Farming is Hard: Selling a Farm and Holding on to a Passion

The goal of Faces of NC Farm Families is to shine a light on the people behind the food, and to tell the stories of the folks who work hard on their farm. Through this project, you’ve already met several families across the state who farm, and it is time for another feature.

However, this feature is a little different than the others—the family are no longer pig farmers. We received a message from the family, to let us know that they had made the very hard decision to sell their farm. They knew we wanted to feature them in our series Faces of NC Farm Families (we had even already gone out to their farm to take pictures and video), but now, they didn’t own the farm.

After talking with them, we made the command decision to feature them anyway. You see, farming isn’t just a profession, it is a passion. Their passion has not gone away. They are still farmers at heart. Sometimes, though, finances, time, health…LIFE, prevents you from making your passion a profession. With their permission, we want to tell the story of a family who put their hearts into a pig farm, but ultimately decided to sell their farm for the benefit of their family. It is a story of farming, family, and hard decisions. This is the Tutor family story.

April and Kevin Tutor live in the rural town of Seven Springs in Eastern NC. They are parents to three kids—Bailey, Parker, and Shaun. They are also foster parents, opening up their hearts and home to other children. It is through this program that they were able to bring Shaun into their home permanently through adoption. They are involved in their community, home school, hold down careers, and love the rural life. Upon meeting the family, you’ll quickly learn they are genuine people who have a passion for agriculture and a deep love of family.

Kevin and April met on a blind date, and 9 months later were married. They have now been married for 13 years. In 2013, they made the decision to buy April’s dad’s hog farm before it went into foreclosure.

“Because we bought it under those circumstances, we had to pay much more than the value of the farm was worth. It doesn’t cash-flow,” said April.

For the Tutors, the dream of a farm meant taking on quite the financial burden. The farm wouldn’t cash-flow until 2028, and it would take an additional 12 years for the family to make back what they had put into the farm. Those reasons meant that the Kevin and April both had to work public jobs outside of the farm. Kevin worked weekends at Weyerhaeuser while April worked from home as a business analyst and part time doing field investigation.

“A lot of times she’ll fly out Monday night just to fly in on Thursday night in time for me to leave Friday morning. That can be a lot. That can be stressful. That’s probably the hardest part for me is we’re both having to work and juggle the farm and the kids,” said Kevin.

For the Tutors, though, it was important to carry on the land that April’s great grandfather had bought and worked so hard for. They also wanted their kids to have the experience of farm life.

The kids truly enjoyed the farm. Shaun liked to feed the pigs gummy bears as a treat and all of the kids liked to check pigs with their parents and run up and down the farm paths. As much fun as it was, though, the struggles didn’t go unnoticed.

Bailey described how much she loved going through the hogs with her daddy, but she also had some qualms with the farm.

“Some nights when daddy has to go through the hogs, he doesn’t get time to eat with us, so we go ahead and eat without him. Then he comes home, takes a shower, and has to go to sleep because he has to go to work the next day,” said Bailey.

Farming. It isn’t easy or picturesque. It’s hard and demanding. It takes a lot of time and money.

“I feel like sometimes people think that hog farmers make lots of money or farmers get big checks. We have to work for our farm. We really have to work for our farm because it doesn’t cash-flow,” said April.

April went on to talk about how they miss out on many things as a family because of the farm. Beach trips in the summer didn’t happen. If they did go on vacation, Kevin stayed home to watch the farm.

This past November, a friend of the family approached them with an offer for the farm. After much prayer, they decided to sell the hog farm, but keep most of the land surrounding it. Although, thankful they get to hold on to some of the family land, it has still been very difficult to sell the hog farm, something that has been in the family for generations. The decision came down to the current generation, though.

Because Kevin and April had to pay such a steep price for the farm in the beginning, they found themselves working long hours only to come home to work on the farm in their spare time.

“Our kids are growing so fast, and we feel like, even though we home school and are with them all the time, there was no quality time,” said April.

The kids were either with April while Kevin worked or vice versa. They were seldom all together as a family. That was mentally draining for the family on top of the financial burden that the farm was.

The decision to sell wasn’t easy. April put it best when she said, “I have never wanted something so bad and not wanted something so bad at the same time. Farming is hard.”

That it is April. That it is.

