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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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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When it Rains: Weather Causes Challenges for Hog Farmers

For many in the world, rain is simply an inconvenience. Umbrellas go up, feet get wet, traffic gets worse, plans get ruined. It is just plain gross.

For some though, rain devastates. We all know that a lack of rain can ruin crops. We have all heard of farmers praying for rain, but there are also the days where farmers are praying for it to stop.

Recently, it rained, and rained…and rained some more. I had two flooded pastures, and the sheep had to wade puddles that were more like rivers to get to a dry pen. I was beyond ankle deep in mud. It frustrated me, but there wasn’t a thing to be done… well except transfer the sheep. I realized that for us, though, the rain and muck was an inconvenience. It was a bigger inconvenience than someone who doesn’t live on a farm, but compared to what my dad was dealing with, it was just an inconvenience.

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An example of the standing water we had on the farm

Dad is an environmental manager for several hog farms. His job is to oversee the management of the land on the farms, the lagoons (containing area for hog waste), and all waste treatment from the pigs. In short he manages dirt, poop, and crops…with people.

Examples of some of his duties include managing innovative growing and harvesting bio-mass (e.g. miscanthis, sorghum, etc.) for bio-fuels. He oversees how land renters are managing that piece of land. He also monitors lagoon levels at multiple hog farms. Lagoons cannot rise to a certain level. This is why the waste (aka manure) is pumped out and used as fertilizer on crops. It is a great way farms use resources. They can’t pump this waste on the land flippantly, though. They follow strict guidelines and regulations set forth by the state. Dad makes sure they follow these regulations.

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Pumping on hay fields for fertilizer

One of his biggest enemies, is rain. I remember as a little girl seeing how stressed he was because of a heavy rain. Why is it a stresser? Well, rain can fill up lagoons and make them rise over acceptable levels if not managed. Managing the levels take place with proactive measures by pumping when it is sunny and the crops can soak it all up. They also occur in the midst of the rain. Sometimes, no matter how proactive farmers are, Mother Nature will not cooperate. She just keeps on pounding the rain.

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A low level lagoon

Can they just pump in the rain on the wet ground? Absolutely not! Can they throw up their hands and say oh well? Nope! They work overtime. They haul in tankers to haul the waste away to keep the lagoon level down. This is expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Add this stress onto the fact that if they ever hit a high level, they have to report it to the state. If they have a spill, they get fined. There is major stress trying to protect the environment, abide by regulations, and fighting Mother Nature.

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During Christmas, it rained. My dad was on the phone a lot, making calls, making decisions, and making the drive to the farm that was 45 minutes away to monitor it. There was the potential that he was going to have to call his guys and say you have to work on Christmas. Is pig poop so important that he would have to take men away from their families on Christmas? It is when it rains. It is when they are looking at rising levels, fines, and damages. It is important because if they ignore it, they fail, and they hurt their community. So, like the majority of individuals who farm, they go out in the rain, and on Christmas if needed.

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Pumping on sunny days is a proactive way to manage for rainy days.

Takeaway: Lagoons are in the news a lot as a pollutant and farmers are portrayed as the polluters who willfully ruin the environment. The truth, though is they work very hard to protect it. My dad has been an environmental manager for more than 15 years. He is the kind of guy who when given too much change, he returns it. If he returns a couple of dollars, don’t you think he would follow regulations, and safeguard the environment even at the expense of blowing his budget and working on holidays? I do. I’ve seen it for almost two decades.

This post is Dad approved.

NC State Fair: Part 1–Pigs

The NC State Fair has already come and gone.  It was quite the whirlwind, but held a lot of special moments. For me, it marked a lot of bittersweet moments. This was the last year I was able to show in the junior show (21 years old and under). While this doesn’t mean I have to give up showing period, it does mean I can no longer do showmanship. I suppose I have to retire at some point. 🙂

I decided to do a series of posts for each day of the fair. Part 1 covers the pig show. We weighed them in on a Thursday, and showed them early on Friday. Alec, Isaac, Gideon, and I all stayed at a nearby hotel to make sure we could be at the fair in time to show. Traffic gets really bad from our house to the fair, adding 30-45 minutes to travel time. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Papa came up that morning, but enough of those details. It is time to give the results of the pig show.

Gideon had an amazing hog circuit season. He won Champion Novice Showmanship and the belt buckle to go with it. He and another showman tied for the award, and Gid won the tie because he had attended more shows. The duo flopped places, and Gideon got Reserve Champion Novice Showman at the State Fair! I was super stoked for him. He and his pig, Nilla, were a dream team and worked so well together. I love watching Gideon show because he is so intense… sometimes too intense. For a 9 year old, though, he could beat some of the older kids!

