Violet Branch has been living in her Warsaw, NC, home since 1942, long before Smithfield put up a sign directly across the street. Whereas in the past Violet took pride in hosting outdoor cookouts and simple tasks like hanging clothes on the line, today, she can barely stand to walk outside her door for fear of collapsing from the stench or getting sprayed by the filthy water that comes from hog-waste aerosolization sprinklers. Rarely without an inhaler in hand, Violet says her breathing problems (and high blood pressure) began in the 90s. That was also the same time the factory farm moved in. Today, she can barely get through a day (and even some nights) without having to phone her son to drive her to Walmart so she can breathe fresh air. Her faucet runs contaminated water, she awakes to rumbling truckloads of frightened (or dead) animals, and yet, Violet still believes that God is on her side. “He’s watching,” she says. She takes a moment each day to tend to her pretty patch of brown-eyed Susans that somehow, like Violet, persevere.

Pledge to Be a Good Neighbor