Today, the Tutors still live the rural life. They are still family farmers at heart. They still live near the pig farm. Family and farming are often intertwined, but sometimes, you have to make a decision between the two. The Tutor’s story is not every farmer’s story, but it is also not a rarity. Many farmers have to take off their farming hat for one reason or another. April’s hope was that perhaps their story would shed light on the fact that hog farming isn’t always a big pay day. Farmers aren’t always rich. Farming is hard.Thank you Tutor family for allowing us to tell your story.

Thank you for your passion for family and for farming.

NC Farm Family Faces: A Way of Life--The Murphy Family

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.

Grayling, Allen, and Morris Murphy (from L to R)

Grayling, Allen, and Morris Murphy (from L to R)

Allen and his wife, Jane

Allen and his wife, Jane

Morris Murphy with wife, Linda. Also pictured is his son Justin with wife Julie and children Adeline and Tate. Morris and Linda's daughter's children are also pictured--Jenna and Cason. Their daughter, Jennifer, works for Smithfield Foods and is married to Monty.

Morris Murphy with wife, Linda. Also pictured is his son Justin with wife Julie and children Adeline and Tate. Morris and Linda's daughter's children are also pictured--Jenna and Cason. Their daughter, Jennifer, works for Smithfield Foods and is married to Monty.

Grayling Murphy with his son Bradley, wife, MaryAnn and children Bentley and Kendall

Grayling Murphy with his son Bradley, wife, MaryAnn and children Bentley and Kendall

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

NC Farm Family Faces: A Family Affair

For the Matthis family, farming is a family affair. Everyone has a part to play, and they work together to get things done. When it comes to farming, family is their favorite part about it.

Scott and Melanie Matthis, and their two boys, Chasen (18) and Colbey (15) grow hogs, cattle, turkeys and hay on their Sampson County Farm. Scott grew up on a local farm growing row crops and tobacco. Melanie grew up in the area, but was a "city girl"... that is until she met Scott and came to the farm. She's fell right in and fell in love with the farm life. In 1990, they built two hog houses. Later, they would grow their farm to a total of 6 hog houses, 110 Simmental cattle, and lease a turkey farm. Melanie manages the turkeys while the boys do the cattle, hogs, and hay. Scott works full-time with Prestage Farms as their Cattle Manager. Although gone much of the day, he goes straight to work from one full-time job to another--Cattle Manager to farmer.  You could say that he really enjoys the agriculture life.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, though. Chasen and Colbey love the farm life too. While Chasen prefers work on the tractor cutting hay and tending to crops, Colbey would rather be working with the animals, especially the pigs. Despite each of the Matthis boys having a favorite aspect of the farm, they are both adept in all areas, pitching in wherever needed. Both can drive a tractor like it is second-nature and both show livestock in 4-H. The two also know how growing up on a farm has helped them.

"I've learned responsibility," said Colbey and Chasen added that "I've developed a strong work ethic thanks to living on a farm."

For their parents, their greatest hope is for their sons to take over the farm one day."Our hope for the future is that our boys will come back and run it. They are the reason that we do what we do," said Melanie.

And what the Matthis family does, is work hard to make sure they are sustainable. They want this farm to last for generations to come. Part of that is to do things the right way and respect their neighbors.

"Being a good neighbor means everything. We live on the land too.  We don't want to do anything to harm the environment because we live here," said Scott.

Melanie echoed her husband's sentiments. As a mom raising two boys on the farm, she knows first-hand the importance of doing things the right way.

It isn't always easy on the farm, though. The family could all agree that working 365 days a year with very few vacations or time off isn't easy. Yet, the best and hardest parts about farming are integrally weaved together for the Matthis family. Late nights cutting hay and early mornings caring for animals isn't always fun, but it also allows them to work more together as a family. In the end, it is all worth it.

The Matthis family is committed to farm life and are invested in it. If they aren't working on the farm, you may find them on the road headed to a 4-H livestock show. When Scott isn't working one of his full-time jobs, he is serving on the NC Purebred Angus Board, Simmental Cattle Board, and the Sampson County Cattleman's Association Board. They lead a full life that is filled with agriculture, but at the center of it all is family.Farming is a family affair for the Matthis Family.

Photos by: M. See Creative