What Makes a Farmer?

I was sitting in church when the preacher asked, “do we have any farmers here?” My hand shot up part way, then went down, then questionably slid back to half-mast. I didn’t know how to answer the question. It shouldn’t be a hard one. Either you’re a farmer or you are not, and yet it was extremely hard to answer.dsc_7287You see, I had lived on what I would call a small farm in rural North Carolina where we raised sheep, goats, chickens, donkeys, and pigs to show for 4-H. I lived there, doing daily farm chores, for the past 15 years. Then I got married and moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where I now live in an apartment with a cat. I had never contemplated the fact that I may no longer be a farmer because I didn’t live on a farm. That Sunday, though, it was painfully obvious that I was suddenly in an identity crisis.

I didn’t want to not be seen as a farmer, though. My heart was there…on the farm. Sure I didn’t live there or help with daily chores, but I still kept in the loop and helped make decisions. I still flew back home for livestock shows. Did my new address steal me of the title of farmer?

What makes a farmer, anyway?

Is it the clothes they wear? To be sure not. I’ve seen farmers run to the farm in their Sunday best (let me just say from personal experience, running through a pasture in heels isn’t easy). Is it the amount of land they have or the scale of their business? I recall how once, someone told me I couldn’t possibly be a farmer because I had a mere 10 acres compared to their thousands, and I didn’t know what it was like to farm full-time. Odd. I definitely felt like a full-time farmer working overtime when checking on lambs at 2 am or spending Saturdays helping to mend fences. To be honest, there really isn’t such a thing as a part-time farmer. It may not be your main income, but it is certainly a 24/7 job despite the scale of the farm.

So then, if it isn’t the clothes, or scale or success of the farm that makes a farmer, what is it? Do I still have to live ON the farm to be a farmer? I don’t know.

What I do know, is I have a heart of a farmer. I know that the qualities that make me, me, while greatly influenced by my parents (thanks mom and dad!), are just as profoundly influenced by the farm life. Those values and lessons I learned in the barn…those have impacted me so much.

Am I a farmer? Technically, no. Technically I’m a communication consultant for agriculture companies who teaches communication part-time as a college professor. Not everyone gets to be a farmer in life. You know, I’m okay with that. Actually, I’m more than okay with that. I love what I do. I love creating content, taking pictures and writing to help tell the stories of farmers who generally don’t like telling their life stories on the internet for everyone to see. I love teaching. I also love my family farm. I found my place. I connected my creative heart and rural roots into something that is me. I have learned that I don’t have to be a farmer to have a farmer’s heart.web'You better believe, though, that apartment living isn’t forever. This farmer’s heart will get back on a farm someday 😉

All roads lead back to the farm.dsc_3800



Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 5

The next morning on our honeymoon was early. We ate breakfast in our hotel’s sunroom and headed out to Loch Ness.

On a whim we decided to by tickets for a boat tour of Loch Ness that we had learned about through a pamphlet. It was a fabulous decision! We chose the tour that would take us through the canal, loch, and to see the outside of Urquhart Castle. We were almost late thanks to the GPS, but made it! The tour took a total of 2 hours and was filled with great facts and lovely views! It even had a Loch Ness detector.



They said this was a lighthouse…
Urquhart by boat
We used the camera as binoculars at times. This time, Garrett was actually taking pictures, though!


Our next stop was to explore the grounds of Urquhart Castle after seeing the outside by boat. We drove along the loch. Before touring the grounds, we stopped at the Nessie Cafe and had yummy sandwiches.

Urquhart Castle may seem like a bunch of ruins, and you may be tempted to skip it completely while in Scotland. DON’T! It ended up being Garrett’s favorite part of the whole trip and both of our’s favorite castle.


The castle is rich with history and has just enough standing to be able to imagine it in it’s glory days. Besides age, the castle is mostly in ruins because it’s last resident blew it up. You see, Urquhart was prone to raids by the McDonald clan and others. So, on the last of the raids, the owner fled, and blew the castle up as he left. Pretty crazy, right?


The great thing about this castle, is you can go everywhere. Nothing is off limits, and fabulous views surround you. Plus you can walk down to the loch and dip your toes in. After dipping his hand in the loch, Garrett claimed he had Nessie pee on him which was pretty cool. I married a goober!


While we would have stayed at Urquhart longer, we had to get to the next castle of the day–Eilean Donan. After purchasing a souvenir painting, we headed on. We did stop along the way at some cool scenery. It was different than other places we’d seen.