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DSC_0553Watching Isaac show is completely different than Gideon. Isaac is laid back and oh so chill. Despite the style difference, he also won a belt buckle in the circuit in the junior division. This is a tough category, because he is 10 and is up against 13 and 14 year olds, but he won! At the fair, he made the cut, and was so close to getting placed. Making the cut was major in itself, though. There was double the kids compared to the circuit shows. He and Legalus, his pig, did so good! Legalus got 3rd place in his market class, and won first place born an bred.

DSC_0611Isaac has been dying to show a red pig, so he was super excited to help another showman out and show his red pig.

DSC_0617I loved watching Alec, and his pig, Gus show. Alec really enjoyed showing Gus-Gus, but they’d butt heads at times. Ultimately, Alec won 3rd in the senior division of the circuit. He also made the cut at the fair. All during the pig shows, Alec struggled finding the perfect height to stand while showing. I think he finally found the right bend.

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He and Gideon ended up in the same market class together. They literally went head to head. Alec and Gus won 5th and Gid and Nilla won 6th.

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As for me, I drove Alice into my last showmanship class. There were 4 of us in the senior plus category. I don’t know why, but I was super duper nervous. There are few times I remember being that nervous. I finally got my nerves under control and entered the ring, only to have the judge ask me the ear notch of my barrow before I had taken 3 steps. “Ummm… 4-6 notch, but this is a gilt, not a barrow.” He nodded and I walked on. I couldn’t help but think if it was ok to correct the judge. Too late now. After driving Alice for a bit, the judge asked each of us to get on the microphone and give a little speech. I don’t remember all that I said except for we should thank farmers 3 times a day every time we eat. Thank goodness for my communication major!

10172015 138I went back to showing Alice. At this point she is getting super cranky, and I am convinced I’m done.

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The judge began to announce the winners, and said the “the lady in the red plaid will be our winner.” Is that me? I’m wearing pink. I quickly looked around to see if there was another in red. No one was wearing red. It was just a color label mix-up! After over a decade, I had won the elusive belt buckle (stay tuned for a separate post on this). I was beyond excited. What a way to finish!

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Alice got 9th in her gilt class. Unfortunately, she had twisted something, and was limping, so didn’t get around too good.

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After the show, we went out and got fair food!

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10172015 174Before going any further, I want to thank Mom, Dad, Grandma and Papa for all they do in supporting us. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do any of what we do. They opened the door to the opportunities that have become my passion.

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The next day, we went and fed the pigs. Alec and I went to a banquet where we were recognized for receiving a NC State Fair Youth Livestock Scholarship.

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As I was looking through pictures, I noticed a theme–butts. I couldn’t resist sharing.

Candid pictures are always the best, and I couldn’t help but include many of them here.

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And that, dear friends, is a wrap for the pig show. I’m not responsible for any sudden urges to go and eat a ton of bacon. 😉

A Farm of the Future: Butler Farms

Most hog farms involve a few common key aspects. There is typically a dirt path that leads to hog houses aligned in a row. There are lagoons (waste pits), fields, pumping reels, employees, and of course, pigs! However, I recently visited a hog farm that was a little bit different. It had all the “normals” I would expect in a hog farm– the farmer, pigs, and poop– but there were a few additions too. It wasn’t typical, and yet again it was. The best adjective I could find is futuristic.

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My day started with a drive through my alma mater, Campbell University (always a good day to go through camel country) and then on  deeper into Harnett County. I came upon my destination–Butler Farms. Following a long dirt path, rows of hog houses came into view on top of a hill overlooking a field. I pulled in and was greeted by Mr. Tom Butler, the owner of the ten-barn finishing farm.

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Originally tobacco farmers, the Butlers decided to build a hog farm. Recognizing the potential for incorporating new technologies on the farm, the Butlers began to research the color green — a greener way of pork production, that is.

In 2008, the first lagoon cover was installed; a second one was added later. One of the biggest tasks for hog farmers is managing lagoons, especially during wet weather. Lagoon levels naturally increase with the occurrence of precipitation, but lagoon covers help reduce the amount of precipitation that ends up in the lagoons, allowing for more manageable levels. The water that falls on top of the covers can simply be pumped onto crops. Not only do the covers reduce the stress of high lagoon levels, they also reduce 85% of the farm odor. If that isn’t awesome enough, it can also double as a type of trampoline…well sort of. You can walk on top of the cover, which is pretty cool, and yes, I walked on it!

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A covered lagoon
A covered lagoon

Working in conjunction with the lagoon covers is a digester. The digester stirs waste from the lagoons and builds up bio-gas methane that is then converted into electricity! Pipes take the methane from the digester into a building that houses an engine that runs a 180 KW gen-set. This engine utilizes the methane as its fuel to power the gen-set which produces electricity  that is used to power the farm.

