Gravy Podcast: Dispatch from Duplin County

Duplin County native Elsie Herring advocates for environmental justice on behalf of her community. Photo courtesy of Civil Eats.

Listen to this week’s episode of Gravy.

By the end of the twentieth century, hog farming had replaced tobacco as the backbone of eastern North Carolina’s economy. Today, the hog industry is a source of both contention and pride in the area. In rural Duplin County, the home of Smithfield Foods, hogs outnumber people 40 to 1.

Open-air lagoons store massive amounts of hog waste, which is then sprayed over the surrounding fields as fertilizer. For decades, residents have claimed that these waste management practices cause a host of health issues, environmental harm, and loss of property value.

A hog waste lagoon in Duplin County, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Civil Eats.

Reporter-producer Otis Gray travels to Duplin County, where a group of concerned citizens believes that industrial hog farms disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. Residents and activists have now filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA, and they hope that their voices will be heard.

Otis Gray is a storyteller and radio producer from rural Vermont. He is host & producer of the Hungry podcast, a show about food, the stories behind it, and the power of what we eat in a polarized world.