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I’m one of those people who talks to folks around me in line at the grocery store; I have always been told that I never met a stranger. Saturday night as I waited in line, I was talking to the guy in front of me about all of the housing developments that are going up in eastern Wake County and what that meant for the future of Nash County as well.
One of his first remarks on the topic was “It’s about time we got rid of all these fields; nobody grows anything of use around here anyways.”
Now, I could have let this go, but anyone who knows me knows that didn’t happen.
“Really?” was my response. “I see you have a few sweet potatoes on the belt there. You know Nash County is a major producer of sweet potatoes, right? I’m also guessing you think that those strawberries could never be grown on a Nash County farm.”
The list went on and the conversation was no longer cordial, but I got my point across to this guy who has no clue what farming does for our local economy and the country in general. We don’t have a lot in southern Nash County — but what we do have we are pretty darn proud of and you best not make light of the hardest-working folks we have amongst us.
Given the “Got to be N.C.” festival is in full swing today, I thought I might as well touch on this topic just in case there was someone else out there who has no clue about rural life in eastern North Carolina.
My generation in my family did not farm past helping out in the fields as children, but you best bet that like most of the families in southern Nash County, my heritage is from farming — several generations of it that came to an end with my parents and their siblings. Money from raising tobacco put both my father and his brother through N.C. State University. Money from sharecropping built the home that my family lives in when my grandfather retired from farming in Stanhope and bought a piece of land on a hill in Gold Valley. My story is not a unique one in our area; it’s a common one for those of us who grew up in this area in the 1970s and 1980s.
Some of us branched out and became lawyers, police officers, politicians and business owners — and some kept the family farms alive where they still work hard year after year, decade after decade.
I don’t know what this gentleman thought was being grown here that was not useful, but when I drive by fields in the spring that have just been broken, I always roll my windows down and smell the scent of the soil that I loved from my childhood riding on my grandfather’s old Allis Chalmers; the smell of farming.
I understand that not everyone actually gets what goes in to nearly everything you see — but those of us who grew up on the rural routes of Nash County have a clear understanding. That shirt you are wearing most likely started out in a cotton field, that steak you had for dinner came from a pasture, your breakfast most likely came from a hog pen and a chicken coop.
If you love green fuel options — roughly 25% of soybeans are used for biodiesel products, and that sweet potato pie you love so much, well there’s a darn good chance it came from Nash County soil.
So while I respect your right to your opinion, you are more than welcome to keep it to yourself. Personally I would just prefer that when you sit down at your table tonight that is built from wood from a timber farm, you simply bow your head and tell the Good Lord above, “Thank you; thank you for creating a farmer.”
By the way, if you still don’t like the dust from the fields we love so much — Delta’s ready when you are, and we’ll all help you pack.
Mark Cone is owner and operator of SouthernNashNews.com.