My Agriculture

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There on your plate–the corn and porkchop and potatoes…

That’s my agriculture.

There on your back, the shirt made from cotton dyed into a brilliant color…

That’s my agriculture.

That medicine you take and the perfume you wear and the lipstick you put on…

That’s my agriculture.

The brilliant sunset over a field of wheat…

That’s my agriculture.

Calloused hands, dirty clothes, and a gentle touch…

That’s my agriculture.

Cows, sows, and plows with drones and tractors and technology in there too…

That’s my agriculture.

My agriculture is men and women filled with a love for the land and a love for livestock.

It is passion and love mixed with heartache and frustration. It is hard but worth it. My agriculture is the birth of calf and also the loss of a lamb. It is floods and droughts, cold and hot, feast and famine.

It is a 24/7 job filled with dedication, responsibility and lots of hope with no guarantee.

My agriculture is in the barns, the fields, the forests and beyond.

It provides food, clothes, jobs, and more.

My agriculture is your agriculture.

Celebrate it, appreciate it, and get to know it.

My agriculture isn’t perfect and is often misunderstood. But in the midst of manure and dirt and long hours and sleepless nights is something truly special–people with a passion.

Agriculture is everywhere, and you don’t have to be a farmer to be involved or to celebrate it. Look no farther than your fork and your shirt.

There you will find my agriculture. And there, you will find me.

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Best of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the many moments that have happened. It is hard to believe all of it fits into one year. Busy is an understatement, but I am so grateful for every moment…

Along with teaching at two colleges and holding communication contracts for several companies, I’ve been able to  photograph more than ever before this year.

A spur of the moment photo shoot turned into some of my proudest pictures to date. These sheep in fog pictures went on to win three contests and are going to hang in my future office.

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It wasn’t all animal and farm pictures, though. I was able to take pictures of some very dear people. From the engagement of Brooks and Jennifer…dsc_0774

To Jennifer’s bridal portraits a few months later…

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I was so excited to photograph some amazing college seniors like Alec who graduated from UMO with a agri-business degree. He is now in the middle of an MBA at Methodist and will start a new job in the beginning of the year! Where did my little brother go?

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There were also several NCSU graduates like Cary…

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And Bradley…

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Garrett also graduated with his master’s degree after spending countless hours crunching numbers and writing a thesis. He didn’t walk the stage, but that’s alright…18156656_1861747867172347_6783422891837931030_o

I’m still just as proud and was able to go back to campus to take engagement pictures of his roommate Colin and his fiance Mallory.

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I also was able to capture some real cuties…

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And real beauties…

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As well as some amazing people…

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A new favorite subject to photograph has been bling…

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My favorite bling of all, though, is my own…

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One of the biggest moments of 2017 was when Garrett asked me to be his wife at Bear Island after a kayak trip…

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Oh what an adventure that kayaking trip turned out to be (read the full story here). Wedding planning has been in full-force and we can’t wait for our next adventure after May 19, 2018 when we are married! 2017 held more adventures then a sparkly kayaking trip.

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An adventure to Vegas and the Grand Canyon with Garrett’s family was, well, grand…

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A less desert adventure came when the Linton clan visited Virginia Beach. Views, lighthouses, and waves made for an amazing vacation…

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Of course, there was also the annual Kerr Lake trip too. It was paradise.

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An adventure to South Carolina to visit Kayla turned into a weekend of sweet surprises from my maid of honor…

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Adventures in Atlanta with friends to celebrate Kena and William’s wedding was ever so much fun…

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I went to a total of 8 weddings this year. It is that season in life, and it is so wonderful to see those I love find forever love.

It wasn’t all warm weather and blissful weddings, though. There were some bitterly cold days this winter. My caption on Instagram of this pic said “I’m not made for the cold” Little did I know, I’d be moving to Nebraska a little over a year later where the temperature is currently -17 at night. Be careful what you say.

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Feeding livestock was an everyday affair–snow, rain, or shine. It was certainly worth it to see my boys rewarded for their hard work, well and fun…

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Isaac won Reserve Champion Market Hog at the Wayne County Show and Sale…

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Another big win came at the NC State Fair when our sheep Georgette won Grand Champion Supreme Ewe, NC Born and Bred Champion, and Champion Fleece. Georgette was born and raised on our farm.

