Finishing up another semester

I’ve been pretty busy getting through a biology course I’ve been taking at Gaston College. I’m also taking an art history class, but it hasn’t been terribly hard to get through. One more test for biology and then the final and the final for art history and I’m done. I’m all registered for my first semester at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and chomping at the bit to get going with that. My experiences with community college have been frustrating, at best. I don’t think that college students should be allowed to turn in substandard work and still get high grades – what’s that teaching them about work ethic?

I’m also finishing up a second class through Duke University’s Documentary Studies program. I’m on the fence about whether I want to take more classes or not. I’ve learned a lot in both classes. I’ve made great progress with doing video productions. Progress is the key word, I’m still a long ways away from being good at it. Having issues with focus and stabilization of the camera. Practice definitely makes perfect with this skill.

I’m working on my continual study of the history of the dairy industry in Lincoln County. I wonder if anyone else even notices as they drive through the county all the silos standing next to falling in old barns. Probably not. Surrounding these old barns are fields of the three crop rotation of wheat, corn and soybeans. That may seem like the land is still being used for farming and technically it is, but in reality what’s going on in these fields that were once used by small family farms that produced food that stayed in the community is agribusiness. These massive crops of wheat, corn and soy are predominately being used to feed livestock (that is raised in confinement facilities – you know, all those chickens living in the long, low buildings that you see around the county), the pig farms that are not common here but are so in the eastern part of North Carolina and elsewhere of course and shipped out west to cattle feed lots. Some of the corn is used to produce fuel and high fructose corn syrup. The corn that you see in the fields is not corn that is eaten by humans. The soy is used in animal feed, expressed into oil and shipped globally to be used to feed livestock.


Dean Reep who formerly ran Reep Dairy in Lincoln County

All these acres of land that was once used to feed the people who lived in the vicinity. Now it’s just big agribusiness. I did a little bit of research this morning and from what I found, corn was once “King Corn” just like cotton was 50 to 100 years ago. Now soy has become more profitable to grow. Wheat is the least grown crop right now. What about the loss of diversity in both crops and livestock?

Then you need to think about the damage to the environment from all the pesticides, nitrogen fertilizers and the genetically modified crops (almost 100 percent of the corn and soy grown in this country is genetically modified). There’s continued environmental damage from the factory farms raising all that protein that Americans are consuming plus the labor that is required to process all of these animals. Like picking tomatoes and other crops that can’t (yet) be mechanically picked, employees working at slaughter plants are generally not white Americans but immigrants who need a job so badly they’ll work there. Is this just another form of slavery? It’s a question to ponder for sure.

Farming is hard work and these days, not everyone wants to work hard (back to my first sentence on work ethic). Running a dairy is really hard work and close to impossible to make a profit at unless it’s a huge dairy milking thousands of cows. These thousands of cows don’t go out on pasture and eat grass. Instead they are kept in barns and fed corn and soy. Is the milk that they produce healthy? The powers that be will tell you yes, definitely. I question the health, nutrients and quality of this milk.

So, I’ll keep plugging on my history of the dairy industry and how I believe the loss of all of these small farms – in my study it’s the dairies – but what happened to dairies happened to other types of small farming ventures. You just don’t see many small farms growing crops and livestock that they sell to the community. People just go to Walmart to buy their food and most of them never question where it came from or how it got there.

I think, in addition to continuing on my project, I need to become even more conscious about where my food comes from and get back to raising as much as I can of what we eat.

Until later …