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In addition to the methane run gen-set, Mr. Butler has also installed solar panels to add to the electricity production. The farm produces enough electricity to not only run the farm, but to also provide excess electricity which can then be sold to South River Electric Membership Cooperation.

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A final section of the farm is the composter. On a farm, it is inevitable that death occurs. On the Butler farm, any mortality is sent to the composter to be turned into fertilizer. The compost is mixed with wood chips to make the fertilizer that is spread on the fields.

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edit9To keep the fertilizer as nutrient rich as possible, it must be kept at a specific temperature. Anything higher than 160 degrees, and the fertilizer will begin to lose nutrients, so keeping a steady temperature is imperative. This is accomplished with air that is circulated through pipes at the bottom of the pile of fertilizer. Not much goes to waste on the Butler farm.

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Part of the machinery that runs the air flow in the composter
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The control panel that manages the air flow in the composter

Of course, I couldn’t walk away from the farm without seeing some of the 7,800 pigs on the property. After all, they are my favorite farm animal, not to mention the money-makers. For the Butlers, they are not only the  bacon, but they are the “poopers” that make bio-energy.

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So, there you have  a virtual tour of Butler Farms. What you haven’t seen yet is the passion behind the technology.
I spoke with Mr. Butler about his farm and why he wanted to incorporate so much technology. He shared with me that his motto is “A green farm for a green future.” It doesn’t take long to identify Mr. Butler’s dedication to following his motto. To couple with his desire to be green is his passion for science and technology. I had to frequently stop a discussion to ask questions about some complicated concept , but Mr. Butler knew the ins and outs of it all.

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Mr. Butler was able to implement much of his technology through grants. He is a huge advocate of installing lagoon covers and other technological advances in other farms across the state. He hopes to see a day when his farm is not the future but the norm, and he never skips an opportunity to share his knowledge and ideas with others. Mr. Butler is very open to visitors and tours of his farm. University groups have spent a great deal of time at his farm running experiments, and he has spoken with and given farm tours to politicians, international persons, and various organizations.
The Butlers hope to one day see more farms across North Carolina and the nation implement similar technologies; however, it will take time. These new ideas are not perfect and are costly, but they hold much promise. Mr. Butler is dedicated to constantly improving. He researches a great deal and is already making plans for further improvements.
Butler Farms, in many ways, is a typical hog farm. The name of the game is pigs and poop, and doing that responsibly and well. However, Butler Farms is more than typical. They are innovative and, dare I say, futuristic.

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I truly enjoyed my time at Butler Farms learning about the technology, walking on a lagoon, and talking pigs in the farm office. A huge thank you to Mr. Butler, his son Will, and the rest of the crew at the farm for sharing their time with me.

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Tom Butler is left and Will Butler is right

As I drove back down the dirt path to leave the farm, it started to rain. I couldn’t help but think of the technology that would provide a barrier between the rain and those lagoons.

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NC Purebred Swine Family Reunion

On August 22, the North Carolina Purebred Swine Family Reunion took place where I was able to catch a glimpse of decades of work that not only made North Carolina’s hog industry better, but forged lifetime friendships, created lasting memories, and instilled a great sense of pride and accomplishment in those involved.

DSC_0074The Family Reunion is a time for those involved in the purebred industry to come together and reminisce. Many of those in attendance were a part of the North Carolina Swine Evaluation Station that operated from 1973-1994, and was headed up by Dr. Bob Jones. It was here that performance testing was conducted that has had a lasting impact on today’s hog industry.

Dr. Bob Jones
Dr. Bob Jones

Many stories were told about the “good old days” at the evaluation station–stories of record breaking boars, stories of camaraderie, and stories filled with good humor. The pride of those who had played a part in the station was evident as they spoke. Over 7,000 boars were evaluated during the 21 years with a percentage of those boars selling for a revenue of over $1.8 million. 120 breeders participated in the program during its lifespan.

The afternoon also consisted of a moment of silence for those who had passed away since the last reunion and a catered meal. North Carolina Pork Council CEO, Deborah Johnson, and NCSU Animal Science Department Head, Dr. Todd See, spoke on the industry and recent trips to China that gave insight into international pork production. Dr. Bob Jones, former NCSU Extension animal husbandry specialist also spoke about the research station and all of his fond memories. Ron Hughes, former NC Swine Evaluation Station manager wrapped up the reunion.

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Ron Hughes

It was a wonderful afternoon filled with heritage, friendships, and of course, pigs!

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Farm Family Hits Rough Waters with Activist Groups

Family: An Anchor during rough waters

There are bad things in life that happen to good people, and it is completely unfair. Yet out of the depths of bad and unfairness, strength and grace arise to the surface.

Over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of getting to know the Taylor family. After several e-mails, they invited me to come to their home and talk with them about their story. It was the youngest Taylor’s first birthday, and it was a privilege to be able to take a peek into this special family’s life.

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Front, L to R:  Brooke, Ivy, Halle, Kinsleigh, Chase, and Mrs. Annie Back, L to R:  Kevin, Jason, Angie, Johnnie, Tara, Sheila, Preston, and Mr. Donnie

Donnie and Annie Taylor live in Pink Hill, North Carolina. Married in June of 1968, the couple began their life on the family farm. Donnie graduated from North Carolina State University Agriculture Institute (Go Wolfpack!!).

They had three children– Johnnie, Sheila, and Jason– who are now married and have children of their own. Johnnie, and his wife Tara, have a 5-year old daughter named Halle. Sheila married Preston Sutton, and they have a 9-year old son, Chase and a daughter, Kinsleigh, who is 6. Jason and his wife, Angie, have two daughters, Ivy who is 9, and 6-year old Brooke . They also have a son named Kevin who just turned 1. Johnnie and Jason both work on the family farm with their dad, Donnie, and Sheila works in oncology clinical trials. The whole family spends a lot of time together. They all go to the same church, cook out together, and are big fans of Jenga. They constantly work together as a team, whether they are working on the farm, or tag-teaming to get all the cousins to their many activities. It doesn’t take long to see the bond they share between each other, poking fun at each other, and even finishing one another’s sentences. If they don’t sound great enough already (I mean, NC State alumni, food lovers, and super nice…you can’t go wrong), they are also a farm family.

Donnie and Annie have been farming for 47 years. Throughout that time, they have worked hard to create a farm for their family’s future. They started off with row crops, and in the 90’s, they built three hog finishing houses, later adding 8 chicken houses in the 2000’s. Their oldest son Johnnie manages this farm. In 2010, they made the decision to expand their farm by purchasing a hog farm about 25 miles away that included 14 finishing houses, 6 nursery houses, and over 200 acres. Apart from being a good deal, they chose to buy this farm in an effort to provide the opportunity for their youngest son Jason to come back home to farm. Even though the farm needed cleaning up, they were excited for this chance. Donnie could wind down and retire, while his two sons took over their respective farms.

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Mrs. Annie and Mr. Donnie have farmed all of their life.

I wish with all my heart I could stop their story there. I wish I could tell you they did a “farm flip” that everyone loved. I wish I could say they are looking forward to many more great years of farming. I wish I could, but I can’t. You see, behind this smiling family that loves Jenga and cookouts, is something devastating and heartbreaking. I suppose every good story has a villain or some sort of tragedy that must be conquered, and I suppose this is one of those stories.

Just 29 days after closing on the farm in 2010 and a few days before Christmas, Mrs. Annie received a phone call. It was a reporter asking what her response was about the intent to sue she had from the Waterkeeper Alliance, Neuse River Keepers, and North Carolina Environmental Justice Network . In this way, the Taylors discovered that environmental activist groups had filed an intent to sue against the farm the Taylors had just purchased less than a month before.

Being told you are being sued is something I can only imagine. When I think lawsuit, I think of the lady who burned herself on the McDonald’s coffee– not this, and yet here it is. The Taylors were sued for violating the Clean Water Act because of accusations of being irresponsible with the hog waste from the farm.

*For those who do not know, most hog farms house their pigs in large barns. The floors of the barns have small slats in them so the pig poop can fall through and be flushed into a pit called a lagoon. These lagoons are lined and have to meet special regulations. Part of those regulations are to keep them at certain levels. This is done through pumping. Special machinery pumps the hog waste, a.k.a. fertilizer, onto crops. This also involves regulations. No pumping is allowed if it has just rained as this will cause run-off into ditches and waterways. While it may sound super gross to have a “poop pond” it provides crucial fertilizer for plants.

If you remember, this suit happened within 29 days of buying the farm. The Taylors had to do a lot wrong in such a short amount of time, but the thing was, they hadn’t. They had not even pumped yet when the lawsuit was announced. They knew the farm needed some work, but they were willing to do that themselves. They decided to sit down with the groups who had filed the intent to sue and find out 1) what they had done and 2)what the groups wanted them to do. At the mediation, they were told to get a lawyer. The groups stated they had enough evidence to bring them to court that day.

The Taylors were taken aback, but still shared with the environmental groups the 5-year plan they had set up that showed how they planned to fix the farm; however, it didn’t matter. The lawsuit persisted.

Fast forward to today… 5 years later. Since the day they found out about the lawsuit, it has seemed that the family has been in a constant state of rough waters, but they have continued to plow through their daily life (no pun intended).

a3They have cleaned up the farm by mowing around the hog houses, hired someone to haul 5 tractor trailer loads of trash from an open dump that the previous owners left, and repaired parts of the farm that had become run down. Many have noticed the improvements on the farm to the point that neighboring farms have gotten the family to include their land (a total of 500 additional acres) in their waste management plan (a plan that maps out where they will apply the hog waste). Neighbors have told them what a good job they are doing.

