Farmers harvesting as candidates stump

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Plenty of candidates to speak, but few farmers to listen.

Attendance at the Beaufort County Farm Bureau’s candidates breakfast Wednesday morning at the Washington Civic Center was all but devoid of farmers who signed up to attend. Instead, the great majority of those farmers were harvesting crops as the threat of Hurricane Matthew loomed. Of the scant farmers at the breakfast, most of them were associated with the North Carolina Farm Bureau, Beaufort County Farm Bureau or the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

The candidates who attended the breakfast ranged from a U.S. House of Representatives candidate to candidates seeking seats on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners or the Beaufort County Board of Education. Each candidate who spoke was allowed two minutes to address the audience, mostly other candidates.

Shawn Harding, owner if Southside Farms outside of Chocowinity and a director on the North Carolina Farm Bureau’s board of directors, said that despite the absence of farmers at the breakfast, it still allowed candidates to get their messages out to the agricultural community.

“It’s always encouraging to get to meet some of the candidates. You hate to go into a voting booth and see a name that you’ve never met. I was encouraged about actual conversations I had earlier on (Wednesday) with some folks I had never met and see what their stance is on agriculture,” Harding said.

Mike Godley, a farmer and president of the Beaufort County Farm Bureau, also believes the breakfast provided a useful platform for the candidates despite low turnout by farmers. “Each of the candidates, in some way, tried to reach to their roots to find a connection to farming and express that to us. We certainly understand that they’re all empathetic to the weather situation. I think that’s probably the overriding thing that’s on our minds … until we get through the next week and see what’s actually going to happen. They are certainly understanding and empathetic in that respect, too,” Godley said.

Nearly all of the candidates who spoke made connections to agriculture — some grew up on farms and worked on those farms, others own farms and some recalled toiling in tobacco fields before the days of mechanized harvesting.

Jay Parker, a North Carolina Farm Bureau spokesman, talked about the relationship between legislators and farmers. “There is nothing like a connection a legislator has with a farmer,” he said.

Parker also said, “Agricultural issues tend to be bipartisan, which is a good thing.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike