farm family

Our Story: The Farmer's Side of Hurricane Florence

There have been articles, news reports, and don’t forget the countless social media posts that focus around Hurricane Florence. Beyond the many memes about bread and milk flying off the shelves, and heart-breaking reports of devastation the storm brought, there were a great deal of stories spread about farmers. Unfortunately, the story that was told was often neither positive nor accurate.So, here is the story of the farmer. This is a timeline of events from Sept 7-present day told by farmers. This is our story.Sept 7—North Carolina declares state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane FlorenceGovernor Cooper waived transportation restrictions for farmers to allow them to harvest more quickly.Sept 8—News Reports of Hurricane Florence making landfall in NC increase.Farmers continue to work daily in the field. They begin to pickup the pace in harvest and keep a constant eye on the weather. Hog farmers continue to manage lagoons just as they have the rest of the year. 20,000 pigs in high-risk areas are moved to higher ground.Sept 11—Florence is a Category 4 and is expected to make landfall by Thursday morning.Farmers and friends come together to help get corn crops in before rain and wind destroy the crops. They work well into darkness. After all, a farmer’s work doesn’t end when the sun goes down. It ends when the job is done.madisenSept 12—The storm has weakened but is still expected to cause serious damage and has now shifted south.Harvest continues across the state. For many it will be the last day they can get any crops in. Many farmers don’t have time to stop and eat, so it’s meals on trucks, tractors and combines.lorenda cTruckers are delivering feed to farms, and farmers and lineman alike are preparing for Florence.chadGenerators are getting primed and anything loose is getting tied down.tutherring tSept 13—Rains begin to fall. Coastal cities begin to see flooding and wind damage. Florence is here.Any and all harvest comes to a stop as rain begins to fall. Taking care of animals continues as usual. The goal is to keep them comfortable and oblivious to any storm outside.loSept 14—Florence camps out over NC, moving only 2mph. Severe flooding starts and at least 5 people have already died. Rain continues to fall.Farmers continue to monitor and care for their animals. Wind has started to cause some damage, but on the whole, all is holding up.ch ridwilsonSept 15—Florence continues to pummel NC. Death tolls rise as well as flooding. Water rescues are prevalent in the eastern part of the state. Farmers are feeling the impact of the storm. Lagoons are filling, but are contained. Some are struggling with equipment malfunction or storm damage. Many are without power and even having personal issues with their own home.quotemarRoads begin to flood and washout. Despite road conditions, farmers still brave weather and roads to care for their animals.comboMany farmers make the choice to just stay at the farm with their animals. It is their home away from home for a few days.edwardsarcherFor some, their choice to stay would trap them.hairrSept 16—Rain continues. Some areas have received more than 30 inches of rain. Flooding has reached historic levels.Communities across the Carolinas are praying for the rain to stop. Many roads are impassable, making it difficult or impossible to reach farms by vehicle. Farmers do whatever it takes to care for their animals and farm.cowsmerrickstrickMany farmers are also first-responders. Their duties leave them exhausted, but their compassion and heart pushes them onward.firstSept 17—The sun shines on NC, but rivers are expected to crest in the coming days.Nothing has changed for farmers, except that water is coming from the rivers instead of sky. It is all boots on the ground (and in the sky) to get to farms and start fixing damages.wesThe farmers at this farm in Trenton, NC had a long several days. They did not go home for days, but stayed at the farm. They are keeping the pigs fed and watered. People have come to help. Water has risen to unprecedented heights.cox45`I40Sept 18—Rivers continue to rise cutting towns off. It is a grim and hard time in NC. Flood waters are rising to historic levels. Farmers are working day and night. Many have lost their homes, but continue to care for their farms.cavhelldebSept 19-Present—Disaster in NC is ongoing. People are still in danger, and floodwaters are still risingFarmers continue to work to care for their animals, battle generators, and manage lagoons. They are tired. Tears have been shed, some pigs have died, some lagoons have spilled, and some homes have been lost, but hope is ever present with farmers. They continue to fight.ttankThere is also a sense of pride among farmers. Proud of each other for what they have endured and continue to endure. Despite historic floods, torrential rain, and long days, farmers continue. They aren’t just proud of each other, though. There are many others proud of these men and women too.jacksonsargentUntitled-2-RecoveredToday, you can find farmers at their farms, in their communities, or cleaning up their own homes. If you drive through farm country, you may still have to dodge washed out roads. You may see drowned crops. There may be a person’s house turned inside out with all their belongings in the yard. Things are hardly back to normal.soybeansMedia, activists, and others will tell a horror story where Hurricane Florence and farmers are the villains and the public and animals the victims. The past few weeks have indeed been a horror story, but farmers should also be classified as victims. They have endured unimaginable events and faced so much loss.Farmers can also be deemed heroes of the story. They put their animals and others above themselves. They worked hard and even risked their health and lives during the storm. They saved animals. They saved people. They saved the day in some situations.marlowe vDespite the stories being told, farmers do care. They prepared. They fought. They stayed. This is their story…the true story. It is the story of the farmer and it deserves to be told. 

NC Farm Family Faces: A Desire to Farm as a Family

Meet the Gray Family! Brandon is a CPA and his wife, Jessica is a part-time nurse and full-time mom to their 5-year-old twin girls, Delaney and Emalyn. They are also hog farmers. They weren’t born hog farmers, and they didn’t inherit the business. They made the decision to buy a pre-existing hog farm in Wayne County a few years ago.DSC_2772“We purchased this farm as a family endeavor, and it’s been really nice. The community has been really receptive and the neighbors have been great. It’s been a really good thing,” said Brandon.In addition to pigs, the family also grows collards and sweet potatoes on their 125 acres.There is no doubt this is a family endeavor. Jessica keeps most of the books, and Brandon, with help from his dad, Rayburn Brown, cares for all the pigs and crops.DSC_2794Even at 5 years old, Delaney and Emalyn help out too. Special trips have to be made to visit the pigs for the girls.DSC_2785DSC_2819

Brandon came from a farming background. His grandfather was one of seven, and they were all farmers. Many of their children (and grandchildren) also became farmers. Jessica, on the other hand, is not from a farming family. She married into it, but she loves it!

“The pigs are my favorite part. I like watching them grow and get big. The girls enjoy the pigs, and whatever they enjoy I try to follow behind and support them,” said Jessica.DSC_2840While the Gray family loves their farm, it isn’t always easy. They live about 20 minutes away from the actual farm. This doesn’t mean they don’t have to visit as often. Rather it means a lot of extra miles on their vehicles.“We check the pigs at least twice a day, every day. We eat dinner as a family, then go to check on the pigs once more to make sure everything is alright,” said Brandon.Of course, the normal uncertainties that accompany farming are also hard. One never knows what the weather will do or when equipment must be fixed. There are also finances. For the Grays, the decision to purchase the farm was both easy and hard. The desire was strong, but the burden of finances was also strong. Ultimately, they decided to go for it.One aspect that does help the Grays is their relationship with their integrator, Maxwell Foods. The integrator provides a support system for the family to help them with things like providing the best healthcare for the pigs. Without the integrator, the farm would not have the resources they do.Although owning a farm can be stressful at times, the Grays enjoy being part of something bigger. They may not have the largest farm, but it does feed people, and the Grays love being a part of that.A full-time CPA, part-time nurse, full-time parents, and full-time farmers (because farming is never part-time)…life is busy for the Grays, but it is fueled by a  desire to farm as a family.DSC_2813Photos by: Marisa See