“Everyone wants cheap food, and I think we do a really outstanding job of that here,” said Mr. Donnie.

a5I visited the farm and was impressed myself with how pretty it was. The farm is down a dead end road. If you can imagine over 200 acres surrounded by trees, planted with tall corn, hog barns on a hill, and a dirt path to reach it all, it sounds pretty picturesque.

a1Apart from making the farm pretty, they have also had many officials test their facilities to make sure there was not any environmental damage occurring. The farm has been inspected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Division of Water Quality (DWQ), and Carl Dunn, a state engineer; all have found the farm to be in great working order, with no violations occurring. The Waterkeeper Alliance was even allowed on the farm by a judge on four separate occasions to take soil, water, and lagoon samples. They were even allowed to enter the hog barns. I’d like to stop here, and express how upsetting this is. Farms are an extension of a person’s home. They are where they work day in and day out. It is where memories and lessons are learned. Can you imagine people coming onto your property (after accusing you of something), taking “evidence” and then actually going into your house when the supposed “crime” happened outside? It is tough. Compound that with the fact that the hog industry is facing a lot of disease right now, and introducing people is a bio-security hazard that may spread even more disease. I, for one, would be turning 50 shades of red, having to watch it occur. Not only that, but the activist groups fly over the farm multiple times a week, often flying very low. They also go up to the gate of the farm to take pictures. A family lives at the gate entrance of the farm (they also work on the farm), and they have to endure the constant cameras and planes at their home, and there is nothing that the families can do about it.

“You think you have a lot of rights. You think you can keep them off your property. You cannot,” said Mr. Donnie.

I should note here that despite being on the farm 4 separate times and being inspected more times than that, there has yet to be any evidence that shows the Taylors have violated any regulations. This is perhaps the most frustrating part of it all. While the activist groups are searching for evidence against the Taylors, the family is having to pay 5 year’s worth of legal fees plus deal with the emotional stress of it all. As Jason put it, “We are guilty until proven innocent.” To show just how much the activist groups are searching for any kind of evidence, the Environmental Justice League backed out of the lawsuit because they felt there was a lack of evidence.

The Waterkeeper Alliance won’t tell the family what they want. They won’t say what they want changed.

“They’ve given us nothing that they really want. There is no way to fix it. You’re just in limbo,” said Mrs. Annie.

Mr. Donnie added, “They won’t give you an answer back. They won’t meet with you or talk to you.”

It is terribly frustrating to want to mediate and want to put it behind them, but are not allowed to. The Taylors would love to mediate and fix anything that is wrong, but they first have to be presented with that.

“The thing that bothers me most, is where are the facts? Give me the facts. Show me that I’m ruining the environment. You know?” said Johnnie.

a8More than this, if there was something wrong that was causing environmental damage, would it not make sense to go ahead and fix it rather than drag a lawsuit out for years? The Waterkeeper Alliance had been watching and investigating this farm 3 years prior to the Taylors buying it. For a total of 8 years, these so-called environmentalists have been making plenty of accusations but doing nothing to make a difference. Would it not make more sense to work with farmers, rather than tear them down? I understand that there should be consequences for violators, but I also think a helping hand goes a lot farther than a slap in the face. It makes it worse that the Taylors haven’t done anything–insult to injury. In my opinion, the real environmentalists are the Taylors. They are the ones who have fixed anything wrong with the farm with their hard-earned money. They invited people to inspect them. They have a passion for the environment. When I was visiting with them, they showed me countless photos of bear, turkeys, and deer on their farm. They are avid fishermen, hunters, and outdoorsmen.

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IMG_20130405_163453_288Get this…. at little Kevin’s party (which the Taylors so graciously invited me to) his cake was a fish cake! Do they seem like big bad polluters to you? I didn’t think so.

a12The lawsuit is not the only thing (I know give these folks a break for Pete’s sake!). Hurricane Irene blew through 10 months after buying the farm. This took some of the barn roofs with it. It, along with all the other wet summers did nothing for the efforts in keeping the lagoons at a low level. There were times where they had to hire honey wagons (trucks that haul the waste away) to keep the levels low. This cost over $100,000. In addition, Mr. Donnie has had to have a pacemaker. The stress has not helped his health.

The last five years have been extraordinarily hard.

“We are just small, simple-minded people that have worked all of our life to try to have something. You know, right or wrong, that’s all we’ve done. We’ve worked hard for it. No one has given it to us, and for them to come along and if they would just say ‘hey this is what we want you to do, we would have done it,” Mrs. Annie said through tears.

