The Organics: Hands and Heart Jennifer Mantler



Jennifer Mantler lives what this photo essay  project is all about …

Jennifer Mantler Organics Quote

Jennifer, like so many other college students that we have encountered, had periods of disillusionment during the college years of her life.  Unfulfilled expectations and conflicting messages generated by a choice of  study majors, in Jennifer’s case – environmental science and political science – left Jennifer feeling that there had to be something more.

Another common theme we have encountered as an ingredient for how these young people get where they are today is mentorship – someone that believed in them and had a value system akin to where they thought they were.

The influential Root Cellar in Columbia, MO

In this case, it was a small grocery in Columbia, Missouri,  The Root Cellar, whose owners Chelsea and Jake Davis influenced her perspectives on local food systems and their sustainability.

“For the three years that I was there with them, we grew together and it was nice to be part of a business start up and and to experience the changes first hand.  But, I realized through that experience that I wanted more than to just sell the food, I wanted to grow it.”



The Troybilt made me do it …

Cynthia Glasscoe Troybilt Organics Heart and Hands

Cynthia Glasscoe enjoys telling the story of her dad’s Troybilt tiller which changed her life.

“It has been in my barn forever as a a gentle reminder of when he was alive and instilled in me his passion for gardening and farming.”

This image is the newest addition to the Organics: Heart and Hands series.

SlowExposures Juried Exhibition – personal, casual, congenial


Jurors Jerry Atnip and John A. Bennette explain their winner selections in a public gallery talk.

The 13th edition of one of the South’s favorite photo exhibitions this past weekend (September 17-20, 2015) was by all accounts one of the luckiest. With 900 images submitted from all across the country,  jurors Jerry Atnip and John A. Bennette  distilled the finalists to 75.   Photographers and the public were treated to a real fete – Southern style!

My wife and I are life-long veterans of festivals – sports, crafts, and photography – but never have we experienced such a warm environment for conversation, the opportunity for cross fertilization of ideas, and the native stimulation that the participating artists individually brought to this event.

There are several elements contributing to its success.  Number one is it’s location in rural Pike County, Georgia, about 100 miles south of Atlanta. Number two is the legion of dedicated volunteers who for many years have poured their oversized small-town hearts and souls into a venue that is aimed to please and exceed all expectations for hospitality.  Number three is  the artist photographer who knows the reputation of this festival and only submit their best work.

The slow pacing of the four days facilitates a saturated adsorption.  The genuineness of this community provides healing time from the rapid pace of another life that everyone brought with them but left checked at the county line.

SlowExposures festival dates for 2016 are September 15-18!

-Houck and K.B. Medford

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.



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 …


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


Kate Schumacher harvests the turnip patch.

Kate Schumacher Quote


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.



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 Tale: 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 .

Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm
Rising Meadow Farm

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.


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!"