Food and Water Watch comes to Greensboro

When you hear of the lagoons that are a result of feces and urine run-off from North Carolina’s 10 million hogs, a truly disgusting image comes to mind. To see the algae and bacteria laden pools, a sickly shade of Pepto-Bismol pink, is an even more startling reality. Calling attention to the negative effects of such farming in North Carolina is the new Greensboro chapter of Food and Water Watch (FWW).

Aimed at eliminating outdated practices from North Carolina farming, five FWW chapters have been established around the state. North Carolina is being targeted for reform, because while it is the nation’s second largest hog producer, its farming practices are some of the worst. 

Hog farming in North Carolina has grown almost exponentially over the last few decades. In 1988, the state had approximately 2.6 million hogs. Today, there are more than 10 million. This growth is at odds with the decreasing number of farms in the state, which went from 15,000 in 1986 to just 2,800 in 2007. This means the majority of the farms are large and corporate-owned; the farms produce amounts of waste that are difficult to manage. 

Polluting the water and air, the waste from these farms can be dangerous to public health. In a four-year span, over five million gallons of waste were spilled into rivers; one incident resulted in the death of four million fish in five days. 

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd deluged North Carolina rivers with an estimated 120 million gallons of hog waste. The waste contains harmful nitrates, heavy metals, antibiotics, and bacteria that make it into drinking water, threatening human health. 

Brought together against such harmful practices, the Greensboro group is spearheaded by organizer Cloe Franko and Guilford College seniors, Alex Thibadeau and Cordelia McKusick, both interns for the burgeoning chapter. 

“We are all here because we are really passionate,” Thibadeau said. “We are starting from the very bottom. Up until this point, no one has tackled this issue in Greensboro.”

The group’s current plan of action is to educate the public. With a goal of getting 1,000 postcards signed, they hope to convince key legislators to pass a bill on reforming hog waste management. 

“We are currently focusing on the education component of the campaign to raise awareness and continuously reach out to individuals and empower them to play an active role in the campaign,” Franko said. 

Heading out to the streets, local events, and farmers markets, these new FWW members are working hard to spread the word. Collecting signatures and contact information requires time.

“We aren’t asking a lot,” said McKusick. “Usually, people don’t have an issue with it.”

The group’s message is getting out through word of mouth as they attempt to reach out to all of Forsyth County.

“It’s a hands-on process,” Franko said. “We are taking a grassroots approach.”

Thibadeau said that other media would also be incorporated once the campaign gets going.

Franko encourages those interested in group organization, especially in the political sphere with moral and environmental motivation, to join. 

In a state where there are currently more pigs than people, hog farming policy is a subject that needs to be addressed.

“It’s an issue that isn’t getting half as much attention as it deserves,” McKusick said. 

In its infancy, the group is currently transitioning from organizing to action, and is working to get as many people as possible involved. 

“Everyone has skills they can bring to the table that can be crucial for the campaign,” Franko said. 

Those interested in getting involved can keep an eye out for upcoming FWW events in the Buzz or contact Franko directly at cloe@greencorps.org. 

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