They live with it every day, working harder than ever, even though they still may lose the farm.

“You still have to go to work. You still have to do everything you always did, knowing, that hey, you worked all your life for this to try and support your family and help everyone along and now it comes to this,” Mr. Donnie said.

a6More than costing them sleep, it has also cost them major bucks. Legal fees have cost them over $600,000 on top of the costs it took for them to repair the farm. The family has now had to file bankruptcy, and the lawsuit continues. They aren’t sure if they will have a home next year and may even lose the entire farm. This weight is evident:

“We filed bankruptcy. We still can’t get away from it. We still might have to fight this case, and it is going to take everything we got. We’ve been married 47 years, and it is going to take everything we got, and it’s just not right. I feel like I have pulled a 5 year sentence…for nothing. I feel like I’ve been in prison, and every day I get up I feel like I am bound. I can’t get released from it. It’s just not fair, and I know life isn’t supposed to be fair all the time, you know?” said Mrs. Annie.

They have recently started a Go Fund Me account to help them cover the legal costs. If you would be gracious enough, I know they would love any help you could give them. You can go here to donate:

http://www.gofundme.com/saveabaconfarm

In addition to donating, you can also become aware and spread this story. Unfortunately, the Taylors are not the first to endure such troubles with the activist groups.

The Taylors are a family, much like yours or mine. Mrs. Annie loves being a Nana to all of the grandkids.

grandsThe whole family is involved in their local church, as well as their community. Despite this lawsuit, they manage to laugh and find reasons to smile.

“We do all we can for as long as we can. It doesn’t cost much to get together as a family, so that is what we do. We will be fine. We have three kids we can rotate living between if we have to,” joked Mrs. Annie.

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This storm will pass, but in the meantime, family is what anchors them during these rough waters.

Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale–We Are No Longer Pig-less!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen where Alec and I traveled 1,200 miles and photographed/videoed 85 pigs at 12 farms all across the state for the Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale. We did it within 5 days and it was quite the adventure. Honestly, though, I loved it! After hours of editing videos and photos, they were posted on the online portion of the sale through Willoughby Sales. All there was left was to wait for the sale.

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Alec and I both planned on buying a pig at the sale. We had each picked out our favorites and set budgets for ourselves. I was stoked. When we arrived at the sale, I was excited to see so many people there. This was the inaugural sale, and I wanted it to do well. Because there was an online portion, there would be bidders both on the grounds and over the internet. It was a big deal for NC show pigs. As far as I know, this was the first of its kind in the state. There was free food, free t-shirts for buyers, and a lot of great folks.

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The problem with sales is you have to be strategic. I had 3 pigs picked out that I was interested in, but my favorite one was later in the sale line up. I was in the conundrum that I could wait until my favorite with the risk that it would go too high, and my other favorites would then be gone as they were earlier in the line up. I’m telling you, strategy and a bit of gambling is needed.

Alec’s first pick pig went too high for his budget, so he moved to the second, but when it got in the ring, he decided he didn’t like it. So, on we went to the third pig which went too high also. At this point, I’m getting a little squirmy for Alec. Our top 3 pigs for him were gone, and now it was a matter of picking one as they came through. One little guy came through the ring, and I nudged Alec that I liked this one. Alec watched him for a bit then bid. He got in a slight bidding war with another guy, and ended up calling it quits once he hit his budget. Dad and I finally talked Alec into going another $25. That won the pig.

alec bid

My bidding was much less eventful. I decided to pass up two pigs I liked to wait for my favorite and got her with no competition. I was stoked!

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Overall, I think the sale went well, especially as it was the first year doing it. Sure, there were some no-sales, but that’s alright. I hope to see it grow, and more people support it in the future.

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sale5It is truly exciting to see a great group of NC pig farmers come together to provide quality stock. Most of the pigs will be at the NC State Fair competing, so be sure to stop by the pig barn at the fair. For now, though, I would like to introduce you to our newest additions. I am no longer “pig-less”! They LOVE marshmallows.

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I am pleased to introduce to you my gilt, Alice:

 

alice b

alice cross

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And, Alec’s barrow Gus:

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gus butt up

We should be getting two more pigs for the boys soon too, so stay tuned.

Sweating Like a Pig…but Pigs Don’t Sweat??

“I’m sweating like a pig” usually means that you are pretty gross and covered in perspiration. The problem, though, is if you were indeed sweating like a pig, you’d be super dry, with not one bead of sweat on your head. You see, pigs don’t sweat. All of a sudden the popular saying becomes problematic.

candidGood news, though. There is some logic behind the phrase. Bad news: there isn’t a definite source. There are a couple of myths about just where it came from.

