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. Nuisance Lawsuits Against Hog Farms Begin: Opening Arguments Recap
April 5, 2018
The first in a series of nuisance lawsuits against Murphy-Brown went to court this week in Raleigh. The opening arguments provided an outline of each side’s case. Here’s a recap:
Attorneys for the plaintiffs made an emotional appeal in their opening argument, portraying their clients as sympathetic victims who suffer from unbearable odor created by the nearby hog farm. Attorneys explained how North Carolina hog farming has changed since the 1980s, with a move toward large commercial farms that prevent neighbors from enjoying their property. They placed the blame squarely on Murphy-Brown, saying they control the operations of local growers and are well aware of the nuisances they create.
At times, the rhetoric was over the top. “We can’t bring hog odor into the courtroom. I wish we could. But we’d never get it out. It’s that bad.”
The defense took a more reasoned, scientific approach and reminded jurors that this case is about the conditions at a single farm: Kinlaw Farm in Bladen County. It is not about what happened in the ‘80s or ‘90s and is not about hog farms in general. The attorneys emphasized that the Kinlaw Farm has never had any issues — no complaints, no violations, no concerns raised. They stressed that the farmer enjoyed good relationships with his neighbors until out-of-state lawyers showed up.
The attorneys also highlighted the growth that has occurred around the Kinlaw Farm since it began operations, including the construction of a world-class horse farm, a vacation property popular with those who love the outdoors, and several new houses where young families now live. “Actions speak volumes,” the attorney told jurors.
March 30, 2018
The Rolling Stone article “Why is China Treating North Carolina like the Developing World?” is filled with unchecked facts, false claims, and exaggerated descriptions. After trudging through inaccuracy after inaccuracy, you come to the final line which says:
This story was published in partnership with the UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship.
What does that mean? Upon some research, we found the entire story was funded by a foundation with an agenda that focuses on what they call “ending industrialized animal agriculture.”
This raises a serious question: can journalism be bought?
The UC-Berkley 11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship is supported by a grant from the Schmidt Family Foundation.
The program offers ten $10,000 fellowships to journalists with the stipulation that they “report ambitious long form print” on a subject in the food system. Fellows must also attend a workshop in June and December where editors will help them refine and shape their stories.
Workshops. Editors. All funded by an organization that’s against modern agriculture. An organization that gives grants to the likes of EWG who with Waterkeeper Alliance published “Exposing Fields of Filth: Landmark Report Maps Feces-Laden Hog and Chicken Operations in North Carolina.”
What story was published in partnership with this fellowship? The Rolling Stone piece.
Needless to say, the Rolling Stone article had an agenda. The agenda was paid for by an organization with a goal to end modern pig farming.
You expect journalists to check the facts. You expect them to present the full story. You expect them to follow some sort of code of ethics. Apparently, the bar is much too high for Rolling Stone.
Can journalism be bought? In this case, it would seem so.An Odd Vision
March 30, 2018
The Schmidt Foundation was founded by a Silicon Valley billionaire and his wife. Doug Bock Clark, who spent three years living with a tribe of ‘hunter-gatherers’ on an Indonesian island, is a young free-lance journalist. And Rolling Stone, for five decades, has been the herald of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.’
One wanted a story published knocking modern agriculture, one wanted a grant, one was happy to publish a story it got for free, and when their paths crossed it led to an odd headline: Why China is Treating North Carolina Like the Developing World?
And the answer to their question was: Hogs.
Here’s how it happened: The Schmidt Foundation gave a grant to the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Journalism. UC-Berkeley then gave a grant to Clark.
Clark, it appears, went on the internet, read all the stories he could find critical of hog farmers then had a revelation: China was out to get its hands on North Carolina’s hogs, and, to do that, it was treating North Carolina like a third world country.
If Clark’s vision leaves you puzzled, when you look deeper it gets more puzzling.
China raises more hogs than any nation on earth. It raises 96% of the pork its people eat. And imports just 4%. How much of China’s pork comes from North Carolina? Something like one-tenth of one percent. Germany sells more pork to China than America. And America sells more pork to Mexico than to China.
Here’s another slip: Clark reported that Duplin County raises more hogs than any other county in the United States. But he was wrong. It doesn’t. How did a journalist with a grant from a wealthy foundation make a silly mistake like that?
Clark described seeing six hog barns made of metal. But the barns he saw weren’t metal – they were made of wood. How could he mistake wood for metal?
In one breath, Clark described a lady telling him she believed the odor from a hog farm near her home killed her nephew and, in another breath, he said the same nephew had died of cancer.
He reported hog waste is “potentially lethal” and that “people die with distressing regularity in the waste.” And he reported that hog farming is a $2.9 billion industry that provides 46,000 jobs in North Carolina – but that led him to another odd conclusion: “The overall economic benefits of hog farming,” he said, “have actually been relatively small.”
When their paths crossed the Schmidt Foundation, the journalist, and the rock ‘n’ roll magazine each got what they wanted. What did it lead to? They spun an odd tale then moved on and left everyone else to pick up the pieces.One Farmer’s Story
March 6, 2018
Last summer, the Bladen Journal wrote a story about Hilton Monroe who, along with his wife, raises hogs on his sixty-six acre farm near Clarkton.
