In 1970, John Murphy started a farm in Albertson, NC. Although born on a farm (his family was sharecroppers), he wasn't young when he started his farm, now called Triple M Farms. He was in his 40's. He saw a farm in Duplin County for sale, and decided to make a career change. At the time he was living in Lenoir County, working a service station. He and his family packed up moved to Duplin County to tend the 80 acres he purchased. To make ends meet, he had to work at night while farming during the day.
Fast forward to 2018, and the farm that John Murphy started in 1970 is now 1,500 acres. While John is no longer with us, his sons and their families continue the farm.
Triple M Farms is named after the three Murphy brothers--Morris, Grayling, and Allen. Morris and Grayling work full-time on the farm, while their brother Allen, works as a lawyer in New Bern, but comes back to the farm to work part-time. In addition to the brothers, two of their sons work full-time on the farm along with two additional employees and seasonal workers.
They all work together to grow cucumbers for Mt. Olive Pickles, cotton, soybeans, hay, sweet potatoes, corn, cows, turkeys for Butterball, pigs for Smithfield, and timber. As the farm (and family) has grown, they have diversified and are up for trying new things. For them, this helps ensure the future of the farm.
The future of the farm is important to the Murphys because of the past and the legacy it that comes with it. Their father had a dream of building a farm for his family. He started it in 1970, and it has continued today. Not only has it continued, but it has grown. It has also remained a family farm. For the Murphys, being a family farmer is more than just working with your family members.
"Watching your kids raise their kids on the farm is special. We teach them more than how to make a living off the land. We teach them how to appreciate the land," said Morris
What a place for kids to grow up too! The Murphy's grandchildren love running around on the farm and helping out. They love to visit the animals and play in the wide-open spaces. There are woods for them to walk through, open fields to run in, flowers to pick, a pond to fish at, and plenty of quality time with family.
Their hope for the future? To be able to pass the farm on to the next generation. While they know that not all their children and grandchildren will want to farm, many do. Of the grandchildren, the Murphys may have a marine biologist, teacher, and several farmers on their hands, but "who knows," says Morris "they are only 4 and 5 years old."
The Murphy family believes that this life is worth passing on, just as their father passed it on. Their passion and love for the farm is so obvious when spending time with the Murphys. They excitedly share stories, passionately point out parts of the farm, and the grandkids blissfully run around, playing on the farm. Almost every evening (weather dependent), you can find the family spending time outdoors, riding their golf cart around the farm with the kids.
Although Triple M Farms, supports multiple families and has many of acres, they don't consider themselves a large farm. They are a small family farm, but according to Morris's calculations, 140,000 families rely on their farm every year. 200,000 pairs of jeans are made from the cotton they grow. That's the kind of impact so many family farms have on our communities.
The Murphy brothers want others to realize what their farm is all about and what it provides. They are passionate about educating people about the farm and the food and products produced. There is a disconnect between urban and rural America.
"They [most of the public] don't understand what it takes to produce the food. There's a huge misunderstanding of what farming is and what farming provides. It [the food] doesn't just magically appear. They [farmers] work really hard day in and day out," said Allen.
The Murphy brothers are committed to not only being good farmers, but to educate others about what they do. If you have the fortune to visit their farm, you will find gracious hosts, laughing children, and beautiful views. For the family, farming is more than a job.
"It's not just a profession. It's not just an occupation. You hear the cliche, it's a way of life, but it really is," said Morris.
At Triple M Farms, the family behind the farm is passionate, works hard, and is eager to share their story. Not only this, but in the words of Grayling, "we are proud of what we do."
This is a family farm. This is a glimpse into their world. These are the faces of farm families in North Carolina.
Photos by: M. See Creative