.

Dale and Angie Dunn raised their two children by the hog farm. Daniel, their son who is in high school, also says it is nice to live next to the hog farm because they can easily check on the pigs. He also said that he never had any problems living next to the farm growing up.

And what about the waste being sprayed? How close does that get to their house? Does it bother them?

The Dunn’s house has fields on all sides of it. Some of those fields are sprayed on with hog waste. When asked if it bothered them, Angie and Dale said that while it can smell sometimes, it isn’t a problem and doesn’t concern them.

“Why would it? It’s only corn and water,” says Dale. “Those hog houses are a reason I was able to build the home I have now. They paid for it.”

It isn’t just families who raise hogs who live near hog farms. There are many neighbors living contentedly next to a hog farms too.

I should know. I am one of those neighbors. I’ve lived next to a hog farm for more than a decade, and I don’t mind one bit. Sometimes I smell it, but I live in the country, and I expect that from a farm, just as I would expect to hear extra noise if I lived in a big city. I am still able to cook out and spend time outside with my family. I trust the hog farmers. They are good people who like spending time outside the same as I do.*

Gaye Crowther just had relatives from Birmingham, Alabama down to her house and farm.

“We were pumping during that time. They thought the farm was really peaceful and beautiful. We all sat on the front porch while the reels were pumping,” says Gaye.

Gaye Crowther sitting on her front porch with her dog.

A lot of loud voices criticize hog farmers. They paint an ugly picture. But the loudest voice isn’t always the right voice.

*Marisa lives in Wayne County with her family. She acts as Director of Engagement for NC Farm Families. Marisa loves living in the country on land that has been in her family for over a century. She has a passion for agriculture and believes in the people who are involved in it. 

Facts Contradict Elsie Herring’s Story
May 31, 2017

She’s an internet star for Earth Justice, Environmental Justice, Environmental Working Group, the Waterkeeper’s and operation R.E.A.C.H. She’s told her story on websites for Mother Jones, Policy Watch, Indy Week, Democracy Now and Raw Story. She’s the voice of ‘environmental justice’ groups. The unofficial spokeswoman for lawyers suing hog farmers. She’s Mrs. Elsie Herring.

And the story she tells goes like this: The hog farmer next door to her home sprays his field “three or four days on a slow week” – and sometimes “daily.” And occasionally “at night.” The odor is so bad she can’t go outside. She can’t sit on her porch. She’s trapped, a captive in her own home.

It’s the dramatic tale of ‘the captive lady and a cruel farmer’ and Elsie Herring’s told it over and over for years.

But there’s a problem.

Every time the hog farmer sprays his field he has – by law – to keep a record for state inspectors to review. Here’s a photo of the farmer’s ledger:


Did he occasionally spray at night? No.

Did he sometimes spray daily? No.

Did he spray 3 or 4 times a week? No.

In fact, over the last 6 months the farmer only sprayed on 2 days and, then, he only sprayed an average of 2 hours and 8 minutes each day.

Recently, Mrs. Herring was back on the Internet.  She’s told her story many times. A lot of people have heard it. But look at the facts. Look at the farmer’s ledger. Look at this video:

Go down to her home and look at the grove of trees between her house and the farmer’s field. The facts contradict her story. Why does she continue to tell it? We don’t know. But we do know the facts tell a different story.

Fake News?–Reported Flooded Hog Farm is Actually Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant
May 19, 2017

Last fall the day after the hurricane the Waterkeepers Alliance spun a tale to the Washington Post and the Post published this photograph (below) to prove hog farms swamped by the hurricane were spreading pollution:

hookTwo days later Deborah Johnson of the Pork Council emailed the Post: This isn’t a photograph of a hog farm. It’s a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

When the Post didn’t reply Johnson wrote a letter to the editor – but the Post didn’t publish the letter.

Then Angela Fritz of the Post wrote her: “It’s been a busy week for us but I just wanted you to know that we received your email and we’ll get back to you soon.”

No one heard from the Post for the next four months.

Then, in February, Mrs. Fritz responded to another email by saying, Let me talk to my co-authors…and I’ll get back to you soon.

