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The Organics: Hands and Heart Bob Alsup

This profile is a seminal component of a major work portfolio head lighting organic farmers whose hands are as expressive as their faces, and whose hearts have lead them to a proactive life of caring for the earth and others.

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From surgeon to farmer …

Since coming back to Winston-Salem to begin practice in 1979, Bob Alsup always had a garden. Even as a kid, he had a strawberry patch or vegetable plot.  On his very first day in Winston-Salem as a physician, he was looking for a place to plant his garden.  Luckily, his dad who had some land in county,  was generous enough to allow him to clear some.  For 33 years since,  the garden grew bigger each year.

The itch to grow goes all the way back to the early ’50’s and his childhood home on Queens Street; their home was literally in the shadow of  “Baptist Hospital” (North Carolina Baptist Hospital) and “Bowman Gray” (School of Medicine).  Neighbors were tolerant and so was the hospital and medical school.  “Our roosters were loud!” he remembers.  No one got upset.

“I was so excited about what was coming up, and if I weren’t on call,  I would be at the farm gardening with a flashlight!”

“A 33 year transition from being a full time surgeon and a hobby farmer  to now being a full time farmer giving it all that I got seems to me to be a pretty natural transition.”

I agree … HMM

Graveside flowers of a cotton farmer’s wife …

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August 19, 2015 … What one might expect, of course, the corporate “green and yellow” floral arrangement from the local John Deere dealership … Cotton harvest season is October;  cotton bolls in two of the arrangements.

The Organics: Hands and Heart Kate Schumacher

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Kate Schumacher harvests the turnip patch.

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Kate Schumacher has lived her whole life in the South, and as she tells it, “rural spaces have been a part of my entire existence.”  A college education and a few months into graduate school put her into a panic when she finally figured out that  she wasn’t living a meaningful existence.   Career testings consistently pointed her to fields of study that had the word “agriculture” in them and on a whim and at the latest possible minute, she signed up for a master gardening class.

That changed everything.

“I don’t want to say that farming is ‘simple work.’   It is hard work.   It is work that comes from the earth.   You eat a meal three times a day.  To be part of something like that, you need to take full ownership of your food. To me, that is meaningful.”

Kate and Grandma

Kate with Grandma

Kate points to her heritage. Her 86 year old grandmother no longer lives on the family farm where she was raised, but according to Kate, “she still has that ‘farming mentality’ where you do everything yourself, you work hard, and you don’t lean on other people for help. I remember sitting on the front porch picking the ends off of green beans, peeling fresh apples to make apple turnovers, digging up turnips, harvesting fresh squash, and making tomato sandwiches with freshly picked tomatoes.  As a kid I connected fresh, local food with people I loved and respected.”

“Farming is appealing because of the attitudes and behaviors which I associate with –  patience, kindness,  humility in the face of nature’s power, and empowerment by adapting to nature’s challenges. I am fully aware of my youth and how much MUCH more I have to learn as I create and grow into the farming lifestyle I imagine for myself.”

Kate currently farms for Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobaccoville, N.C.

 

 

Free Range to Oven Range … exhibition finalist

Free Range to Oven Range

 

I am honored and excited to share with others that my image “Free Range to Oven Range” has been selected as an exhibition finalist in the photography exhibition and event, SlowExposures.

For Southern photographers, this is a prestigious event and I am honored to have my work chosen and exhibited.

SlowExposures is a unique occasion spanning four days in September (17th through the 19th) in a community which has no name nor geographical boundaries — other than to say it is in Pike County, Georgia.  Since 2003, fine art photographers and photography lovers from across the United States have gathered to experience the annual juried exhibition that celebrates the rural American South—in the rural South.

The image is from an already published photography essay on this site.  In the words of the cauldron technician, “the water temperature needs to be just right and then she (the hen)  can only be dipped for the right number of seconds so the feathers can easily be pulled off.”

The Organics: Hands and Heart Cynthia Glasscoe

This profile is a seminal component of a major work portfolio head lighting organic farmers whose hands are as expressive as their faces, and whose hearts have lead them to a proactive life of caring for the earth and others.

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Cynthia Glasscoe reclaimed a 106 acre farm that was purchased by her father in 1944 and became a new life challenge in 1990 when with her family reclaimed overgrown fields and washed out roads.  The farm has become known as Billy Place, named after William (Billy) Martin who owned the land and farm in the late 1800’s.

The farm is located in East Bend, N.C.

 

Cotton Chronicle: Century Industry, Century Farm, Century Family

Cotton Chronicle is an industry, farm, and family documentary headlining the changes in cotton production and agribusiness during the last 60 years.  The narrative vehicle for this documentary is the voice of the “last-one-standing” patriarch of a four generation farm family living in the Four Hole Swamp of low-country South Carolina.  Family members, multi-generational farm hands, and community testify to the  family’s farming heritage and deep-seated values of faith, succession, and family pride.  Also prominent in the story is the family’s loyalty to John Deere, a manufacturer of farming equipment since 1837.

Cotton Chronicle is produced in three forms:

1) A photography exhibition

2) A book,  Coming Home to Cotton

3) A multimedia long form documentary (currently in-progress) – view trailer

 

For Ann and Ron Fay, lambing season is not for the faint of muscle

Rising Meadow Farm

“Abilene”, a pride-of-the herd Corriedale sheep at Rising Meadow Farm, has her first lamb ever. Yet unnamed, the lamb is only a day old.