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Each of the boys won grand or reserve champion sheep showman too, and Isaac bought Astrid, his prized sheep…

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Speaking of new animals, Callie Cat was rescued and has become my joy. She may be spoiled–complete with 9 collars.

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Hellos are always much more enjoyable than good-byes. After traveling over half the country, I dropped Garrett off in Nebraska to attend PhD school at UNL. Distance hasn’t been easy, but so worth it…

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I feel as if there are a thousand and one moments I should include here. However, this post is already long, and I can’t justify 365 days worth of reports. I will leave you with two final photos that show the love that I have been surrounded with this year, and the love that will forever surround me in future years.

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Colin & Mallory |Engagement Session

A few years ago, Garrett introduced me to his new roommates who were also his fraternity brothers. One of those roommates and brothers was Colin. A year or so after this initial meeting, Colin introduced me to Mallory, his new girlfriend. I liked her on the spot, and remember thinking “I hope she’s the one.” Turns out she was! I love these two and can’t wait to see them get hitched in July! I was so excited to take their engagement pictures at NCSU and am equally excited to share their story and photos with you all.
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How it Began: Mallory’s Side

Colin and I had actually been orbiting around one another since freshman year! He was study partners with one of my good friends (Deanna), although we never met until sophomore year at his surprise birthday party! However, a friendship never developed until our senior year, after Colin joined the College of Natural Resources Ambassador’s Program, and I returned from study abroad. Over the course of the fall semester of our senior year, we worked together on different committees and projects, and finally got to know one another. We always joked because we had mutual friends that we were both very close to, but it took over 3 years for us to become friends.
We started dating February 7, 2016. So, I guess that makes close to 2 years now! It was actually after a Christmas party for the CNR Ambassador’s program that we started talking to one another. Colin, being the southern gentlemen that he was…and maybe having a little crush, stayed after to help me take care of trash and recycling. Needless to say, after 2 hours of cleaning and (mostly) talking, I was completely smitten with this dashing blue-eyed blonde boy from the South. He was so patient with me over the  next 2 months, as I was dealing with a lot personally, and we were both trying to figure out if dating as second semester seniors in college was a “smart” move. I’d say it’s the smartest decision I ever made in college!

How it Began: Colin’s Side

Mallory and I kind of have a funny beginning to our relationship; I technically met Mallory in my sophomore year of college at NC State. It is actually pretty mind blowing that Mallory and I’s circles overlapped so much during that first year but we never actually met, we had heard of one another but that was the extent of it. Therefore, we sort of floated around one another that entire start to college.

Sophomore year rolled around and I had a party for something (there is always a reason to celebrate) early in the fall semester of 2013, and I invited Deanna, who also brought Mallory. I remember meeting Mal but it gets a little hazy with time. I remember thinking wow she’s cute.

During fall semester 2014, I was determined to join the College of Natural Resources Ambassador program. One of my best friends, Eanas as well as Deanna (Mallory’s best friend) was a part of the program. So I was asked to help Eanas put together an activity for the 85th Anniversary celebration for CNR. After the event, I was helping clean up when I really noticed Mallory. I was in awe! Have you ever met someone and thought wow they are beautiful, and then when they speak your speechless? Well, that was me. That night I found out that she was in the Ambassador program too. Shortly after that event I was invited to interview for a position on the CNR Ambassador team.

Just before we left for Christmas, I found out I was accepted into the Ambassador program! I was stoked!! Subconsciously I think I was just excited I had a reason to be in the same room as Mallory.  Upon returning to school in the spring of 2015, I started training with the ambassadors, but here is the curveball–Mallory wasn’t anywhere to be found. I found out almost a year later that Mal had left for study abroad at the very end of 2014. So the idea and excitement of the pretty, yet mysterious, girl from the 85th anniversary began to fade.