We also came across feral goats! I saw a sign that said look out for them, and just got out of my mouth, “I hope we see one!” Then, their they were! I was so excited I failed to get a quality photo, but as you can tell, they are hairy and have huge horns!


The best way to describe Eilean Donan was beautiful on the outside and weird inside. Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, and rightly so. Just look at it:


Inside, though, is a bit difference. Part of the oddity is that the castle was almost completely rebuilt in 1912 by the family who owned it. Inside was therefore, an odd mix of the 20’s, medieval, and a family home. While certainly not what I expected, it was still neat. They didn’t allow photography inside, so I don’t have any photos to show you of that.


It was now time to finally be on our way to the Isle of Skye. Wow, is all I have to say. We knew that Skye was supposed to be beautiful. It did not disappoint. These photos were taken just on the drive in! Wait until you see the next day.


We checked into the Portree Hotel. Super cute place in the middle of town.DSC_0699

The room was itty bitty, but beyond quaint and cozy. We walked across the road to the Cafe where we enjoyed a great meal of pork meatloaf with tomato spicy cream and fish and chips. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip.


We finished it all off with ice cream and a walk around town and the harbor.


We retired for the night to dream of castles and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.


  1. We would highly recommend the Portree Hotel, but know that they don’t have a lift up to your room. It wasn’t an issue for us, but it may be for others.
  2. Personally, I would choose to pay to see Urquhart and not Eilean Donan, but that’s just my opinion.
  3. If you decide to go on a Jacobite Cruise, look up the docks before the morning of. They are not always recognized by the GPS. Refer to a good old fashioned map.
  4. Highland Cows are pronounced Coos. We had fun saying that.


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!


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!






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!





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.





Our Proposal Story

“I’ve fallen in love with adventures, so I begin to wonder if that’s why I’ve fallen for you.” -E. Grin

A week ago today,  I went on an adventure. Little did I know that my kayaking adventure to Bear Island would lead me to a new adventure all together.

Garrett and I had been planning a trip to Bear Island for months. We would kayak the sound and explore the island. Unfortunately, life got in the way with me working and him trying to finish his thesis, so it kept getting postponed. We finally decided that we’d go on May 3rd.

Thank goodness we decided to go on May 3rd. I had just told myself a few days before that if I couldn’t propose to Marisa by the second week in May I was throwing the perfect proposal plan out the window. I was gonna propose to that girl no matter what, even if that was in her driveway!

The days leading up to the 3rd, I kept asking Garrett if he was sure he was ok to go. I knew his thesis was stressing him out, and it wasn’t turned in yet. The night before we left, he texted saying that he had sent it in! “Great! Now we can celebrate by kayaking,” I said.

Garrett picked me up and we headed to the coast. We talked the whole way there and stopped at McDonalds for brunch. Once at Hammocks Beach State Park, we packed our kayaks, put sunscreen on (him more than me), and launched into the sound. It was an absolutely perfect day—sunny, but not too hot, breezy, but not to where we struggled paddling. It was a made to order kind of day. It took us 1.5 hours to reach the island. Bear Island has a sound side and ocean side. We kayaked the sound side, but when we landed, we walked to the beach side.

On our walk down the beach, we found jelly fish, sand dollars, and plenty of seashells. We laid out towels,  and ate some snacks. I fell asleep on the beach, but woke up after a while.

Meanwhile Marisa is sleeping. I’m racking my brain trying to find and excuse to get Marisa to stand up. Gosh this is proving difficult… Wait, I’ll just ask her to take some more pictures; she loves pictures. That will make her stand up!

Garrett asked if I wanted to take a few more pictures at the beach. So, I got up, and we snapped some selfies. We then just stood looking at the view. The following conversation then occurred:

Garrett: It’s been a pretty perfect day don’t you think?

Marisa: you are pretty perfect and so are we.

Garrett: Well, you know what would make this day even more perfect?

*Garrett drops to one knee

Marisa: No, no, no, no (note this is a “no way I can’t believe this is happening” vibe not my answer. I’m also known to respond to major declarations in a bad way….more on that later)

Garrett: If you would make me the happiest man alive and be my wife, Marisa Linton, will you marry me?

Marisa: YES!!


That is all I remember of the conversation. I was crying and shaking at this point. He gave me the ring, but I had to give it back because I was shaking too hard to put it on. After that, I kind of just hugged him for a solid 10 minutes trying to compose myself. I was shocked. I never thought he would risk taking a ring on a kayak!


