Farmer to Farmer

FARMER TO FARMER: Heart to Heart

Farmer to Farmer on YouTube

In the spring of 2001, foot and mouth disease reared its head in England, devastating herds and the livelihoods of farmers. Many families were quarantined on their farms, unable to receive the normal human contact we expect during times of hardship. Their herds of cows, sheep or pigs were killed and lives that had been centered around farming for generations were destroyed. Specially bred herds were wiped out. Isolation and despair were driving up the suicide rates and the financial toll was enormous.

This tragedy came to the attention of Little Pearls particularly because Debra had lived in Devon, England for eleven years. This county in England is the heart of the dairy industry in the UK, and many of her old neighbors were affected by this situation. We felt very helpless until we realized, one afternoon, that we could use Little Pearls as a vehicle for spreading messages of support. One of the few avenues of contact during such isolation was television. While many affected families were unable to receive visits from friends and family, they were able to watch TV.

We made a few phone calls to local farmers and what followed was an explosion of compassionate messages from farmers in North Carolina to fellow farmers in the UK — a sixty second Pearl and a mini-documentary were created that became conduits of verbal and visual support. Farmers here encouraged farmers abroad to hang in there and to know that they were not alone. We filmed at the local stockyards, at the farm at Warren Wilson College, and at individual farms in this region. Bob Caldwell, a popular weatherman from WLOS TV, helped us out by doing the voiceover for the PSA.

These messages were sent to England. The PSA was aired in Devon and both the Pearl and the mini-documentary were duplicated in volume (generously donated by Allied Vaughn) and distributed through the Rural Stress Information Network to farming families in need. Peter Phillips, an old friend of Debra’s in England, the BBC, The Diocese of Exeter, and Pastor David Ursell were all instrumental in getting these messages out.

Because we live here in North Carolina, there was no way to personally experience the reception of these messages. But Pastor Ursell shared in a letter, sometime later: “…the response (to the video) was very positive, and the common, caring aspect much appreciated. I am sending copies to contacts in both Cumberland and Wales, where foot and mouth is still rampant…So once again, thank you for all you have done to support us, and if you get a chance to convey this message to those farmers who appeared in the video, please do so.”

from the mini-documentary:

Elspeth Clarke, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, North Carolina, USA I am thinking so much of all of you farmers in the UK and Europe. We send you our deepest sympathy and hope and pray that you get through this terrible period of foot and mouth . We too have herds of cattle and sheep and we just can imagine what terrible times you are going through and we send our deepest sympathy.
John Pilson, Farm Manager, Warren Wilson College, Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA My name is John and I manage the farm at a small college in North Carolina.  We’ve been paying attention to what is happening to all of you and to your farms and your livestock.  We know how much we care about our livestock that we raise.  We are sure it must be devastating to your families to have what’s happening, going on.  We want you to know that all of our hearts here go out to you and we wish you the very very best.
General Grant, of Cherokee, North Carolina, USA Most people have lost a lot of things, but through the Native values, you utilize the things that you have.  You have your health, your family, your land, your love and your commitment to life, and you can still survive if you use those things.  So hang in there and keep at it.
Chase Hubbard, Assistant Farm Manager, Warren Wilson College, Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA Someone once told me at a time of difficulty that you can endure almost anything as long as you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.  I have found that to be true.  I don’t pretend to know how you guys are feeling or what you are going through over there with a lifetime of work built up and now it seems like it is all gone.  But hang in there. Farmers are tough people.  We work in an environment that demands us to have patience and be strong so you folks hang in there.
Diana Osborne, Madison County, North Carolina, USA We are so sorry that these things have happened . . . there are very few words that anybody can say.  But there’s a kind of way that you can be:  when a tree falls and you’re another tree – that’s kind of how I see it and feel it.  In that way that we are so connected with nature and the animals and the trees, then when something goes, everything changes and it’s understood.  Everything does change and grow and die, and we are all part of this enormous cycle of all things.  I think it’s here for us to remember now, as things get perhaps very difficult.  So I want you to remember . . . how everyone has to remember who has lost things, that this is a cycle that we are a part of and we can’t escape it, and it goes on endlessly. You and I and all these things share something very profound.  So now I share your tears, and what you’ve lost, I share that with my heart.
Ted Williams, Iroquois elder living in  Madison County, North Carolina, USA We are always part of the great cycles of all things, and because we’re all from the same creation, we are all sisters and brothers, one tremendous family.  Not only within the elements called people, but intimate kin to all the elements of this divine, harmonious universe.  Our faith keepers tell us that gratitude is the beginning of knowledge and understanding. We have been given the job of taking care of all of our other elements, because we were the last to be created.  We have four things with which to do it:  we have our good thoughts; we have our good feelings; we have our good words; we have our good deeds. Animals have given us so much: food, clothing, shelter, beauty, medicine, a divine consciousness. We open our hearts to these animals and say “Oh, we love you so very much and wish to thank you for all you have given us”. We know that when any of our animals pass on, all other animals, that are even closer to the Creator than we ever could get, are waiting for them, to take care of them and love them and take them into their arms, as we ask them to help us, too.

Jamie Ager, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, North Carolina, USA 
Hard to hear what is going on over there.  We’ve been reading about it in the papers a lot. We know that this is a really hard time and you all are amazing to deal with it.  It must be a real struggle and we are thinking about you. 
John Ager, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, North Carolina, USA
We want everyone to know in England and in Europe how much we understand what you are going through.  Most people who shop in the grocery stores and live in the suburbs and the cities don’t appreciate the amount of time you spend with your animals, how long you spend raising them, to see all that work and that devotion and relationship you have with the animals be destroyed like this.  It is hard for most people to comprehend.  We raise animals and understand that.  We feel like you are going through something that is so tragic and devastating to your families and your land and your whole way of life that we can’t imagine at this point how you will recover, but we know you will.  One thing about farming families is that they are resilient.  We hope that you can keep your farms going, that the land will remain in farming and that you can keep your families fed and healthy yourselves. We just very much feel for you. 
Steve Fullam, Fullam Dairies, Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA
My name is Steve Fullam.  I’m a fourth generation dairyman from Western North Carolina.  Sending our best wishes and prayers for the farmers in the UK and Europe that are having to suffer through this foot and mouth disease.  We hope that things get better for you soon.
Juliet Woods, Veterinarian Student, Warren Wilson College, Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA 
I would like to say that I am deeply sorry for your loss and I want you guys to hang in there and hopefully this will be over soon.
Nancy Robinson, Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, USA
As a beef producer, you have my heartfelt sympathy at the loss of your animals. I’m a farmer too and I know what it’s like to lose your cows.
Annie Clarke Ager, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, North Carolina, USA
We feel very close to your situation.  We can’t know what it’s like, but
we’re thinking of you much every day. We pray that things will be better.
Students and Farm Managers, Warren Wilson College, Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA
– holding a moment of silence for farmers in the UK and abroad.

60 second Pearl – 2001

Featuring Farmers from Western North Carolina

 Conceived by Debra Roberts

Camera: Rick Aguar

Voiceover: Bob Caldwell

Sound Studio: Vince Rutherford-Soundtrax Studio Services

Editing: Kurt Mann-Ironwood Media
with Debra Roberts & Linda McLean

Music: The Lovers’ Waltz 
by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
Courtesy of Swinging Door Music
Also visit
for Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps and
The Lovers’ Waltz CD 

Performed by Sallie Ford and Taya Ricker

Editing for related 8-minute mini-documentary:
David Kahle-Earthlight Multimedia
with Debra Roberts & Linda McLean