I returned to school for senior year with a lot of anxiety about graduation and my future career plans. Finding a girlfriend was not anywhere on my radar.It was just a few weeks into first semester senior year when Ambassador meetings started back, and I, as always, was running late. The meeting ended and I quickly gathered my things and rushed out the door, not even noticing the girl in the front row was the 85th anniversary girl!  It wasn’t until later in the fall of 2015, when Mallory presented to the group that I saw it was her! All the attraction rushed back to me! I needed to talk to her, but “you gotta play it cool” was what I told myself. It wasn’t until the annual tree decorating party that we finally had a real conversation. The event began to wound down, and everyone started to leave. Mal was on the clean up crew, so, being the gentlemen I was, I offered to help. I was finally having a conversation with this beautiful girl. We talked for almost two hours. Over Christmas break all I could think was how do I randomly text this girl and not come across as weird? I knew she liked hunting and so did I. While on break one of my buddies killed a monster buck. Of course, I posed with it acting as if it was mine and took a picture. I later sent that to Mallory. Yes, that is how I decided to start the conversation–bragging on a deer I didn’t even kill! I let her believe it was mine for a little while before I sent her the real picture of me with my four pointer! I had a tonsillectomy just after Christmas and this led to our first date. In my fog of pain medication I was texting her some crazy things, but I managed to talk to her about the NC Art Museum and how we should go there together…

Mallory and I have been dating for one year and nine months, for the first three months we were both in school finishing up undergrad and finding jobs. For the next year she was in Canaan Valley, WV and I was in Windsor, NC– a total of 357 miles apart. That year apart was probably one of the most difficult times I have ever experienced. We would see each other every 5th weekend, but it was a tease. We slowly figured out how to manage the distance, and facetime became our best friend.

By Christmas of 2016 we had talked about getting engaged. We both knew we wanted to get married but we had concluded that it would be too difficult to be engaged long distance. We wanted to wait until we were within a couple of hours of one another and were both established–well that was the plan we thought we had.

The Proposal: Mallory

Fast forward to May 29th, 2017 and we are wrapping up a fantastic weekend at the Outer Banks. Colin is notorious for surprising me with vacations, and since we had been long distance for a year, I didn’t think much of it. I kept joking that he was hiding a ring, and even pretended to go through his suitcase looking for one. However, it was all a joke because we were still long distance (via a 7.5 hour car drive) and said we would never be engaged while being so far apart. Well, I had told him the day before that I would be fine with an engagement at any point…little did I know it would be the very next day.
Before we left the island, we drove down to Cape Hatteras National Seashore for one final sunset stroll on the beach. Oblivious, as always, I couldn’t understand why Colin was acting a little distant and chalked it up to him being sad our vacation was ending. So, I continued to do my thing, which involved chasing down sand crabs and examining dead seabirds #biologistprobs. I was a little bit ahead of him, and turned to show him something, when I saw Colin beginning to drop to one knee.
NOW. Let me tell you. This is not the first time Colin had dropped to one knee, because he thought it was oh so funny to joke around and do this occasionally. *tsk tsk* You know how I responded? “Colin, get up. This really isn’t funny.” To which he responded by pulling out the most beautiful ring from his pocket. As far as I can remember, I choked out “is this real?”, before falling into his arms and sobbing. Yep, I sobbed. Honestly, it took me a long time to compose myself and recover from the shock of what was actually happening.
Of all the ways I could have imagined my proposal, it could not have been more perfect than that moment. It was so simple and intimate. There was no one else around and no big extravagant display, just Colin and I, kissing, laughing, hugging, crying, and celebrating. We relished in that moment until the sun sunk beneath the trees.

The Proposal: Colin

We had been praying that the next step be the right one and for God to show us where he wanted us to be. One day when we were on our “date day”, (date day was something we began doing early on in our stint of long distance, where we would make sure we did nothing but date each other that entire day) we were early for a movie in Greenville, NC. I suggested we go into a jewelry store to try on some rings just for fun. This is how I figured her ring size out!

