Duplin Farming Matters - 2022

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2022 Duplin’s guide to Ag Life

The harrowing story of a Duplin contract grower in a nuisance lawsuit

Soaring into new heights with local agricultural programs

Agriculture meets business with NCFB Young Farmers and Ranchers

An inside look at the ham curing process with West Water Country Farm

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or the past six years, Farming Matters has been shining the spotlight on Duplin’s diverse agricultural landscape, its farmers, agribusinesses, local entrepreneurs, and innovative ag educators paving the way for the future generations of Duplin County farmers. Agriculture remains one of North Carolina’s biggest economic drivers with an annual economic impact of $95.9 billion. With 8.5 million acres of farm land, growing more than 150 commodities, NC is one of the most diverse states providing the world with a dependable food supply. Additionally, according to a June editorial by N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, agriculture in NC is carbon negative, and the industry sequesters 26% of offsets in the state. In Duplin, we have seen a bit of a slow down on fruit and vegetable plants because of the drought, but according to folks at the NC Cooperative Extension the plants have not experienced as many diseases or insect pressure as other times. Blueberries are still plentiful, despite weather conditions and their nutritional value is the highest for any fruits grown locally. We hope you enjoy this edition of Farming Matters. We are proud to support our local farm families and feel very blessed to have such a strong, diverse and tight knit community in Duplin County. Farming Matters is not only about highlighting innovative accomplishments and telling you about the wonderful things happening in Duplin County’s agricultural landscape, but it is also about saying thank you to our farmers who work tirelessly, sometimes under less than desirable weather conditions to ensure that our families have access to homegrown quality foods. Thank you to our educators for their passion to teach and inspire our youth. Thank you to our local ag industry who contributes with time and resources to support our community in forging a path for local innovation and development. Thank you to all the ag movers ‘n shakers in the different organizations that play a key role in making Duplin an agricultural powerhouse. Last but not least, thank you to all of you who in one way or another contribute to make the magic happen, because thanks to those hard working bees in the background Duplin County can proudly say we are still number one in NC with total farm cash receipts of $960,774 and number one in livestock cash receipts with $810,124.

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We are proud to support our local farm families and feel very blessed to have such a strong, diverse and tight knit community in Duplin County.

PUBLISHER Jim Sills EDITOR Ena Sellers WRITERS | PHOTOGRAPHERS Lauren Branch Michael Jaenicke Rebecca Whitman DESIGN | PRODUCTION Ena Sellers ADVERTISING Alan Wells Farming Matters is a publication of the Duplin Times and APG Media of Eastern NC. Contents may not be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. For advertising information, call 910-296-0239.





WEST WATER COUNTRY HAM An inside look at ham curing



HOG FARMER The Trials of Joey Carter







ONE THE COVER Joey Carter Photo by Well Raised Productions

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At House of Raeford, we believe companies that do well should also do good. That’s why we created FLOCK, a charitable non-profit organization. Our dedicatted employees and local citizens support our neiighbors because it is the right thing to do. We volu unteer. We contribute. We fundraise. We serve. In a nuttshell, we do good in the communities we’re proud to call ‘home’.


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GA- Forest Park

SC- W. Columbia, Greenville, Hemingway

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LA- Arcadia

Photos by Lauren Branch

Greatness grows with STEAMA Story by Ena Sellers

Sights, sounds, and colors guide your senses as you step into Duplin County Schools STEAMA learning environments at Rose Hill-Magnolia and Wallace Elementary schools. What started four years ago as an initiative to teach school children about of-a-kind, robust STEAMA program that has brought the local agricultural community together raising toward one common goal: to provide students with hands-on ag learning. According to Duplin County Schools, STEAMA is no longer just an initiative. “It is who we are, and our teachers and students are thriving due to its relevance, rigor, personalization, and engagement.” At Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary, teachers Tim Mateer and Tanya Novakowski, have spearheaded these efforts and brought them to life through

grant opportunities and the support of local agricultural community partners. “House of Raeford Farms is pleased to be a part of this project (Wallace Elementary Generation Next) as well as the student agriculture program at Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary. We believe it is important for our company to be a part of the growth and development of our young people, especially in education about one of the major industries in our county – agriculture. Besides a monetary contribution to Rose Hill-Magnolia, we have also opened our chicken hatchery to student tours; our veterinarians have shared with classes at the school, and the veterinarians have also provided expert guidance in biosecurity for the chickens housed at the school. Between the two schools House of Raeford has invested approximately $45,000 to date in these initiatives,” said Tom Teachey, Director of Community Outreach for Duplin County. Mateer shared that their students are excited about coming to school. “They have learned so much about agriculture and how it connects to their lives,”

A very active chicken coop welcomes students as they walk outside the ag room. Students get the opportunity to hatch their own chicks, raise layer hens and gather eggs.

