When Did Farmers Become Villains?

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The picture of that little girl is me. I was about 9 years old and had just shown my first goat. I enjoyed playing dress-up, creating adventures with my Barbies, and watching Disney movies. In all my days as a child, I imagined many things for myself, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

In a world of princesses, I was Belle and Cinderella, but never the Beast or the evil queen. I was the Wendy, soaring with Peter Pan, but never was I Captain Hook. As a young girl, I imagined so many scenarios and plots that took me to distant lands and allowed me to be a princess, heroine, adventurer, explorer, or president, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

Yet, here I am at 23, and somehow, I with so many others that I hold dear, have become villains. Why? It wasn’t because of the want of power or greed. No, it was because I…we are farmers.

As a little girl, I LOVED living on a farm. For me there was no better life. I learned values like hard work, honesty, good sportsmanship, responsibility, compassion, grit, and dedication. When I looked to the other farmers I knew, I saw that in them too. So, it would come as a shock when I, along with other farmers, were grouped together and villianized.

As I grew older, I began to hear the ripples of people who condemned the farmer. And so, I decided to share with others what I knew about farming. I decided to share my passion, and my love for it. I had no idea how HARD it would be.

I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I don’t think I expected people to attack me and farming with such awful accusations. All of a sudden, I was a murderer for eating bacon. I was a rapist for allowing animals to be bred. I tortured animals, had no heart, and was even a cannibal. I was compared to Hitler, told I was participating in slavery, and destroying the environment without a care. I was a villain.

But the truth was, I was just a farmer. I was a girl who had dreamed of flying with Peter Pan, and had become a farmer. Somewhere in there, though, activist groups, individuals, and the media deemed me and so many others as the villain.

When did the farmer become a villain?

How could the farmer become a villain?

Perhaps it is because only 2% of the population are farmers, and many no longer understand agriculture. Or maybe, it is because media coverage of farming drastically diminished at the same time people were becoming farther removed from farms. So, when the media did turn their attention back to farmers, they looked much different than Old McDonald. Perhaps farmers are villains simply because social media allows people to be more bold and say horrible things.

Whatever the reason, the farmer is a villain.

But, are they truly  villains?

No.

How do I know? Because I am a farmer, and I know my heart. This is not the heart of a villain. This heart has mourned the loss of an animal, broken for the ruined crop, and toiled day in and day out, all while being told it was a murderer.

More than a farmer, though, I am a person. The other farmers–they are people too. And those names that we are called and the accusations thrown our way do not fall on deaf ears. They hurt. Because farming is not just a job or career. Farming is a way of life, and if people took the time to understand and get to know us farmers, they’d find out we are far from villains. They’d find that they have us all wrong. We are so much more.

When did farmers become villains?

They didn’t. They have always been a resilient community with large hearts and a passion for the land, food, animals, people, and their families.

So, I will hold my head high. I am not a villain or even a princess or a girl who flies with pixie dust. I will hold my head high because I am a farmer.

Green Beans–Behind the Scenes

As I was driving home, I noticed a field of what looked like soybeans, being harvested. I was quite confused at the sight (and the leaves all over the road) because soybeans aren’t harvested when they are green. Dad noticed the field too and stopped to investigate. He determined that they were green beans!

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When I learned this, I grabbed my camera and asked Mom to drive. My plan was to just take pictures out the window, but there were workers standing right by the road. I quickly put the camera away to avoid being super awkward. Mom suggested that I should just go up to them and ask to take pictures. First of all, I was in purple stretchy shorts. Second, I had chicken shoes on (yard shoes with chickens on them and maybe even chicken poop). Unfortunately, Mom, in all her motherly wisdom, decided that I should go home to change. Now, I had absolutely no excuse.

I changed my shorts, but left the shoes (I was feeling bold). I asked Alec to go with me this time. I’m not sure that was the greatest idea because he was absolutely no nonsense about it all. All of a sudden, we were parked on the side of the road, and he was out of the truck telling me to come on. He walked up to the men, and said, “hey, my sister likes to take pictures, do you mind?” That was not the eloquent introduction I was going for, but it was something. I introduced myself and started shooting.

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After talking to the guys there, I learned that they were from Pennsylvania and were with Hanover Foods. They had been working their way up from Florida picking beans on contract. This allowed for a longer growing season.

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The current field they were working on was 147 acres, and they would harvest 41 million pounds of beans.