I had been praying hard about getting a ring. I had saved up some money and was ready. I went into Bailey’s the next week (late Feb of 2017), and began designing a custom ring for Mal. The jeweler and I, over the next two months, worked out every detail of that ring. I even helped pick each diamond. I did it this way because it was extremely important to both Mal and me that our ring be as environmentally friendly and ethically sourced as possible. That being said, I decided to have a lab-grown diamond be the center stone. Lab-grown diamonds are pure diamonds that are grown inside a laboratory which eliminates environmental and cultural destruction of communities in third world countries where diamonds are often mined. I also picked out each small diamond that lines the band and the halo for the center stone. These are natural grown diamonds mined from the earth. It was not financially feasible to get these as lab-grown diamonds. I did, however, get to pick diamonds from a company that provides documentation on where the diamonds came from and the environmentally and socially responsible methods in which they were mined. So needless to say, I poured my heart into that ring.

I have the ring and am holding on to it. I kept telling myself we should not be engaged while long distance. We still facetimed, and the conversation of marriage and engagement becames more and more common, especially as it got closer to the end of Mallory’s contract in West Virginia. It was now May 2017, and Mallory was coming down to NC for a long weekend. Her birthday is June 2 so I decided to plan a trip to Nags Head, NC. As I was packing for our trip, I kept feeling like I needed to take the ring. I buried it deep inside my suitcase. We had three days at the beach, and we spent every minute of them laying in the sun. It was the very last day, and we decided we would pack up the truck and head to the beach to layout one last time. While laying on the beach, the topic of engagement came up once again. This time Mallory had a different opinion. She said, “I have been thinking and praying about it a lot lately, and well, I think I am ready, whenever it happens it happens.”The fireworks start going off and I thought to myself “God, this is why you wanted me to bring that ring.” So now I am laying on the beach thinking I have the green light– how am I going to do this?

As we left the beach, we headed north to Duck, NC for lunch and to walk on the boardwalk. We returned to the truck and started the trip back home. Just before we got off the Outer Banks I asked, “would you be up for an adventure?” and of course Mal being the adventure/travel crazed one she is said “of course!” We changed course and drove halfway down the coast of NC to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. We hit it almost perfectly. The sun was setting, no one was around, and it was beautiful. As soon as we pulled up to the lighthouse, Mal was in a fit to use the restroom. I casually got out and said I had to go too. Well, I let her get about ten steps ahead of me and when she rounded the corner to the bathrooms, I ran back to the truck and began frantically digging through my bag. I needed that ring! I found the ring, pulled it out of the box and slipped it into my pocket. The most nerve-racking walk on the beach you can take with the person you love is when you have an engagement ring in your pocket!

As we walked along the beach, we talked, chased crabs, Mallory taught me about shorebirds, sand crabs, and all the other beach critters (as any biologist would). We got to this perfect place. I mean it is gorgeous–the dunes slightly slope down and fade away revealing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and the sun was setting directly behind the giant structure. As Mallory was facing away from me taking in the amazing view of the lighthouse, I pulled out the ring and got on one knee. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I was doing this. I was doing this without a plan. I mean she literally less than 12 hours ago said she wanted to be engaged. I wondered if she ever had a clue it would be that same day. So I got down on one knee and said, “Mallory you make me the best man I can be, you make me the happiest man on earth, will you…..” and she interrupts by saying “IS THIS REAL!! OMG!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?” Cue the waterworks. She fell to her knees, started sobbing and shaking her head yes. She never fully got out the word “yes” but I knew she accepted when she stuck out her left hand and was waiting for me to slip it on her finger. That was the best way I could have ever proposed. She was extremely happy and so was I–we still are! We are currently both in NC and are planning our wedding for 7/28/18, and happily counting down the days until we are finally husband and wife!

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The State Fair is More than Fried Food and Rides for Me

For many people, the NC State Fair is about fried food, rides, and giant pumpkins, but for me it is so much more. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting fried cheese, bacon pimento cheese hushpuppies, and blooming onions. I always ride the Ferris wheel and bumper cars, and always take a peak at the giant pumpkins.

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BUT…that’s not why I go to the fair.

