Emily McCaul, editorial intern | Bella Magazine, print page 13
Carolyn Reilly is changing the way Roanoke eats. In addition to the many hats she wears as a wife, daughter, and mother of four, Carolyn continues to seek out healthy, natural living practices for the area, raising awareness through her roles as marketer, farmer and outreach personnel at Four Corners Farm. Established in 2008 in Rocky Mount, Virginia, the family-farm continues to run today, fueled by the authentic passion and hard work exhibited by Carolyn and her family: four helpful children, two supportive parents, and a loving husband. Together, the team works to supply organic, pure food to the local area, restore the environment through recycling, and host community-building events for locals and travelers alike.
Tell me a little bit about Four Corners Farm. What are some of your specific day-to-day tasks and responsibilities?
I usually get out on the farm every day and see some of the animals. We also do our own chicken processing, which is kind of a dirty slash clean job. There’s a process involved—that’s weekly. Daily, we have four children, so we’re busy taking care of our kids. We homeschool, I cook a lot, and I’m [also] a community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. That’s something that has become my side-work of community involvement, especially in regards to the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, because it’s threatening our farm.
I think another aspect of farm work is communicating with people who support local agriculture, the importance of continuing that support, and communicating with those who are at risk; corporations are taking land from from them for financial gain. That’s become an extra role that I did not anticipate having as a farmer, living in a rural area, but it’s almost as if the rural community tends to be threatened more by these corporate land-grabbers.
Our third or fourth season here in Virginia, we received a letter from a gas corporation saying, ‘We would like to talk to you about putting a pipe through your farm.’ We didn’t know what that meant or if it was a natural gas pipe; honestly, we just didn’t have an understanding. We were really into the local food movement and sustainability, non-GMO’s—we had been solely involved with those aspects of educating the public. It became a natural bridge for me with environmental concerns regarding our farm, as well as the whole community.
It has taken some of the skills I’ve had from my past, marketing sales, and working on the farm, to community concerns and raising awareness—it’s been fun. We’ve done protests, and my kids have been really involved. They’ve learned a lot about protecting the environment, and really, it’s for them. All of this is for the future, for them to have a home and a land that we can pass on that’s healthy, free from methane, leaks, and devastation.
What is it like working with family?
Working with family, honestly, is such a gift—to be able to have our own schedule that we can create. However, certainly, we are often ruled by nature and the animals. That’s a part of working with nature; we have to cooperate too, even when nature doesn’t always cooperate with us. That makes the type of farming that we do harder in certain ways, because all our pigs are not lined up in rows, on concrete pads—in prison cells essentially. They’re not locked up. Ours roam free, in a fence, and occasionally they get out which is stressful.
We just had this happen the other day, so it’s very emotional. We were missing quite a few pigs, and they fortunately returned; they came home. Through that process we realized just how valuable it is what we’re doing, because it’s everything for us. It’s our livelihood; it’s who we are. We put our hearts into all of it.
All of life has hardships and downsides, but we really are so fortunate and consider it a gift to be doing what we’re doing in this time when local food and concern for the environment is coming to a peak.