hog farm

A Farmers Biggest Challenge: Overcoming Perceptions

Although many are concerned with how living next to a hog farm can adversely affect a person (there’s even lawsuits over it), for the Overman family and many others, living next to a hog farm isn’t a nuisance or a concern. It is, as Lorenda Overman says, “the perfect spot for a home.” Not only that, but they are healthy and happy.

“We live here on the farm, and we are not sick. We work in the hog houses. We get lagoon water on us almost daily. We drink well-water that’s right here next to this farm, and we are not sick,” said Lorenda.

After raising three children on the farm, and now grandchildren, Lorenda can confidently say that “it’s not toxic to live on a farm.”

For Lorenda, the hardest part about farming isn’t just dealing with weather and markets, the hardest thing is the public’s perception. She is concerned that many do not understand how healthy and happy they are living on the farm. It isn’t just living on the farm, though. It’s also about being a farmer and what a farmer does.

“The hardest thing right now is probably the public’s perception of what we do is somehow wrong when we are trying very hard to do what’s right and make the best possible food source for our neighbors and for ourselves and our community and the world,” said Lorenda, echoing what many farmers are feeling these days.

In North Carolina, nuisance lawsuits have put family hog farmers out of business. That is scary for every farmer across the state and even nation. The agriculture community is anxious as attacks on farmers continue to come.

“I just feel like there’s a big x on our back. I feel like I constantly have to defend myself, and that takes a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. I’m just like they are. I’m just trying to make a living and do my very best,” said Lorenda who has been watching current events closely.

Farmers don’t have to do anything wrong. They may adhere to every regulation and restriction placed on them (NC hog farms are among the most regulated industries) and still be deemed a nuisance and be sued. It is a very frustrating time in North Carolina agriculture that has left farmers fearful, hurt, and confused.How is it that farmers like the Overmans can live years, raising children on the farm and have no complaints. Why would their children make the decision to move back to the farm if it was a nuisance? The Overmans have groups come out to their house for pool parties, and they don’t notice a thing. How can that be? It doesn’t make sense.

“I want people to understand that in my backyard is just like your backyard. Just because there’s a hog house behind there doesn’t mean that my backyard living is less enjoyable than their backyard,” said Lorenda.

Lorenda Overman in her backyard that overlooks their hog houses. Her  pool and grandchildren's swingset is off to the right of the photo. Many  evenings are spent enjoying their backyard with family and friends.

Lorenda Overman in her backyard that overlooks their hog houses. Her pool and grandchildren's swingset is off to the right of the photo. Many evenings are spent enjoying their backyard with family and friends.

With another nuisance lawsuit approaching, eyes are on a Raleigh courtroom. The outcome is yet to be seen, but prayers once again go up for a positive outcome.

It isn’t hurricanes, droughts, malfunctioning equipment, or low markets that is the hardest part about farming. These days, the hardest part about farming is overcoming perceptions.

You can read about the Overman's story by clicking here.

The Road to Justice

by: Chad Herring, NCFF Executive DirectorMany of us are wondering, how was Joey Carter’s hog farm found to be a nuisance in a courtroom in Raleigh?

After all, in many ways, Joey Carter is a model farmer:

  • * his farm is in compliance with all state rules and regulations.

  • a respected scientist who studied the farm found no objectionable odor.

  • and several neighbors, who live closer to the farm than the two people who sued Joey Carter, testified his farm isn’t a nuisance.

Well, here’s how:

  • the jury was told, over and over, the case was against Smithfield Foods, not Joey Carter. But that’s misleading – the jury’s verdict is going to put the Joey Carter farm out of business.

  • the jury was never allowed to visit Joey Carter’s farm. How could they determine a farm’s a nuisance without visiting it?

  • and the respected scientist, who is an expert on odor, was not allowed to give expert testimony regarding her findings at Joey Carter’s farm. (The plaintiffs’ lawyer made a motion to block her testimony and the judge agreed.)

The jury awarded the two people suing Joey Carter’s farm $25,130,000.It’s hard to believe this happened in an American court. But verdicts like this are the reason Americans have the right to appeal to higher courts. And, in this case, the road to justice leads straight to the Court of Appeals. NC Farm Families stands behind Joey Carter – his hog farm is not and has not been a nuisance.