I go to the fair to drive and nervously back trailers in the heart of Raleigh. I go to help my brothers wash pigs, watch them compete against hoards of others in the ring, and coach them along the way. I go to fluff and trim goats. I go to the fair to walk sheep in the ring, pick straw from their fleece, and to see if we’ve improved from last year. I go to compete for the blue ribbons and champion titles. I go to take a thousand photos, to see friends, and spend 6 days in a barn. I go to the fair to spend time with my family and make memories. I go for the livestock experience.

I look at the NC State Fair through a different lens than many who walk through the gates. It isn’t just a place to find entertainment or unique food. It is a place where both heartache and joy has taken place. It is a place where I have run around with so much adrenaline and energy, but also been utterly exhausted. It is a place where I have learned lessons. The NC State Fair is a place that holds a special place in my heart. This year was no different.

NC State Fair 2017 Recap

While there was a great deal that took place over the course of the fair, I just want to give you the highlights. The first day, Mom, the boys and I went to check pigs in. All went smoothly. We headed back home to pick Dad up and head once more to Raleigh to stay in a hotel. We had a super early morning and didn’t want to deal with Raleigh traffic the next morning. Although an early morning awaited, I was to have a late night.

You see, Garrett was arriving on a flight at midnight! I hadn’t seen him since I left him in Nebraska back in August. I was so excited! I am ashamed to say, that I dozed off and was 15 minutes late picking him up from the airport. It all worked out, and I was reunited with my fiance!! Fair wouldn’t quite be the same without him.

The next morning did indeed dawn bright and early, but I was too excited to be tired. Today was the pig show!! My boys did an amazing job showing Arnold and Schwarzenegger. Both pigs were in the top 10 and Isaac received a super showman pin. I may have teared up a bit.

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On Saturday, I returned once more to the fair, this time alone. I arrived in time to walk Garrett’s little red pig in the sale ring. Goodness do I miss driving a pig in a ring.

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My primary reason for coming back to the fair wasn’t to walk a pig, though.  I was set to photograph and video the Sale of Champions. I love auctions, livestock, and the fair, so being able to capture it all with my camera, is such a joy! Alec was also recognized as a scholarship recipient.

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The next day of the fair was to be on Monday. We loaded 4 little goats on the trailer during such a rainy day. Because all the goats were born within a couple of weeks of each other, they were all the same size and in the same class. Sadly, we only had 2 Linton boys, but 4 goats. They couldn’t very well show 2 at a time. Thankfully, we had friends in the barn who helped us out! Mom, Dad, and the boys went home, while I stayed in town to spend time with Garrett. He would fly out the next day.

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Wednesday arrived. We loaded 12 sheep (all of which had been washed and clipped). Because there were so many, we had to take the big trailer which is always more nerve-wracking to drive. I take that back. It is fine to drive but scary to back. I’m happy to say, though that I was able to back it perfectly! With the sheep penned and the trailer backed, we were ready for the next day.

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Another early morning greeted us. Today the entire family was able to be at the fair together. Showmanship was up first. Isaac and Gideon went head to head in juniors. Gid came out on top, which worked out well. Isaac beat Gideon in pigs. Alec received reserve champion senior plus showman despite an irritable sheep. We were off to a phenomenal start!

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Costume class followed showmanship. Isaac dressed up in a red, white and blue theme to highlight wool in America. Gideon showed off tools of the trade to raise sheep. There were so many cute costumes!

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With 12 sheep, we were in and out of the ring constantly. All of our girls did well, and I was even able to show during the open show.

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Isaac was extra proud of his Astrid sheep. He bought her with his own money earlier in the year, and she ended up winning her class! The face says it all!

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Interestingly, Alec ended up with the best sheep–Georgette. Last year, I did not like Georgette. She placed behind all our other sheep, and just wasn’t my favorite. This year, here fleece was gorgeous, and the judge agreed. She won her class and went on to compete in the champion drive along with two other of our ewes–Astrid and Evelyn.

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I held my breath as the judge looked over all the blue ribbon sheep. And then…she shook Alec’s hand.

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Georgette won Supreme Champion Junior Ewe and Got to Be NC Grand Champion Junior Ewe. I may have screamed a bit.