Photo by Wallace Elementary

what our students already know and having them share that knowledge with each other and experience it together.” At Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary, students have four working beehives in their pollinator garden, where they get hands-on experience with bee colonies and learn about pollination,

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Beekingg & Honeybee habitat

Lining up the classroom walls, beekeeper suits are ready for students to suit up and get hands-on experience with bee colonies, learn about pollination,

Photos by Lauren Branch

Plant observation

A plant observation area equipped with grow lights allows students to observe plants that may not be thriving and determine what the plant needs.

Tower gardens

The Tower gardens are located in the Ag Room. These eco-friendly aeroponics towers allow students to grow fruits and vegetables indoors, using the same technology NASA uses. These systems, don’t require soil. Rather than getting nutrients from soil and the sun, plants in a tower garden use a nutrient-rich water and a light system to mimic this environment.

Raised gardens

Things like raised gardens, allow students the opportunity to cultivate fruits and vegetables.

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We have worked hard to get these ideas off the ground, and it’s so amazing to see how those small ideas have grown and continue to grow.




Tanya Novakowski







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We believe it is important for our company to be a part of the growth and development of our young people, especially in education about one of the major industries in our county – agriculture. Tom Teachey

their work. It fosters cooperation and patience, and creates community by helping children understand the importance of agriculture and explore the roles of agricultural jobs. The magic continues at Wallace Elementary, where the school’s courtyard has been transformed into an outdoor learning commons known as Generation Next. “Through the hard work and support from the House of Raeford FLOCK, Wallace Elementary STEAMA committee, and the Duplin County Agribusiness Academy Coordinator Mrs. Tiffany Cassell, this courtyard has become something spectacular,” said Michael Sherrill, STEAMA Committee Facilitator at Wallace Elementary. “It has enough space to contain a garden for raising crops by grade level (which are growing beautifully at this very moment)..” Through this project, students learn about the agriculture industry while developing strong work ethics and pride in their accomplishments. According to Teachey, the House of Raeford will provide subject matter experts to guide students in the wide variety of opportunities that exist in the poultry industry. “Our industry, agriculture, and farming alike has had gut punches thrown

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at them the last few years,” said Teachey. “We hope to re-introduce and re-educate our kids here in this county that farming is a good way of life, a good living can be made in the industry, and there are opportunities to have a successful career right here without having to leave. If we can let our kids know that it’s alright to get off (their) cell phones for a while, we can teach them the inherent value of being great stewards (of) what God has given us. That includes how we manage time and the relationships we develop along the way. Kids need responsibility. They need accountability. They need to know somebody cares. Through this joint effort, we hope to accomplish all three.” One of the many takeaways from these two initiatives is that Duplin County students have the opportunity to help at-risk students by providing them with fresh eggs from the chickens they raise and produce from the seasonal harvest of their crops.

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The trials of JOEY

CARTER Story by Ena Sellers

Photos Courtesy of Well Raised Productions

A poignant documentary that explores the touching experience of a contract grower in a nuisance lawsuit

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Photos Courtesy of Well Raised Productions

Story by Ena Sellers

Hog Farmer: The Trials of Joey Carter is a poignant documentary about greed, misinformation, and the perfect storm that divided Duplin’s neighbors, shutting down the hog operations of a contract grower, who in his 36 years in business, did everything by the book.