For Ann and Ron Fay at Rising Meadow Farm, spring is the most awaited time of the year with the daily arrival of new born lambs.  It is also the time of the year that is most demanding physically.

Ann and Ron have set the bar high as their credo is “only the best will do” which applies to the quality of food sources, environment, and mode of harvest.

They believe that this level of care generates the best products of wool and meat, the foremost which is generated  on the farm’s February Shearing Day by master shearer Kevin Ford. Meat to market occurs during the other months of the year.

Hard work has paid off for this couple as the end of each day brings comfort, satisfaction, and joy in a unique pastoral setting which has been preserved in perpetuity for future generations.

The Piedmont Land Conservancy is a partner in the Fay’s vision as benefactor of a conservation easement placed in 2011 .

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A division of labor between Ann and Ron makes each morning possible. Ann tackles the cleanup which reduces incidences of infection and hoof diseases.

Ron takes on the feeding after the sheep have been turned outside the barn. "They will knock you down," Ron says, "if they were in here with you."

The farm's best hay, according to Ron, is a blend of timothy and alfalfa. "It is expensive; it can break the bank!"

The barn lots are particularly soft and deep after a rain and the only way to get the hay out is by wheelbarrow through the ankle deep mud.

Hay is now much more compact (and heavier) than a couple of years ago because transporters figured out they could get more bales on a truck if each bale was "super compressed" by hydraulic balers.

"Ouchless!"

Each new lamb gets an ear tag; no flinch; and there for life.

Meticulous heritage records are kept for each animal so as to insure diversification of the existing gene pool.

"We recycle everything."

The Fay's compost pile is the envy of the county.

The happiest (and one of the most satisfying) moment is when the newborns are turned out with mom ewe after an overnight or two in "the jug" - the confined newborn nursery for ewe and lamb. "They are happy to have their freedom ... they belong outside!"

NC DOT Disaster at Deep Gap

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In 2003, the widening of US Highway 421 from Winston-Salem to Boone and it’s realignment with the Blue Ridge Parkway at Deep Gap was completed.

NC DOT, unfortunately, did not make adequate allowances for managing the water runoff at the highway’s boundary intersection with Critcher Farms. Over the last 10 years and even until today, this once pastoral landscape has eroded into a chasm of canyon proportions – almost beyond repair.

All local remembrances are of a once high scenic quality unblemished landscape of a well-managed cattle farm.

This photograph is a long exposure panorama of existing conditions and one of 40 photographs selected as a finalist with the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition.   This photograph, titled  “NC DOT DISASTER AT DEEP GAP”  (40″ x 12″), is a finalist in the “Our Ecological Footprint” category.  The photograph is on display as part of an exhibition at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.

Exhibition calendar:

March 6
“People’s Choice” voting begins

March 28
Private reception for finalists and invited guests.  Category winners announced.

April 3
Public reception

June 6
Exhibition closes

 

 

NC DOT Disaster, Behind the Scene

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The planning and execution of the photograph on the right took over two years to complete.  I was aware of this local geological defect for some time and the stories related by the owners about the “first flood” were astounding.  Their early conversations with DOT were not confrontational or demanding; however, they would have preferred having their ditch filled in and the causing factor relieved.

In 2014, the NCDOT advertised and issued a contract for the construction of a run-off swell at a cost of over $125,000 on their right-away.

The ditch still remains.

This photograph on the right is a long exposure panorama consisting of seven individual portrait orientation views. They were exposed only when traffic was approaching to get the streaking tail lights and headlights.   The supplemental lighting of the “canyon” was executed with 4 fixed LED fixtures and two remote controlled flash units – Profoto Pro-B’s. The photograph on the left is taken using a GoPro set for still imagery on an unmanned aircraft system unit.

The compensated “farmer model” is a plumber for our new home near Blowing Rock.

The image is still on view at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts as part of the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition thru June 6.

 

Ron Fay, weathered sheep herder lives his creed …

Ron seeks higher ground before bringing his prize ramms to their feed lot

Ron seeks higher ground before turning his prize rams into their feed lot.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this herder from the completion of his appointed rounds” … adapted  from USPS.  Ron Fay, who with his wife Ann, created the Rising Meadow Farm in Randolph, County, NC over 20 years ago and donated a conservation easement to the Piedmont Land Conservancy to prohibit forever the building of a big box store on their farm.  They did all of  this because it was “the right thing to do.”

“We are proud of the quality of our wool, of our meat, and of our farm, ” they will quickly tell you.  “It all starts with the way that we take care of their animals.”

Taking care of their animals “well” is obvious.  Their shearing day was only days before temperatures plummeted into the single digits.  The best hay available and improved shelter with piped in classical music would make any human jealous of Ron and Ann’s compassion, respect, and care of their farm life of cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, guineas, llamas, and alpacas.

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Ron in his first morning round puts out a fresh timothy hay blend for his prized ewes who are at this time of the year pregnant.

The llamas, guineas. and chickens share in the feast.

And we all know about closing the barn door ...

The tractor, which is used to haul feed to the rams on another part of the farm, gets a brush-off.

These prize rams have fulfilled their obligation of breeding the ewes in the preceding weeks and are kept isolated at their own "men-only" shelter.