1. More Irony

Some say that the phrase originates with pig iron. When heating up the metal to extreme temperatures, the ore would get hot enough to become liquid. Smelters would watch the metal for signs that it was cool enough to move and not drip everywhere. It was ready when droplets would form on the metal due to the air around it reaching dew point.

2. Roasting

Maybe the saying has its origins with pigs, but pigs on a rotisserie. When cooking a hog over an open fire on a rotisserie, the fat from the pig would drip down into the fire. This gave the appearance of the pig sweating.

3. Stinky Sweat

It could be that the phrase came from the simple concept that sweat is stinky and gross. Pigs are also stinky and can be gross.


Truth:

It is not for sure where exactly the phrase “sweating like a pig” came from, but the truth of the matter is pigs don’t sweat. Because they don’t perspire, they wallow in mud to keep cool. Lots of times pigs look super gross, and even like they are being kept in horrible conditions, but the truth is, they like the mud. Even if it is cooler, our pigs like to root in the mud and get messy.

muddy pigOne of the great things about hog farms, is pigs can be kept inside with sprinkler systems. They absolutely love this. It is like their own personal sweating system. There are also fans for them too. They are really quite spoiled.


Pigs may be stinky animals and enjoy getting into muddy messes, but you can’t blame them for being sweaty AND stinky, just the stinky part.

tonggueHappy Fact Filled Friday!


Sources:

http://www.neatorama.com/2011/08/29/the-expression-sweating-like-a-pig-has-nothing-to-do-with-pigs/

Sweating Like a Pig

http://www.livescience.com/32118-do-pigs-sweat.html

What You Aren’t Being Told About “Hog Farm Pollution”

If you drive down many Eastern North Carolina roads, you may see a billboard that looks like this:

Raise A Stink

They are doing just what they say–raising a stink, but it is a stench much worse than any pig poop could possibly smell. These billboards are part of a campaign started by the Waterkeeper Alliance organization to blame hog farmers for polluting local waterways. Although their aim is to make a positive difference in the community, this organization is causing harm, defaming an industry, and do not have their facts straight.

It is important that not just the other side of the story is told, but that facts are put out there, so that the public can be informed. Pollution is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly; however, there are a few things that the Waterkeeper Alliance isn’t telling you–things you should know to get the whole picture.

Who is the Waterkeeper Alliance?

The Waterkeeper Alliance organization is an international group represented by 240 local groups on 6 continents. They are environmentalists who focus on maintaining and promoting clean waterways. They have been active in campaigns against dairy farmers in New York and hog farmers in North Carolina along with various other campaigns. Last year (2014), they, along with their local subsidiary, The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation filed an intent to sue against a NC farm, that gave the farm 90 days to complete a list of demands or else the organization would file suit against the farm. Although the farm worked with the organization to meet demands, the Waterkeeper Alliance has launched the billboard campaign against all NC hog farmers.

What claims have been made by the Waterkeper Alliance?

The Waterkeeper Alliance makes many claims that can be found on their website. Here are a few to note:

  • Waterkeeper Alliance seeks to expose the fact that foreign-owned corporations are reaping the profits made possible by the antiquated lagoon and sprayfield system of hog waste disposal, while placing an unfair burden on local contract growers.
  • Many people “are unaware of how much environmental damage and human pain and suffering these industrial swine operations are inflicting on people and their environment,” Rick Dove, North Carolina CAFO manager for Waterkeeper Alliance
  • “For too long, factory farms in North Carolina have been disproportionately located in minority communities where residents are forced to endure the smell, water quality impacts and the embarrassment associated with the facilities operating near their homes. Through this campaign and multiple other fronts, we’re working toward the day when people living near these operations are granted their right to swimmable, drinkable and fishable waterways,” Marc Yaggi, executive director at Waterkeeper Alliance
  • “Using so-called lagoons and sprayfields to dispose of hog waste is an outhouse method that must be replaced. A number of systems that will do away with lagoons and sprayfields have been tested and approved for implementation. It is time to put an end to this problem and the best place to start is by educating the public about what is happening to their water, air and communities.” Rick Dove,North Carolina CAFO manager for Waterkeeper Alliance

There is a lot packed into these claims, so let’s dissect them and look at what the hog farm scene looks like.

Hog Farm Fast Facts:

  • First, let’s make sure we don’t call large hog farms factories. Even though they are on a much larger scale, they are still a farm, and should be called as such. The majority of these farms are still family operated too.
  • The hog farming chain can be a little confusing with its many parts. Here is a chart that will hopefully help.pig integrator
  • North Carolina is the second largest producer of hogs in the U.S. and contributes $2.9 billion to the economy
  • Large hog farms keep pig waste in large pits called lagoons.
  • No new lagoons are allowed to be built
  • Hog waste is used as fertilizer for crops.

What are the Waterkeeper Alliance not telling you?