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person was the day he was saying goodbye to one of his last batches of hogs after the verdicts were handed down that had a direct sad day for him. Jason Arthurs

system, how large lawsuits work and how the letter of the law can affect someone’s livelihood. the three years he has been working Carter not only as a farmer, but as a father, grandfather, and a dedicated member of the community who many people count on when they need help. person was the day he was saying goodbye to one of his last batches of hogs after the verdicts were handed down that had a direct impact

was such an emotional day for him. would go on to become some of the

Arthur often gets the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds “and it’s really important

came to me with a very open mind,” he said. Another important takeaway Arthurs hopes to achieve with his documentary is for viewers to see “that maybe everything isn’t as it seems or as we’ve been told... we

need to slow down and listen to people and try to understand them,” Arthurs said. Among the challenges in making the documentary was “that so many people have a preconceived notion of what hog farming is and what hog farming looks like.” “Another main out that the neighbors farms were often times hesitant to talk to us because the issue around hog farming lawsuits was so sensitive and it was so much money at stake and with lawyers in the neighborhood a lot of tension was just so high that some neighbors didn’t wanna be on camera and it also made us sometimes feel uncomfortable being on the farm with cameras,” said Arthurs. For Arthurs, the most rewarding and having such intimate access to such a personal part of someone’s

life and being trusted to tell that story.” “Learning about hog farming hard to understand and learned a very fascinated (by) how these lawate about trying to make that clear

Image Courtesy of Well Raised Productions

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to viewers how lawsuits like this come to be,” Arthurs said. Carter, a hard-working man known in the community for his dedication to service, looks back in disbelief when he reminisces about the events that transpired during and after the trials. “I sat there for 10 weeks on two different trials… It was very disheartening you know; I have been here 36 years and was friends with all of them,” said Carter about the nuisance lawsuit’s plaintiffs and his neighbors. “I have helped them with different things, the backhoe, ey, some of the ones that died in the community I gave money to help bury them. It is a hard pill to swal-

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low after what they have done, but that is on them not on me… All they wanted was the money and they got the money... Most of them don’t even look at me, I know they are too ashamed.” Currently, Carter is in the cow business to supplement the lost ways,” said Carter. “We have increased cow herd... Right now, I am tearing down all the (hog) buildings so I don’t have to pay property taxes on them.” Carter shared that he did not know there was a problem until they were hit with lawsuits. “I was just blindsided when all that happened,” said Carter. “I have done everything by what

the state required and the federal government. I was inspected by them. Never had a complaint, never had a violation. They gave me money to help dig the lagoons and build the houses... so I mean they help put money into this and then to know that you have done everything right – everything… and then they take it from you ...they are saying what you have done was right then, but is not today, and that is sad to know… the state said that’s the way you’ve got to do it, and that’s the way we did it, and now we are being penalized for doing it the way they told us to do it.” While the Farm Act of 2018, which provides some protec-

I sat there for 10 weeks on two different trials..… It was very disheartening you know; I have been here 36 years and was friends with all of them. Joey Carter

tion to farmers against nuisance lawsuits passed, it did not provide any protections for nuisance lawsuits that were in the court’s pipeline at the time of the trial. While Carter was not directly being sued, his farm was the target of the nuisance lawsuits against Smithfield, who owns Murphy-Brown, the defendant. “Smithfield settled with all of them. We were part of the settlement,” said Carter. “We kinda got the short end of the deal there… “ “We are still holding our heads up, cause we ain’t done anything wrong,” said Carter. “..It just goes to show you what money would do to people.” Carter shared that they have

received support from all over the country from people who heard about his case. “That is the whole purpose of documentary to get it out there and say, you know, if you ain’t got your stuff right in your state, this could happen to you. Whether it be hogs, turkeys, chickens, or cows. So, that is what the documentary is about, trying to get the word out there that nobody is guaranteed anything no more,” Carter added.

According to Arthurs, they are working on making the film available for some community screenings and dedicated events. “Hopefully by the end of the year, the film will be available online on streaming platforms like Amazon,” Arthurs added. People interested in watching the documentary trailer can do so by searching for Hog Farmer: The Trials of Joey Carter documentary trailer 2022 on YouTube.

Photos Courtesy of Well Raised Productions

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Source USDA NC Agricultural Statistics 2020

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192% FROM 2007


DUPLIN COUNTY Source 2017 Ag Census report Total and Per Farm Overview, 2017 and change since 2012












6,479,453 HOGS & PIGS SALES


Source USDA North Carolina Agricultural Statistics 2020






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UMO Agriculture Department prepares students for the future

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Story and Photos by Rebecca J. Whitman

Dr. Sandy Maddox failed retirement. After retiring from 30 years of public service in state agriculture research and extension, she jumped the next day into a position at the University of Mount Olive.