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The neat part was we have bought Hanover green beans before from the store. Now, I know that someone had to grow those beans that I got from a can, but actually putting a face to the name and seeing the process was pretty special. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look too. Special thanks to the guys for letting me take pictures and answering questions.

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Alec & Carlie || Sunflowers & Hay Fields

While livestock shows and activities are known for instilling character, sportsmanship, hard work, and dedication, they have also been known to bring two people together. That is exactly what happened with Alec and Carlie.

Although these two were typically in separate barns–Carlie in the cattle barn and Alec in hogs or goats–they were aware of each other. They came together in the same barn during skillathon and livestock judging. Eventually they started dating, and have been together for a little over a year.

I was super excited to take their pictures, and not just because Alec is my brother. I traveled to Carlie’s family farm where we spent time in some sunflower and hay fields. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed taking them!


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Stop & Smell the Sage: A Look into NC Clary Sage Industry

Driving home from NC beaches, you may come across a sea of purple. Beautiful fields filled with flowering plants dot the sides of roads headed to the coast. These fields of flowers are not simply to look pretty, nor are they volunteer wildflowers. Rather, they are an upcoming crop for NC farmers. The flowering crop is clary sage.

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Clary sage has roots (no pun intended) dating back to the Middle Ages. Used for its calming properties and benefits to the skin, it is not to be confused with the sage you may find in your kitchen spice rack. Clary sage, also known as salvia sclarea, is an herb that is found in many household items for its fragrance. Think dish soap, perfume, and detergent. It first must be extracted, though.

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This is where a company in Bertie County comes in. Avoca Inc. is the largest extraction facility in North America for sclareol. They have been in the business since the 1960’s.  They take clary sage and produce sclareol  which helps fragrances have a longer life in items like soap and perfume. Avoca contracts with many farmers to grow a certain amount of acres. This is appealing for many  farmers because so many other crops have huge swings in prices. Clary sage is more stable.

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Planted at the end of summer (August) the perennial grows until winter. At this point it becomes dormant until warmer weather hits again. By Late May, early June, the blooms are in full force. Blooms can be purple, pink, or white, depending on the variety. Harvesting begins mid to late June.

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The smell the crop produces is obvious. It makes sense, since it is in the fragrance industry.  A special harvester is used that cuts up the plants into 1 inch cubes much like silage. The flowers have the highest oil content, but the entire plant is used. The harvest is sent to Avoca where they will extract throughout the year. Here is a video of harvesting:

Avoca contracts with over 120 farms, there are over 25,000 acres being devoted to growing clary sage in eastern North Carolina. North Carolina is definitely a major player in growing clary sage.

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I was super excited to see all of the purple fields on the way home from the beach. So excited, I made Alec pull over on the side of the road so I could jump a ditch and take pictures of sage in the setting sun.

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If you happen to see the purple (or white/pink) fields in North Carolina, know that they are much more than flowers. They are a farmer’s crop. So, roll down the windows to stop and smell the sage.

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Resources:

Avoca Inc.

NC Field & Family

Lintons Take Ocracoke Island

This week the Lintons are all on island time. We made the trip to Hatteras Islands for a few days. Alec and I came up by ourselves yesterday because the boys had baseball games rescheduled for Sunday. Today we were finally all able to be together and go on adventures.

We boarded a ferry and made the hour long voyage to Ocracoke Island where we visited a lighthouse, hung out with Blackbeard, toured all the beach houses, had a fabulous dinner, and soaked in a gorgeous sky on the beach. All in all, a great day despite chilly temperatures. Wish us luck tomorrow as we climb all the stairs to the top of Cape Hatteras!

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The Ferry

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Ocracoke Lighthouse

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The Beach

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Copyright Rural Ris Photos 2016 | All Rights Reserved | Pictures Available for Sale Upon Request

Just Call Me Master Marisa|NCSU Graduation

Some of you may have heard, but I graduated…again. This time the powers to be decided that I was a master at communicating so gave me a piece of paper that said so.

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After two years at NC State University, I met my goal of getting a master’s degree, and am officially an alumnus of the Wolfpack. Let me tell you, though, running with the pack was not always easy. However, I learned more than I ever thought possible–things that go beyond communication theory, research, and papers. Some of these lessons were small, and others were much larger. Most were learned somewhere between Coliseum Deck and Winston Hall.

