When I say that 2018 was a challenging year, I expect most of my fellow hog farmers will nod and say, Amen. This past year we’ve all wrestled with many challenges – some we saw coming and others no one could have foreseen. There have been many lessons learned and a few rewards along the way.
I began the year with my normal routine of managing our family’s nursery pig farm. By mid-January, my ‘normal’ changed when my father was hospitalized with a blood infection. My new normal became working the pigs in the morning and then driving to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC to be with my dad.
During those drives, I couldn’t help but reflect on my father’s life and how hard he has worked and how much he loved being on the farm. I was grateful that the farm my grandfather started, and my father and uncle continued to build, had provided so many opportunities for me – one of which was living and working on the farm every day. Fortunately, over time, my father overcame the infection and he’s doing well today.
In March, I attended my second National Pork Forum in Kansas City, Missouri. Talking with pork producers from other states opened my eyes to how differently we all do things yet how we all strive for the same goal – to produce safe, nutritious and affordable pork while being good stewards of the environment.
In June, the opportunity to get involved in the industry knocked on my door in an unexpected way, and, as always, it involved getting out of my comfort zone. Becoming the Director of NC Farm Families was an exciting challenge, especially during such a turbulent time with the nuisance lawsuits and a swine waste general permit up for renewal. Thankfully, many talented and hard-working individuals are part of NC Farm Families and they have not only guided me but worked tirelessly to support our farmers. I’m very honored to be a part of this organization and I’ve grown and learned so much in such a brief time.
Finally, I want to say how much I respect farm families across the state of North Carolina. I’ve watched farmers fill the balcony of the General Assembly to support Senate Bill 711 and gather peacefully at the Bicentennial Plaza to support NC farmers. I’ve sat beside some of you in a federal courtroom in Raleigh to witness firsthand how justice sometimes isn’t served, at least not yet. I’ve witnessed Hurricane Florence destroy nearly everything, except for our sense of community, and I’ve been on my knees at the alter with fellow believers to pray for our farmers. I simply can’t express how proud I am to be a part of this.
I hope that you continue to be as engaged in agriculture as you have been this past year. I also challenge you to look for new ways to get out of your comfort zone. In today’s world, we need each and every one of you to tell your agricultural story.
This upcoming year will certainly bring its own set of challenges, but I assure you that NC Farm Families will continue to work diligently to protect farm families.