“I found my true passion when I retired from public service and started teaching and building the agriculture program here at the University of Mount Olive,” Dr. Maddox said. Now as Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Science, Dr. Maddox’s wealth of knowledge and connections helps poise UMO to contribute to the largest industry in the state. “The agriculture industry in North Carolina contributes $91.8 billion to the economy, making it the #1 industry in the state,” Public Relations Director Rhonda Jessup said. “Agriculture accounts for 17% of NC’s workforce. At UMO, 100% of our agriculture graduates are em-

Agriculture accounts for 17% of North Carolina’s workforce. At UMO, 100% of our agriculture graduates are employed within 6 months of of study. ployed within 6 months of gradua-

for how it helped her second. “The things that I was involved in with extension and research helped me build relationships with people in the agriculture industry and in local and state government. Those relationships came with me to Mount the program, many of those folks came and taught a class when I called them,” Dr. Maddox recalled.

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The agriculture industry in North Carolina contributes $91.8 billion to the economy, making it the #1 industry in the state. Rhonda Jessup

Dr. Maddox’s connections also help her keep a pulse on trends in the industry. “In this day and time, if you don’t have those connections or try to stay abreast of the changes, you fall behind pretty quickly–especially with the technological advances that are happening now. One of our challenges here at the University is trying to make sure our students are at least exposed to the technology and trained in how the technologies interconnect.” “People don’t recognize, but

there is a lot happening in the agriculture community right now,” Dr. Maddox said. “There is an entity called the Internet of Things (IOT) Technology that gives us sensors for various aspects of agriculture whether it is soil temperature, humidity, or other things in a field. It can sense those parameters and assemble all the data in real time on a mobile app.” Other innovative ideas are in development to help address the issue of labor shortages. “NC State is working on a robot that can go into fields, tell the difference between a weed and a plant, and weed the field. Another robot in Canada is using color photography to help it determine and pick ripe fruit. Drones are being used for field surveillance. They can see color differentiations in crops and determine if a change in coloration is because of a wet area, disease, or insect in there. In the future, developers hope to use drones for spraying fields with a smaller impact on the environment.” “There are tractors now that can drive themselves,” President Croom added. “Equipment is so advanced now that you can take a soil sample, put a chip in the computer of the tractor, and it will automatically adjust to the needs of the soil even down to how deep a seed needs to be planted.” One of the ways that UMO is able to stay in touch with new advances in technology is through active partnerships with companies like Case IH. These companies loan the University precision agriculture tractors, sprayers, and planters to train students how to use them. “Technology is always ahead of what we are able to do in a trained workforce,” Dr. Maddox said. “We a way to get students educated to keep up with the demand of that technology.” UMO has an Unmanned Aviation

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Program to train for drone flight. With the assistance of Case IH, a Precision Agriculture curriculum will hopefully start classes in Spring 2023. UMO’s teaching focus is applied knowledge and research which means that students leaving their program have had hands-on experience working on a farm. Currently, they have one farm where students work with Case IH equipment to practice precision agriculture. A partnership with New Holland is in the works now to build a second farm that will be a multi-species rotating livestock farm. Different animals like horses, sheep, and cows will rotate through the farm for grazing, and students will be able to learn animal husbandry. They will also use New Holland equipment for hay production and other things. “What we will have is one of our farms will be focused on precision agriculture and crop production while the other will be

animal production,” Dr. Croom said. Students that have the opportunity to work in the smaller settings and working farms or the UMO Agriculture program are extremely grateful. “I was intimidated at larger schools like NC State,” said Ag student Anna Brown. “When

I came here, it felt like coming home. I knew I had a community of people to support me if anything went wrong. I knew I had what I needed here to be successful.” Lexington native Anna Brown came to UMO during COVID and struggled to connect with anyone during

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the restricted class and social sessions. Once restrictions were lifted, she was able to meet fellow Ag student Katie Gates of Winston-Salem and develop a close friendship. Both girls are now roommates in on-campus housing at UMO now. Having the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with colleagues and expert faculty is part of the investment UMO makes in its students. Ag faculty invest extra time with the students to get to know their passions and better assist them in their education. Sometimes that includes flying to places they have never been before. This extra measure of care provides insight and better placement for students in their required internships. In many cases, those internships led to job offers as soon as the students graduated. Student success has grown the Ag program. “When I first got here 15 years ago, I had six students that came from within a 30-mile