The Waterkeeper Alliance makes it sound like pig farmers have absolutely no concern for the environment, and they are irresponsible with the waste from the farms. This is the farthest from the truth. Farmers are some of the most avid hunters and fishermen out there. Why would they want to pollute the very waters that provide that recreation? In addition, many of their families live within the vicinity of these farms. Would farmers purposely pollute and cause damage to their own family? I don’t think so.

Even if farmers didn’t care (which they most certainly do) they are required by law to adhere to strict regulations as to when, where, and how they can deposit and manage the waste in the hog lagoons. These regulations are put in place by the Department of Water Quality and are monitored throughout the year. Hog waste is never allowed to be dumped into waterways; however, human waste is permitted to be dumped in the rivers once it has been treated. Although the majority of pollutants have been removed from the waste, the volume put in streams is still high and the pollutant mass can still be high in streams (NCSU).

The Waterkeeper Alliance demands a waste water treatment facility to deal with the hog waste in a more environmentally friendly way; however, human waste water treatment facilities are not perfect either. According to the EPA, there are over 22,000- 75,000 sanitary sewer overflows (SSO’s) that occur each year due to blockages, line breaks, sewer defects that allow storm water and groundwater to overload the system, lapses in sewer system operation and maintenance, power failures, inadequate sewer design and vandalism. The only thing a hog waste water treatment facility is going to do is cost the pork industry millions of dollars, driving the cost of bacon and porkchops through the roof. According to Feeding America, North Carolina is ranked in the top 10 states for food insecurity, and higher pork prices will only drive food insecurity up.

The Waterkeeper Alliance draws on various studies that show the effect of hog farms and hog waste on the surrounding community; however, these studies often show inconclusive data and rely on speculation. Yet, the Waterkeeper Alliance states them as fact. Beyond any of this, though, are the facts that they are hiding about the regulations that hog farmers have to abide by:

  • Lagoons are required to have substantial grass planted around its banks to prevent erosion.
  • Crops meant for direct human consumption, are not allowed to have hog waste sprayed on them as fertilizer.
  • Lagoons must be kept under a certain level at all times to prevent overflows into waterways.
  • Rain is stressful to a hog farmer as it increases the levels of the lagoons and soaks the fields to where they cannot be sprayed on. With no where for the rising lagoon water to be sprayed, hog farmers often times have to hire tanks to haul it away. They have even flown men in from other states to help in the effort of managing the lagoons during a heavy rain season.
  • Hog farmers have to take lagoon samples of the waste to make sure the nitrogen and phosphorus levels are appropriate within 30 days of spraying on fields.
  • If hog farmers know a neighbor is having a party or an outdoor function, they try not to spray as to disturb them.
  • The majority of farms are off of a dirt path away from most homes. By law, they must be 1,500 feet from a residence and 2,500 feet from a school, church, hospital, or park.
  • Farms are inspected twice a year by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to the NC Pork Council, during 2000, 98% of the 6,000 inspections of NC’s 2,500 hog farms were found to have no direct discharges of organic waste water to the surface waters of the state and 94% found no signs of over-application to fields.
  • If there happens to be a hog waste spill in the rivers, the farm is required to report it and could be fined.
  • Spills are typically caused by equipment malfunctions.

The organization claims that there are better innovative ways to deal with hog waste out there, but hog farms are stuck on the antiquated ways of spraying on fields. Many hog farms are collaborating with scientists and innovators on various ways to improve hog waste management. Many of these innovations are in a trial period or are so expensive that the cost outweighs any benefit. The goal is to provide affordable pork to the public and  do so in an ethical manner. Farmers are being ethical and careful in how they manage hog waste.

The Waterkeeper Alliance may also tell you that the Neuse is one of the most polluted rivers and fish are at an all time low; however, the Neuse River basin does not boast the most amount of hog farms. The Caper Fear River Basin has the most hog farms. If hog farms were the cause of the river pollution, then why is the river basin with the most concentrated hog farms, not the most polluted? It doesn’t add up.

Cape Fear
http://scorecard.goodguide.com/env-releases/aw/nc-riverbasin.tcl?image_id=030300&huc6=030300

What Now?

While the Waterkeeper Alliance is not calling for an end to large pig farms, they are saying some nasty things that does not tell the whole story by any means. It is ok for them or anyone to ask questions and even challenge certain practices. It is important that hog farmers look at ways to constantly improve, but the current billboard campaign does not ask questions and challenges in an unhealthy manner. The Waterkeepr Alliance is suggesting that hog farmers are unethical in their environmental practices, but the Waterkeepr Alliance is not being ethical in their efforts by defaming an industry, causing the potential for increased pork prices, and not telling the whole story.

If you see these billboards remember that there is another side to those signs. They look something like this:

billboars