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  1. Always make a mental note of where you park your car in the parking deck–after a stressful first day of grad school, I couldn’t remember where I parked my car. I walked aimlessly around, praying and trying not to cry. Finally, Blueberry came into view and I drove off into the distance.
  2. You cannot possibly predict the many scenarios you’ll be faced with as a teacher–I thought I had imagined it all. I was wrong. Almost on a weekly basis, a new scenario came up that I had to scratch my head at and supply an answer. The things those students came up with never left a dull moment.
  3. Somehow the 6 flights of stairs never get easier–I just knew I’d be oober fit by the end of my 2 years. Alas, nothing changed.
  4. Even a communication major can do statistics–I suck at math. I don’t exaggerate either. Somehow, though, I chose to do a quantitative thesis filled with numbers, and finished it!
  5. You can research anything, so do what you love–If I was going to write more than 60 pages, it was going to be on something I liked. So, I chose pigs. It made the hours of writing and research much more enjoyable and exciting!
  6. Night classes will complicate your eating schedule–when classes start at 6 and go till 9, figuring out when to eat gets complicated. Cookout was my saving grace on the way home at night.
  7. It is possible to deal with a forest of papers and never get a paper cut–this is only a quarter of the papers over 2 years, but I’m proud to say, I never got a paper cut.

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Of course there was a lot more that I learned. Like the first few days are scary and really hard. You wonder how the heck they let you in to this place, but soon enough, you find your way…and your confidence. You learn to prioritize the millions of readings and assignments. You may find yourself learning what to do in a tornado warning with your students. You will definitely know what late nights are, and the joys of finishing a paper.

And, now after all of the lessons, I now hold a Masters of Science in Communication. I couldn’t have done it without some dear people like my thesis committee. They put hours into proofing, editing, and guiding me. Without them, I wouldn’t have a thesis that encompassed 2 states, 300 participants, pigs, and communication. A huge thank you to Dr. Keyton, Dr. Taylor, and Dr. DeJoy, and all of the other professors I had along the way.

I certainly couldn’t have gotten through grad school without  my family. Their prayers and support got me through every paper, assignment, and long night. They were my lifesavers so many times.

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Speaking of lifesavers, I would be lost somewhere in the one way streets of Raleigh if it wasn’t for Garrett. He helped me navigate Raleigh, answered my many statistics questions, listened to my struggles, and always reminded me to get lunch.

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So, I’m done. I came. I worked. I graduated. Just call me Master Marisa. I’m off to the next chapter in life, but first here’s some pictures from graduation day!!

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Mary Dunn & Alan Johnson||Prom 2016

I was so excited when Mary asked me to help her get ready for her prom (I’ve secretly been dying to get my hands on her gorgeous locks) and take pictures. This girl is my neighbor and like a little sister. I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful young lady who is accomplished and stays super busy with 4-H, livestock, school, and the community. Accompanying Mary to her prom was fellow showman, Alan. My first memory of Alan was him as probably a cloverbud asking a ton of livestock questions. Today, he’s mentoring the cloverbuds.

I couldn’t be more proud of either of these two, and was so glad I got to have a part in their evening!

Although there was rain, with rain comes rainbows, and that is exactly what we got. I hope ya’ll enjoy these!

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It takes a village

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Ya’ll looked wonderful! Thank you for letting me be a part in your lives today and all the other days too.

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Lambing Season- 2016-

When it comes to animals being born on the farm, I think I get the most giddy over the lambs. There is something about those little wooly babies and their over attentive mommas.

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Aspen was the first ewe to go. We walked outside to 2 little black girl lambs.

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Meet Lace….

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and Silver…

I just knew it would be a short time before the next lamb would arrive. I checked several times a day and through the night. Alas, it was like watching a pot boil. Finally, Aspen’s sister, Fiona, had a super splashy baby girl that is all diva. Meet Paisley…

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We now had 3 more mommas to lamb. I made my predictions as to who would go next. Of course, they decided to spite me and go in all sorts of orders. Our old girl Duff, was the third one to lamb. Once again, we had another little girl, but this one was white! Meet Eve…

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We were down to our southdown sisters. Sybil went first and had a super black little girl. I’m somewhat partial to Sybil, so this baby was really exciting for me. Meet Georgette…

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The last arrival was Edith’s little white lamb. Once again, we had a girl. While we just missed her birth, we caught her right after, so she was still getting cleaned off by mom. Meet Evelyn…

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We are so in love with our 6 little girls. They are all very different, and have way cool wool. We can’t wait to show them at State Fair. They have already been on several field trips to visit kids and tell everybody about wool.