The reporter described how he and Monroe drove down a dirt road that wound through a forest and stopped by two hog houses – then wrote:
Upon stepping out of the vehicle, the first thing one might notice is the absence of something – an aroma. There was no odor. Of any kind. None.
“People think hog houses really, smell, and I’m not trying to paint a pretty picture or say they don’t because they do, but not nearly as much as people think,” Monroe said.
Even standing on the shore of the lagoon while Monroe took a water sample – which he’s required to do every 120 days to check the nitrogen level – there was no observable odor. Monroe explained that the plastic curtains lining the hog houses serve multiple functions, one of which is to contain any odor pollution.
“I’ve been farming all my life, and I’ve never had a complaint from my closest neighbors,” he said, adding that people have even built houses on the other side of the trees that line the whole operation.
Next the reporter asked Monroe about the state regulations hog farmers deal with – then wrote:
The water samples and the plastic curtains are just two items in a long list of regulations to which Monroe must adhere. The houses must remain around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take, depending on the hog’s size), and the temperature must be recorded on charts. The lagoon can never top a certain height or contain too much nitrogen. Spraying can only be done when the temperature and humidity are just right, and never within four days of a hurricane. A certain amount of acreage must be sprayed for every hog. No steroids to make hogs grow faster. And on and on.
“I think regulations are a good thing – I think we should have them, and other hog farmers I know feel the same way, and we do our best to abide by the regulations,” he added. “If you’re going to be a hog farmer, you have to take care of the environment.”
The article ends with a simple question – the reporter asked Monroe why he’s a farmer: “I’m just a drop in the bucket helping to feed the world,” Hilton said. “It makes me feel good to know somebody, somewhere has food because of what I do.”Pardon me, your bias is showing
February 22, 2018
With the selective use of facts — and a 23-year-old photograph — the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper and The News & Observer editorial board painted a false picture of North Carolina’s hog farmers (“Self-reporting of hog lagoon spills not enough,” Feb. 14.)
Here are the facts that were left out — and the story behind the photo published by The N&O.
On Feb. 11, The Wilmington Star-News reported that there were 136 sanitary sewer overflows into the waterways of an eight-county region in Eastern North Carolina over the past two years. The spills came from municipal and county sewer systems.
Three days before, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced it was fining a Jones County swine farm for a spill into a nearby wooded area. DEQ said the spill had “no reported impacts to public water supplies.”
One farm spill, and 136 municipal sewer spills in an eight-county region.
So, who did the Riverkeeper and The N&O attack? The farmer, of course.
I say “of course” because North Carolina Farm Families has documented these attacks on hog farmers for many years on our website (www.ncfarmfamilies.com).
We also were curious about the photo that accompanied the attack. The caption read: “An aerial view of a hog farm operation located next to the Trent River, near New Bern. The large algae growth in the foreground is a result of the runoff from the hog farm into the river, so says the Neuse River Foundation.”*
We did some digging and learned that the photo was taken in 1995. (Yes, The N&O used a 23-year-old photograph to illustrate an attack on hog farmers in 2018. And the farm shown in their photo hasn’t had barns or animals on it in more than a decade.)
Now, The N&O won a Pulitzer Prize in the 1990s for reporting on problems in the hog industry. We readily admit there were problems then, when our industry was growing rapidly as farmers started raising hogs to replace crops like tobacco.
But a lot has changed in the 23 years since that photograph was taken. North Carolina has enacted some of the nation’s toughest regulations for hog farms. Farmers must comply with strict agronomic rules governing how they apply manure, a natural fertilizer, to their crops.
Here’s something else that most people don’t know — and the Riverkeeper didn’t mention: There has been a moratorium on new hog farms in North Carolina for the last 20 years.
Let us be clear: We aren’t trying to diminish the seriousness of the spill that occurred on that Jones County farm. Hog farmers have a long history of complying with the state’s stringent environmental regulations. When those regulations are violated, the farmer must be held accountable and quick action must be taken to resolve the issue.
We share the North Carolina Pork Council’s disappointment with what happened at the Lanier farm and believe the state’s actions are warranted. After the spill, all animals were removed from the farm and the farmer was placed on probation by the company he contracts with for failing to comply with state regulations.
When violations occur, we take them seriously. But the farm spill in Jones County was an isolated incident — especially when compared to, say, the 136 municipal sewer spills that occurred in eight counties in Eastern North Carolina over the past two years.
By now, we shouldn’t be surprised by attacks on farmers that make selective use of facts — and photographs. We’ve come to realize that groups like the Riverkeeper have a political agenda. They don’t care how their attacks hurt honest, hard-working farmers.
North Carolina’s family farmers deserve better. We care about the environment, our neighbors and the communities where we live. Hog farmers are a vital part of the North Carolina economy, providing 46,000 jobs in North Carolina and producing safe, healthy food that feeds millions of Americans each year.
*After the NC Pork Council contacted the N&O, the caption of the farm photo was changed to: “An aerial view of a hog farm operation located next to the Trent River, near New Bern, in 1995. The large alage growth in the foreground is a result of the runoff from the hog farm into the river, said the Neuse River Foundation. The site is no longer a hog farm.”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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.