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radius of this campus,” Dr. Maddox said. “We now have over 300 students from all over the United States and even a few from International locations. 69% of our students are still from eastern North Carolina, and 30-35% come from western Carolina (which we did not have years ago). Over 76% of our students stay in eastern North

Carolina for employment after graduation. Most of our students come from rural communities and go back to those communities or ones like them to make a difference with the knowledge they acquired here.” At UMO, Dr. Croom advocates that there should be a service component to everything done

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EllisonFoods.com at the university. In the Ag Department, this shows up as a partnership with The Agricultural Development Farmland Preservation Trust Fund to develop over 20 farmland protection plans across the state. Students also develop produce and plants that are sold to the public throughout the year. After 45 years of service to the agriculture community, Dr. Sandy Maddox was recently awarded the Excellence in Agriculture Award. “Dr. Maddox is a humble person, but she won this award because of the lives she has touched. She has provided sincere leadership not only academically but also in life,” said UMO President, Ed Croom. People interested in learning more about the program or UMO as a whole are encouraged to go to their website at https://umo. edu/. Parties who would like to offer internships for students are encouraged to contact Dr. Maddox directly at: smaddox@umo.edu.

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t is undeniable that pork is a staple in Eastern NC. Whether it is the bacon we eat at breakfast, the barbecue we eat at our cookouts, the sliced ham we eat on our sandwiches and subs, or the bacon bits we throw on top of our salads, pork serves many purposes in our daily lives. The West family out of Warsaw NC is no different because pork has played an important role in their lives as well. In 1971, Henry West Jr., started West Water Country Ham, a local business that sells dry-cured country ham. West started out doing custom killings of cows and hogs, and he was a processor for farmers in the area. He owned what is now Parks Family Meats. That is how he learned the curing process. After he sold that business, he started West Water Country Ham. A two-fold business that included curing hams and his waterside gardens that he grew and maintained. Now, his daughter and her husband, Bart & Carla Smith, operate the business out of the same location her father opened up many years ago.

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Story and Photos by Lauren Branch The gardens are still there but are not as big as it was when he maintained them because that was one of his passions up until his death. Cured ham or country ham, as many call it, is heavily salted ham preserved by curing and smoking. It is a southern food made from the hind legs of a hog. Because of it is highly salted nature, it is often used as a seasoning meat for other foods like vegetables. It is also eaten on its own, usually as a breakfast meat. Curing is thought to have started on the farm many years ago as a way to preserve meat. After a hog killing, which usually took place in the winter, farmers would get the cuts that they wanted off of the hog, and then they would salt the ham for later. During the process, they would salt the ham, and they had to wait for one to one and a half days per pound of meat. So a 20 lb. ham would take about 30 days to salt, according to Bart. Then they would salt the ham again after about a week from the killing and leave it outside to continue the curing process. Now, Bart

& Carla can use refrigeration or salt rooms for this part of the process. The ham stays at a temperature of about 40 degrees throughout most of the process. After about a month in the salt room, they wash off the salt and place the ham into a net and hang them in the next cooler called an equalization cooler where the ham absorbs the salt equally throughout the ham for another month. The last step of the process is for the ham to be moved into the warm room or the aging room where it is kept at 75-80 degrees for a month or until sold. The whole process usually takes about three months, because it is a drycured process that does not include any kind of injections. Their business goes through federal inspections, so they have to keep up-to-date and accurate records of their process and make sure the equipment meets federal standards. The business has continued to grow over the years, even throughout COVID. Instead of losing customers, Bart said that their business expanded and the only negative thing was that they were

An inside look at the ham curing with

West Water Country Ham 2022 Farming Matters | 27

forced to increase their price a little, but they insisted on keeping their products at a decent rate that his community could afford. “We were really scared of it when it started staying at home, eating at home more, and we started shipping more mail orders. We started selling more to the grocery stores because people were shopping more locally. We actually came

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through it okay. The main thing was just trying to keep everybody healthy,” Bart explained. Their business currently ships to an area of about a 60-mile radius according to Bart, and they also ship all over the country. Outside of individual sales in the store, West Water Country Ham can be found in local grocery stores and restaurants in both individual packs or wholesale to larger companies. Right now orders are placed via phone or in

person, but Bart says the company has been working on expanding to an online platform that would allow customers to be able to order more conveniently. “I discussed it with my son this morning that we’re going to have to (offer an online store). We’re trying to make some growth changes, and we’re going to try to make something that is going to be more accommodating to our outof-state customers,” Bart said. The most popular products at the West Water Country Ham is the 1 lb. boneless packs. Bart believes they sell that the most. According to Bart, they also sell who hams and sliced ham that can be vacuum-sealed to last longer time frames. They also offer both bonein and bone-out products. In their spare time, which Bart explained that they don’t have much of, they spend a lot of time with their family and their three grandchildren. Carla retired from the Duplin County School system, before going full-time in the business. The couple plans to do some traveling after they retire.