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Now that lambing season is over, shearing season is about to begin, so stay tuned! For now, enjoy all of the cuteness.

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You Have to be Brave to Raise Livestock

Two weeks ago was a tough week on the farm. We lost 3 animals in the span of 3 days, and that…. that was really hard.

I’ve been raising livestock for 13 years, and have had animals since the day I was born. And, throughout that time, there has been loss. It comes with the territory. Some of those losses have impacted me more than others, but no matter what animal it is, it never gets easier.

The other week we lost two goats- Tres and Nala, and our barn cat- Sassy. Tres was unexpected. She was fine one day, and gone the next.

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Nala, lost her battle to a raging infection, despite 3 visits to the vet, several antibiotics, and meds to control the fever.

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Sassy was 13 years old, and we knew his time was drawing near. He lived his last days as a house cat.

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Nala was the the third one to go, and at that point, I was ready to throw up my hands. It was entirely frustrating and emotional. You work so hard to keep these animals healthy. When they get sick, you do everything you can to make them better, and sometimes it isn’t good enough. When your best isn’t good enough, that can cut deep.

Nala went into premature labor. Not only that, but the baby was not in the proper position. After trying for 40 minutes to realign the baby, we decided that we couldn’t do it. We knew the baby was already dead, so we loaded Nala up to go to the vet. Those vets worked for more than an hour to deliver that fetus. Everyone was tired, especially Nala. She was registering a temperature of 105. The next few days was a series of banamine for the fever, antibiotics for the infection, oxytocin for a retained placenta, and more trips to the vet. We were hoping that it would clear up. We were hoping that we could try again for a baby next year, but it wasn’t meant to be. Nala was my best doe. I was the most excited for her baby. It would be her first and the first off our new buck. I put a lot of hopes and dreams into them, and it went up in smoke.

When you raise livestock, they have a purpose. It may be for breeding stock; it may be for showing; it may just be to go to market. Whatever the purpose, you put hopes into that animal. Sometimes you get your hopes up.

Losing an animal isn’t about the money spent at the vet. It isn’t about the money lost in the investment of the animal. It isn’t about having to dig a hole. It is about heart. I may not shed a tear for every animal that dies, but they all hit me. They all are a life, and that affects my heart. It doesn’t matter how many animals you have, or the scale of your farm.

I recently heard a story of a hog farm that had the PED virus. This virus caused 100% mortality in baby pigs. Although there are thousands of pigs in those barns, the farmers wept. Not because they were losing dollars, but because that life was gone, and that was devastating. The hope and potential of that animal was gone. Their best efforts weren’t always good enough.

After hearing that story and thinking of my week last week, one word came to mind-bravery. Raising animals takes bravery. You have to be brave to put hope and dreams into an animal that does not have a 100% guarantee. Even if it has a totally healthy life, the lifespan of animals is not the same as ours. You are choosing to love and care for a ticking time bomb. When that animal does pass away, it takes bravery to continue. You have to be brave to care for another animal.

When I was on the third day of losing an animal, I wanted to walk away. I didn’t want to put expectations or hopes into yet another animal that might not make it, but then… then I saw the other side of the spectrum. I saw little Pluto, only a week old, braving the cold weather to explore his world, and I smiled.

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Raising livestock is hard. It is frustrating. There are tears. There are also smiles, joy, and heart. Raising livestock takes bravery. In spite of loss, in spite of sadness, I choose bravery and to hope once more in an animal, because that is what it is all about.

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Ice, sword fights, and boys

Typically, I have a love/hate relationship with the weather, but right now it’s mostly hate. It is causing one heck of a mess around here. The grossness isn’t just about inconvenience, it is causing a lot more work too. The ice caused a lot of limbs to fall, and of course loads of mud. While these photos are from the first ice round, I thought it appropriate considering yesterday’s ice and today’s rain.

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During all the cleanup, there was a bit of an accident too.

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How? Well, let’s just say boys will be boys, and let the next picture do the rest of the talking…

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Yes, that is sword fighting. Everything turned out fine, though. Mom cleaned up Isaac’s wound and put some butterfly strips on it. He was good to go, and now has a cool upside down v scar.

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Needless to say, the weather is taking  bit of a toll on us. It’ll be fine, though. We’ll just keep praying for sunshine.

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