As the divide between rural and urban communities becomes more pronounced, there are fewer people in North Carolina who know what it’s like to actually live around a farm. That’s one reason we wish the courts would have allowed juries to visit the farms being targeted in lawsuits — we know that when people visit a farm in person and get an up-close look at how it operates, they come away with a more favorable impression.
As for those who rely solely on media reports to inform their perception of hog farms… well, there’s no telling what they might think.
NC Farm Families recently invited a group of students from Mount Olive University to visit a hog farm in Duplin County and learn more about how our treatment lagoons work. It seemed like a good opportunity to see how perceptions change after visiting a hog farm, so we asked each student to complete a short survey before and after their visit.
The results were telling:
Nearly 75% of the students had a more favorable impression of hog farms and treatment lagoons after their visit. The other students’ perceptions remained the same.
When we asked students to rate the odor near the lagoons on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the strongest), they expected the odor to rank as a 6.6 before their visit. After the visit, they rated the odor next to the lagoon as a 2.5. Nearly two-thirds of them rated the odor as very faint (1 or 2).
An even higher percentage of students — nearly 75% — rated the odor on the farm in general as very faint (1 or 2). Perhaps that is why none of the students who visited said they would consider this particular hog farm a nuisance.
When we asked what surprised them most about their visit to the farm, many students focused on the lack of odor:
“Hog farms are much cleaner and safer than the media portrays.”
“The odor was not bad.”
“It smelled a lot less than I imagined… The media makes them seem terrible when they are actually well maintained and regulated.”
Our experience with these students reinforces what we’ve always known: When people actually visit a family farm and see how it operates, they are impressed with our farms and the dedicated people who run them.