Five Farms: North Carolina

Pigs drinking water, Wise Family Farm, Whitakers, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Pigs drinking water, Wise Family Farm, Whitakers, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Five Farms: Stories of American Farm Families
Whitakers, North Carolina
Photographs by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Five Farms is a new radio series, multimedia Web site, and exhibition at CDS. Listen to the radio documentaries and view the related photo essays on the Five Farms web site.

CDS Porch will feature excerpts from each of the five farm locations weekly. This week’s feature is on Eddie and Dorothy Wise’s farm in Whitakers, North Carolina.

Eddie and Dorothy Wise raise hogs on 106 acres near Whitakers, in east-central North Carolina. Eddie is a fourth-generation hog farmer but the first to own a farm; his father and grandfather were sharecroppers. During a career in the military, and as an ROTC instructor at Howard and Georgetown Universities, Eddie raised hogs in his spare time. It was his dream to return home to North Carolina and farm full-time. When he retired from the Army in 1991 at the age of 48, that’s what he set out to do. Dorothy Wise grew up in Washington, D.C., but she too hoped to one day live on a farm. When she and Eddie met at Howard University in the 1980s and she discovered he was a farmer, it seemed that her wish had come true.

Still, it took the Wises five years, until 1996, to secure the loans they needed to buy their farm. They were repeatedly turned down by local government loan officers who, the Wises are convinced, did not want African American farmers to succeed. It was only through determined effort and much research and legwork that the Wises were able to receive the financial help for which they qualified.

Today the Wises have 250 hogs, which they raise from birth and sell to a black-owned pork processor in their area. Eddie’s lean pork, raised without hormones or antibiotics, is sold at a premium in area supermarkets. Finding such a market niche is the only way the Wises can compete with the much-larger farms that mass-produce hogs for the large meatpacking companies.

Eddie Wise raking pine straw, Wise Family Farm, Whitakers, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Eddie Wise raking pine straw, Wise Family Farm, Whitakers, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Hogs feeding on concrete floor, Wise Family Farm, Whitakers, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Hogs feeding on concrete floor, Wise Family Farm, Whitakers, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Kill room, Robersonville Packing Company, Robersonville, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Kill room, Robersonville Packing Company, Robersonville, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Eddie Wise outside the slaughterhouse, Robersonville Packing Company, Robersonville, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Eddie Wise outside the slaughterhouse, Robersonville Packing Company, Robersonville, North Carolina. Photograph by Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

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