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We have come so close to Supreme Champion several times, and it finally happened. What made it even more special was we raised Georgette on our farm. She was Countryview Farm genetics. It didn’t stop there, though. In the open show, Georgette also won Supreme Champion Fleece, and our new ram, Church, won champion medium/fine white ram.

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It was such a good show!

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We celebrated by eating our favorite fair foods, walking around, and riding some rides.

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I found my bacon pimento cheese hushpuppies, Dad and Alec snagged them a blooming onion and Isaac and mom grabbed a funnel cake.

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Gid discovered a new favorite –Poutine (fries covered with cheese curds and gravy). This gravy loving boy was in heaven.

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And with that, the 2017 NC State Fair ended for the Lintons. We loaded up and headed home. For us, the fair is about family, livestock, friends, and some food. See you next year!!

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Taylor Glover|Senior Session

When it comes to livestock, there are very few that are as passionate as Taylor. She loves it! She keeps the roads packed with hog and cattle circuit shows during the fall, and can be found in the barns in between the shows. I’ve known Taylor for many years, and I’ve watched her passion grow. She is so fun to watch in the ring. She is also fun to photograph in the show ring. Speaking of which, that is where I am used to taking pictures of her at.

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While I love capturing her do her thing, I was beyond excited when she asked me to do her senior pictures…with her pig and heifers. Ya’ll, this photographer was squealing with delight. My livestock heart was so, so happy. Without further delay, here is Taylor’s senior session. A beautiful girl and her livestock.

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Hardison Family| Waynesborough Park

Growing up with three brothers, I know that photo shoots can sometimes be a bit of a struggle. However, the Hardison boys were perfect models (and so were their parents)! While we had a bashful start, by the end, there was a constant stream of “cheese” being said, and as boys will do, they found sticks and ran around.  I’m thrilled to be sharing the Hardison Family’s photo shoot with you!

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Our Engagement Pictures

I’ve been dreaming of having engagement pictures done for a long time, and it finally happened!! My dear friends (and future bridesmaids), Joanna and Emily, were gracious enough to brave the heat with us for a few hours for pictures. I am so grateful for their friendship, camera skills and sweet spirits! Thank you guys!

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We started at the NC Art Museum which is a favorite place of mine and Garrett’s. After melting a bit, we went down the road to our next location, but not before having to pull over for me to frantically dance and beat my dress. Wasps stuck inside your dress somewhere who decide to sting your leg and hand tend to make one do those things.  I survived, though, and we made it to our second location–NC State’s Beef Unit where Garrett and I first talked to each other during a judging contest. We laughed a lot, but also managed to get some serious photos. Gideon says the pictures make him seasick, so that’s your warning if you’d like to continue viewing.

Regardless, I am beyond excited for May 19, 2018 to roll around so I can marry the man God picked special for me!

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Red, White, and Blue

Fourth of July is always one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. We all get together as a family for a cookout that includes burgers, chicken, hot dogs, pasta salad, fries, and fruit. We always conclude our day with fireworks and sparklers. This year, we conducted a flag retirement ceremony. Grandma had two flags that needed to be retired, so we all took part in the proper way to dispose of them. It was very impactful and special to do on Independence Day.

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Jennifer Marshal Phillips |Bridal Session

I am so excited to finally be sharing these bridal portraits with you now that Jennifer is officially Mrs. Phillips. The wedding yesterday was gorgeous! I was so honored to take Jennifer’s bridal portraits and stand beside her as a bridesmaid. Jennifer is beautiful from the inside out! I’m so thankful for her friendship over the years and am so excited for her and Brooks. Congratulations guys!

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I’m pretty sure this was a good 5 years ago. The wedding dress looks a lot better than the cap and gown 😉

Cary –Senior Session |NCSU

It was my second year in grad school. I had decided to take an elective class outside of the Communication Department and take one in the Ag Ed Department. It is was here I met Cary. She was someone I could talk goats with and not get strange looks. Let me tell you, that is not common to find.  Fast forward a few semesters, and we both have our master’s degrees, are both engaged, and both still like talking goats and all things animals.

I am so excited for Cary as she starts her new journey at Clemson University where she’ll be pursuing her doctorate degree and planning a wedding!! Here’s to rings and degrees.

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