New Book Highlights the CAFO Crisis in North Carolina - Waterkeeper

New Book From Corban Addison Highlights the CAFO Crisis in North Carolina

By: Thomas Hynes

Photo by Mark Meranta.

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial, the latest book from Corban Addison, documents the horrendous, unjust, and often untold story of how industrial pig farms have devastated North Carolina. This is Corban’s first nonfiction book and includes a foreword by John Grisham, who described Wastelands as “a story I wish I had written.” Also, writing for The New York Times Book Review, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, called Wastelands “an extraordinary story … [and] a damning portrait of how we feed ourselves …”

The once idyllic coastal plain of North Carolina is home to a close-knit, rural community that for more than a generation has battled the polluting practices of large-scale farming taking place in its own backyard. Wastelands takes us into the heart of a legal battle over the future of America’s farmland and into the lives of the people who found the courage to fight.

With journalistic rigor and a novelist’s instinct for story, Addison captures the inspiring struggle to bring a modern-day monopoly to its knees, to force a once-invincible corporation to change, and to preserve the rights—and restore the heritage—of a long-suffering community.

Waterkeeper Alliance is honored to have played a role in helping bring this book to life. 

“One of the first things I did when I decided to write this book was get in touch with Waterkeeper Alliance Senior Advisor, Rick Dove,” says Corban. “Rick Dove played a really huge role in elevating this issue for North Carolinians. I went down east and met Rick in New Bern and he did exactly what he promised, which is take me up in an airplane over hog country and show me that crazy bird’s eye view from 1,500 feet, which is unforgettable and defines the problem. You can’t unsee it and what I realized is that view had a profound effect on how the case was settled. After that, Rick took me on a drive through hog country. We drove around long enough until we found some sprayers so I could smell hogshit driiting on the breeze. That was necessary. I really needed to experience it for myself.”  

“RIck is a hero of mine,” says Corban. 

Corban also worked with other Waterkeeper Alliance staff, including Campaign Coordinator, Larry Baldwin. These experiences revealed to Corban what he describes as a “very rich and vibrant community of activists who have been fighting this fight for a very long time. These are people who know the truth and are not afraid to speak it.”

Corban hopes this book can help shed light on this form of environmental racism, but also encourage readers to become more thoughtful consumers across the board. 

“We’ve been fed this illusion that all the stuff we buy to wear and eat just magically appears,” says Corban. “But we’re realizing there’s an origin story behind every product, and we are voting with our pocketbooks. We are deciding what is right and wrong based on where we spend our money. It’s not always easy to be a fully transparent and conscientious consumer, but at minimum you can ask questions and educate yourself. You’ll soon realize it’s not just bacon.” 

Despite the grim subject matter, Corban remains an optimist. He believes any problem caused by humans can also be solved by humans. Beyond spending a little time thinking about where our food comes from, we can also support legislation like the Farm System Reform Act, introduced by Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Ro Khanna (CA) last year. 

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial is available for sale now wherever you buy your books.

Corban Addison is the internationally bestselling author of four novels, A Walk Across the Sun, The Garden of Burning Sand, The Tears of Dark Water (which won the inaugural Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Award), and A Harvest of Thorns. Wastelands is his first work of nonfiction. An attorney, activist, and world traveler, he is a supporter of numerous humanitarian causes. He lives with his wife and children in Virginia.