One of the first full sentences Marisa was able to form after I asked her to marry me was “How the heck are you so dang calm?!” To which I replied “If only you knew how long I had been planning on doing this. I am just so glad that all of this finally came together like I had planned.”

He then told me all the secrets he had been keeping from me to pull this off. Poor guy had been trying to do this since early March. I didn’t help either. I asked to reschedule our trip once…I might not have done that had I known I was going to get proposed to!

She canceled on my proposal plans! Can you believe that the love of my life cancelled on me asking to marry her!!! Who would have saw that coming!


One of the secrets was that he hadn’t turned in his thesis. He said he did so I wouldn’t reschedule again. Sheepishly he asked if he could finish it up in the car and stop somewhere with WiFi to turn it in. So, that’s what we did. After kayaking back the 2 miles, (with the ring now my responsibility) we packed up, rinsed off, changed sat in the truck.  I called my parents, who apparently already knew this was happening. I also told Alec who at first didn’t believe me and had to get confirmation from Garrett. He then screamed with excitement. While I called folks, Garrett worked on his thesis. I also was discovering that as Garrett put it, I was Lady Lobster. Oops…. I may never learn.

We went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse and drove back home to show off my new bling. Speaking of bling, let me take this moment to brag on Garrett’s jewelry picking skills. He has always done really good at picking jewelry for me over the years, but the ring he picked is amazing!! I love the setting and oval. He picked it all himself too. He’s also basically an expert in diamonds now. And me, well I stare at it a lot.


We then went to my house where I broke the news to anyone who didn’t know and showed off my ring. I was also filled in on some behind the scenes activities. For example, Garrett asked Daddy’s permission months ago over lunch. I knew they had eaten lunch together, but I thought Garrett had to go meet his internship people who work near Dad. Apparently that wasn’t a thing. He just needed an excuse to talk to Dad. Mom and Dad never let on and had  super good poker faces. Sneaky people I tell you.

And with that, I had a fiancé, a sparkly ring, and a new adventure to go on. We are so, so excited for this. I have had to pinch myself several times. It’s real, though. I get to marry my best friend and go on the greatest adventure!


For those who don’t know how Garrett and I met and started dating, here is a very condensed version:

I had no idea the guy sitting in front of me was the guy I was going to marry!

It really started in high school. We’d compete against each other in livestock skillathon and judging contests (I’d typically beat him).  After one contest, Garrett approached me and struck up a conversation about who had more ribbons.


Later that week, he reached out on Facebook to ask if I’d be showing at State Fair so he had a chance to redeem himself. From then on, we would talk. Ironically, though, I thought he was just being friendly, and he thought I was just being nice. Clearly, we weren’t good at flirting. We were good at talking, though. It was never awkward with Garrett. It was always natural.

Fast forward to freshman year of college. We both kind of did our thing. He was at NCSU and I was at Campbell. I dated someone briefly but Garrett and I would still talk. Freshman year passed, and the summer of 2012 came. Both of us were single and started talking more seriously. We’d hang out at 4-H events, but I had the hardest time getting him to go with me to a movie or hang out outside of an event. Our first date was at the Smithfield movie theater. We went the whole fall competing against each other in the hog showmanship circuit.


It wouldn’t be until October 21st 2012, that he’d ask me out. We had spent the day kayaking and watching movies. In the driveway at my house, he asked if I wanted to make things official. I said yes. A week later he’d say I love you, but my answer was “why.” Awful I know. The guy flustered me, though. It had only been a week. It’s ok, though I said it back after he gave me reasons why. The rest is history. We’ve gone on dozens of day trips, spent a whole summer without seeing each other, gotten to know each other, had tough conversations, and fallen in love.




We started our friendship with livestock and still bond over it. We started our relationship with kayaking, and now we have started our engagement with kayaks. I know everyone has a great love story, but I really, really love ours. It has always proven to be an adventure, and I’d have it no other way.


“Love is meant to be an adventure.”—Gordon Hinckley

Linton Family | VA Beach

On our recent spring break trip to Virginia beach, we had a photo shoot at First Landing State Park. The original plan was to take beach pictures, but alas, my vision of sunset beach pictures were thwarted by awful wind. So, we regrouped the next day and found a much less windy location. Mom always likes to get annual pictures to update her wall in the living room, and we always have a good time while taking the pictures.



Behind the Scenes


When you date a livestock person

When you date someone, there are typical things that you might do with them. You probably go out to eat, watch a movie, go shopping, take a walk….you know the normal stuff. However, when you date someone in the livestock world, the normal is a bit different.