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Old becomes new at Sand Box Farms Story and Photos by Rebecca J. Whitman

In a little white 1920s farm house in Warsaw, one young married couple is proving that the American Dream is still alive. Sand Box Farms was just a high generational farmer, who is as comfortable with a power tool as he is behind the wheel of a tractor or standing in front of a crowd talking about his business. “Because AJ is doing this as a new start-up not something he grew up in,” his wife, Krystle Owen explains, “he gets invited to speak often about his experiences and how he got started in the agriculture business.” Krystle is equally busy and accomplished. She works as an Agronomy Sales Manager for Southern State when she is not busy farming pumpkins, raising cattle, baking cakes, and balancing several upgrade projects at the farm. “We all wear multiple hats and have to be capable of doing any of the jobs here on the farm,” Krystle says. “We couldn’t possibly do this business alone. We are so thankful for the workers we do have and the other business partners that work with us, but turnover in the labor force is high for agriculture. We have to always be ready and moving quickly to stay ahead of the demands of our consumers. In the industry, seasoned farmers are aging out. Soon there will be a gap of need as great in food production as anything we explains. AJ Searles and Krystle Owen are

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Your voice does matter, and you need to make it matter by getting involved, making the meetings, and having the face-toface conversations with leaders who make policies effecting you. members of the NC Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Association (YF&R), an organization of people between the ages of 18-35 who are interested in agriculture. Memthe Farm Bureau’s larger mission of advancing the agricultural community through networking and educational opportunities. As members, AJ and Krystle have been able to explore operations and learn new practices in states like Florida, Arizona, and

Iowa. AJ Searles and Krystle Owen now serve as Duplin County representatives on the state committee for YF&R. As representatives of the state, AJ and Krystle had the opportunity to meet with legislators in Washington, D.C. to discuss the long-term impact certain bills would have on young farmers and ranchers. “Your voice does matter, and you need to make it matter by getting involved, making the meetings, and having the face-to-face conversations with leaders who make policies effecting you,” Krystle says. “You don’t have to travel to D.C. to make a difference. Local town governments are important too, and Duplin County has been extremely welcoming to future generations expressing their needs and concerns.” AJ and Krystle hope to encourage young people to see agriculture as a ties–especially in Duplin County. “We have advantages here because we are within thirty minutes of a lot of what we need. We produce a lot of our own food in North Carolina, and our products are being sent to other states and countries. In Duplin County, we have some of the best soils, and

others are interested in investing in that for what we can do here,” Krystle explains. “You don’t have to leave your county to have a good job, and you don’t have to be a farmer either. There are plenty of other jobs that intersect with farming here.” Even just a day experience on a farm can change a person’s life forever. “Farming gives you the opportunity to see and experience the “Just interacting with the environment teaches you to be incredibly grateful and not wasteful of the food leadership skills, and critical thinking skills.” One of the big pushes in the industry now is to monetize this

portunities. Even though Duplin is a rural county, it still has opportunities to explore in this area. Farming today is nothing like it was a hundred years ago. While it may look simple and peaceful, the farming life is incredible complex now is a balancing act of monitoring trends, precision planning, and resources that you have. “Farming is a business. There is more time spent It is a very strategic, thought-out process,” Krystle says. Stock market supply and demand determines prices; farmers don’t have a say in it. Government regulations hold US farmers to high standards concerning food safety and business practices all the way down to how a plant or animal is fed, produced, and processed. These standards set a high bar for quality that is further backed by distributors their goods. “Many stores like WalMart, Whole Foods, or Harris Teeter won’t even take your product unless there are lesser quality countries able to produce the same products cheaper with less regulation. Most farmers want to market on a level

