(Photography and audio by Alix Blair for RAFI, 2011.)
On Aug. 8, RAFI will host a Crop Hop square dance benefit at the Fearrington Barn in Pittsboro, NC. All the proceeds will benefit small farms like Kay Doby’s for innovative projects through RAFI’s Farm Sustainability Program. Read her story below.
A version of this blog post first appeared in Local Palate Magazine.
Kay Doby raises a breed of meat goats called Hot Shots. But she’s the gutsy one.
Doby used to raise chickens for a large poultry company. For years, she fought the unfair contract requirements that were putting her into debt. When she spoke up and delivered her testimony to Congress in 2007, the company let her go.
But for Doby and her chickens, this set them free.
“It feels good to be able to see the chickens out there, running around,” she says. “Before, the chickens were just in there. Now you can call them and they come to you. They act like chickens are supposed to act, if you know what I mean!”
Doby loves the North Carolina tobacco land she grew up on and never thought to leave it. The earth beneath her feet is rich with history. It tells the story of four generations of Southern farmers connected to a livelihood of hard work.
The termination of her job not only left her with massive debt, but also big, vacant poultry houses. Doby looked into viable ways to craft a business using her existing structures, and discovered opportunity in raising meat goats.
She joined the North Carolina Meat Goat Cooperative and received a grant from the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA and the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund. The grant awarded helps former tobacco farmers in North Carolina fund innovative, sustainable agriculture projects. (RAFI also supported and accompanied Doby to her 2007 testimony to Congress.)
For Doby, the grant financed everything to get Hot Shot Goat Farm up and running.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “RAFI helps farmers transition into something else, something new, something sustainable. I can finally do what I wanted to do on my own.”
Now Doby doesn’t feel guilt about the cramped birds in her houses. Her chickens run free and her goats graze nearby. She hugs them every morning, and they nuzzle her right back.