An ideal date may be to a livestock show or sale

A barn full of animals, shavings, dust and manure may not sound the most romantic, but for a livestock couple, it’s perfect. Because, let’s face it, the best thing in life, after our significant other, is livestock. So, when you can combine livestock and your special person, it’s a good night. Not to mention you get to see that particular pair of jeans and boots on your signficant other…swoon.


The biggest arguments are over livestock

You go to a livestock sale. You set a budget. You FINALLY agree on an animal. The animal goes over the budget. You look at each other. One of you says no, the other keeps bidding. They win the bid. You can’t stay mad long because you got the animal. OR there are those arguments about what breed is better, how best to feed, or how a class should be placed.


Couple pictures may or may not have an animal in them

Let’s be real– a pig or sheep or other animal will always enhance the photo. The only problem is getting everyone to cooperate in the picture.



Your love story started with livestock

Whether you met as fierce competitors in the show ring or were on the same livestock judging team, you can thank livestock for bringing you together.


You bond over chores…especially the gross ones

Before going on a “normal” date there are often chores to be done… feeding animals, scooping poop, medicating, etc. The trick is not to get smelly, but if you do, it’s no matter. Your significant other won’t care.


Dating a livestock person can be a bit different than a typical relationship, call me biased, but I think it is ideal.

*Personal Note: After 4 years of dating a livestock person, I’ve experienced every one of these things and more. We started talking after I got a Facebook message saying “hey, are you showing at State Fair? I need to redeem myself after you beat me in skillathon.” We have gone from eyeing each other in the show ring to so much more. We’ve shoveled poop together, traveled many miles to pick up new stock, and have had some arguments over animals. The best part, though, is we share a passion…a passion in livestock.

Unintentionally matching at the NC State Fair Goat Show


Livestock Lesson–What Picking Out a Show Pig Teaches a Kid

Once again, there are pigs in the building…or barn that is. We picked up two gilts from See Farms, and are so excited. I mean just look at that face!


Picking out livestock is always a learning experience. As the boys have gotten older, I have tried to give them more responsibilities with their show animals. So, this year, I decided to give them a little more freedom in picking out their show pigs. I had already picked the two I thought were the best, but I told them they could look around and see if there was something they liked better.

They’d stare at the pen full of pigs, and discuss between themselves what they thought. Then, they’d point out one to me. I always ask them why. Why that one? Shrugged shoulders and “I don’t knows” are not an option. They also know that the pigs color or cute factor doesn’t qualify as a solid reason either. After they give me their reasons, I’ll say what I think. They also made sure to get Garrett and Dr. See’s opinion as well. We would all point out different pros and cons to the various pigs.


After much deliberation, they decided to go with the two pigs I had originally picked out, but they had reasons for picking them now too.dsc_0922


When we got home, they asked me questions about the good and bad parts of their pigs. I love that they are asking questions, and growing in their skills, knowledge, and responsibilities. They are doing more chores than ever, and make an effort to research about their projects.

They haven’t mastered it all yet, but I love how they are always looking to learn more. Showing livestock isn’t just about the ribbons; it’s about the lessons. Even if they don’t judge livestock in the future, they have learned to analyze a situation, reasearch, ask questions, and seek advice. And, that I think is more important than picking a good pig to win (although we are confident that we picked some good ones).

Most livestock lessons don’t happen in the ring. They happen beforehand…in the barns and homes of the stock show families. Those lessons made me into who I am today, and they continue to impact kids all over.

I can’t wait to see what lessons they boys will learn with their new pigs–Violet and Chickadee.





Brooks & Jennifer | Engagement Session

Meet Brooks and Jennifer…the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. Phillips. They met at college and will graduate in May. Brooks is set to be a full-time youth pastor, and Jennifer plans to teach. These two are total goofballs with each other, and I love that! It was a touch chilly (snow fell the following day), but these guys were naturals in front of the camera. Needless to say it was a fun shoot!

I am so excited to share with you these photos. Jennifer and I have been friends for a long time (we were both homeschooled and went to the same church), so I was ecstatic to be able to take her engagement photos.

The Details: Jennifer’s ring was once her grandmother’s and the quilt in the pictures was made by her other grandmother. It was very special to have those family momentums in such a special event as an engagement. We took their pictures at Historic Yates Mill Park in Raleigh. At the end of the shoot, Jennifer asked me to be her bridesmaids. Brooks and Jennifer will wed on May 27!