part of that.” One positive of all the regulations, however, is that it contributes to giving US made goods a reputation for being better and worth the extra investment. “We have some of the safest food sources around,” Krystle says. “Companies like Carnival Cruise Lines choose us and our products over cheaper options on the market because they know we offer quality goods that are regulated and tracked.” Technology for farming is continually growing and making it easier for farmers to control what they do from the cab of their tractors, but all that advancement comes at a price. Many farmers live frugal lives and save with the goal of investing in some of this better equipment. “It’s something we all work towards,” Krystle says, “but sometimes we have to start without the technology and use what we’ve got to build the business and make it grow. Not having everything perfect makes you get creative to get the job done,” Krystle says. “For us, success is measured by being smart and diversifying our business to be able to overcome challenges, be good at what we do, and justify our equipment.” A lot of creativity is required to do well in the farming business. “This year and last, our fertilizer cost went three times as much to fertilize the of the products we relied on are just going back into production which means they are going to be at least two weeks behind making it to the farms,” Krystle explains. “We have to look for alternative sources of fertilizer or we are forced to buy more ways to offset cost in other areas of the business.” Despite all these challenges, most farmers describe what they do as a lifestyle and a calling; they feel drawn to protect and steward the land for the next generations. Even

We have some of the safest food sources around. Companies like Carnival Cruise Lines choose us and our products over cheaper options on the market because they know we offer quality goods that are regulated and tracked. though AJ and Krystle don’t have children yet, they still plan for them today. From the small details of having a bolt bin for parts to the larger details of planning how to repurpose the older buildings and bring new ones, they think about the lives that will be lived on their farm. “What I hope, is that more land owners will be interested in partnering with new growers to rent their properties and keep the land producing agriculturally instead of turning it over into commercial land,” Krystle says. Land owners interested in connecting with potential renters for their land or young persons interested in developing an agriculture business are encouraged to reach out to YF&R at https://www.ncfb.org/ young-farmers-ranchers/

“Just interacting with the environment teaches you to be incredibly grateful and not wasteful of the food you have.” 2022 Farming Matters | 31

Angela Butler Martin works on a tower garden inside the new green house.

32 | 2022 Farming Matters

New age agriculture pioneers Two self-professed garden junkies start an urban farm as a stress reliever. Dr. Angela Butler Martin tends to Patience Lawrence’s approach is based on her expertise in the restauThe two self-professed garden and a Hoe Urban Farm as a stress reliever. the Warsaw duo are passionate about their urban garden, and the direction in which the new endeavor will take them. den delights on a one-acre lot using

Angela Butler Martin (left) stands next to Patience Lawrence (right) at Two Chicks and a Hoe Urban Farm.

mid-air and not sprawling horizon-

not harm the environment, from dirt to table. macist,” said Lawrence, whose

It’s all about the food and wafarmers. Martin, who was the co-owner of the Warsaw Animal Hospital before

have to pick and choose how as much organic as possible. -

couldn’t help but relate some of her So much nurturing, she reasoned, was about nutrition. For people, animals and plants of all colors, sizes, shapes, and varieties. said. “It’s all about the food and water “You have to pick and choose how

Angela Butler Martin

emulsion, horse or cow manure, and

on a roadside farm are on the Two with nontraditional methods. A tower garden inside the new greenhouse is one example.

er have plants, which get timed water and nutrient shots. The product

It creates a product “grown in the air” that has the feel of an agricultural space saver of the future. Martin stopped for a second to imagine how much could be made with a covered room of water towers. “You can grow so much more with less of a footprint — and faster,” she said. In another part of the farm is a fenced-in area where a similar concept is used. The centerpiece of the structure is cattle panels, or fencing, that allow vegetable plants — such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, melons, and squash — to stand tall. The idea is to use air space as a growing ground. maze are nine varieties of tomatoes,

organic as possible. “We can do that through things

2022 Farming Matters | 33


the lone fruits harvested.

“Pay your farmer, not your pharmacist.”

There are herbs there as well and also in other areas of the property.

Patience Lawrence Tomato and basil are frequently -

from the trees at the farm.



that sell for more than you’d ever realize.” The farm also sells non-edible prefer to do, and ways we want to do -



“Yes,” Martin said, “and now, I’m in -

and a Hoe Urban Farm visit their hoeurbanfarm.


Marigolds add a special touch. They help with pests, they attract the good bugs and deter the bad bugs.

Patience Laurence 34 |

2022 Farming Matters | 35

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