March, April and part of May passed with the Pork Council asking over and over for a correction but the photo remained on the Post’s website. Then, almost seven months after the story ran, the Post published a correction – sort of. It added one line to the story on its website: “Correction: A previous version of this story included before-and-after photos of a flooded hog farm that was inactive. We have removed that photo.”

With the stroke of a pen the Post had turned the Hookerton municipal waste treatment plant from a hog farm into an ‘inactive’ hog farm.

 At best, that’s a half-apology. But, at least, the newspaper removed the photo.


Esquire, stick to the subjects you know best
May 12, 2017


The latest attack on North Carolina hog farms comes from an unlikely source: Esquire magazine.

Now, Esquire is a perfect resource for celebrity interviews, men’s fashion advice, and things like that. Just this past week, they posted helpful articles such as How to Take the Stress Out of Wearing Suede Shoes and How to Pick a Haircut Like Your Celebrity Hair Doppelgänger.

When it comes to those important issues, Esquire is a “go to” resource. But an article this week about HB 467 and North Carolina hog farms (I love the smell of pig sh*t in the morning!) proves that they don’t know sh*t about farming.

The article repeats the same tired, untrue claims that have been made for years by the Waterkeeper Alliance and others who want to put North Carolina family farmers out of business. The writer claims that, “wind being what it is, sometimes the spray takes wing and people’s houses get a primer coat of pig shit.”

To further illustrate the point, Esquire quotes Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette: “You could be sitting on your back porch, and depending on the wind, have hog (expletive) sprayed on your kids.”

Clearly, this reporter didn’t bother to learn anything about our industry or the strict regulations that all North Carolina farmers must follow, including a mandatory 200-foot setback from their neighbors.

Esquire should stick to the subjects they know best, like this one: You Don’t Have to Be on Vacation to Drink a Piña Colada.

NC Farmers React to Cooper’s Veto of HB 467
May 6, 2017




Thousands of family farmers across North Carolina are expressing disappointment today over Gov. Cooper’s decision to veto House Bill 467.

The decision to veto a bill that would protect family farmers from predatory lawyers is a blow to North Carolina agriculture, our state’s number one industry.

“I’m so disappointed with Gov. Cooper’s decision. He doesn’t know how many farmers he has let down,” said Lorenda Overman, a Wayne County farmer.

Elwood Garner had a similar reaction.

“It’s disheartening,” Garner said. “This bill could help keep hog farmers in business. We’re already the most regulated industry in the state and we’re not doing anything wrong.”

In his veto message, Gov. Cooper expressed concern about providing protections to a single industry. But North Carolina law offers special protections to countless industries – from fast food restaurants and skate parks to construction contractors and technology companies. Farmers deserve the same protections.

Louis Howard, a farmer from Kenansville who was previously targeted in a nuisance suit, was stunned when he heard the news. “I just don’t know what to say… Farmers like me were counting on this bill to protect us. I know just how dangerous these lawyers are.”

“I’m very disappointed, but not surprised,” said Gaye Crowther, a farmer from Tabor City. “He vetoed it even though it passed with strong support, bipartisan support. As a pork producer, I’m concerned because it makes us more vulnerable to lawsuits.”

We urge the NC General Assembly to stand with farmers and override the Governor’s veto.



Statement by North Carolina Farm Families on Veto of House Bill 467
May 5, 2017

cover photo

Governor Cooper’s veto is a hard-blow to farmers. The pork industry invests billions of dollars in North Carolina. Farmers and integrators support their communities and give generously to charitable causes. They strive every day to be good environmental stewards and, above all, good neighbors. The hard-working family farmers who raise hogs in North Carolina deserve better than this.

If Governor Cooper’s veto stands, it will jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs in our state. It will jeopardize the incomes and economic survival of thousands of farm families. The economic losses could be devastating to rural communities. The only winners will be predatory lawyers who swoop into rural communities, turn neighbor against neighbor for one purpose – to generate huge financial windfalls for themselves.

HB467 passed both the House and Senate with support from Democrats and Republicans. We call on the North Carolina General Assembly to quickly override Governor Cooper’s ill-advised veto.



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