By Taylor Parrish
NC Department of Agriculture
SAMPSON COUNTY – Agriculture leaves a lasting impression on the land, the community and the people involved in the industry, including Megan Merritt. Megan grew up on a small family farm in Sampson County, where she had a love of agriculture instilled in her at a young age. She has fond memories of riding with her grandfather to feed and tag cattle on the farm and helping her parents in the chicken houses they managed for Sanderson Farms Chicken.
“Agriculture is an innate passion of mine,” Megan said, “I enjoy working with crops here and there but I love working with farm animals like horses, chickens and pigs.” It was that love for animals that led Megan to pursue her bachelor’s degree at the University of Mount Olive in Animal Science.
Mt. Olive is known for their hands-on experience, which was one of Megan’s favorite parts about each class because she learned how to execute many necessary farm tasks, including ear tagging animals. “Animal behavior is intriguing and amazing. My education at Mt. Olive really helped me be able to understand what might be wrong with an animal even though they can’t tell me,” she said, “now I can communicate with them and that inspires me every day.”
A requirement of the Animal Sciences program at the university is to complete an internship in your field of interest before graduation. Megan chose a farm well-known in her hometown and around the state, Prestage Farms.
“I was trying to get an internship right in my field of reference and Prestage Farms not only allowed me to get a real hand in the industry, but also helped educate me on the entirety of the farming process,” Megan said, “and today I am lucky enough to still be a part of the team.”
As a supervisor for the P1 Sow Farm, Megan is responsible for looking after the baby pigs and their mommas each day. Although it may sound like a simple task, there are a lot of details, moving parts and decisions that must be made in a timely manner. On a typical day, Megan arrives to the farm at 5 a.m. to feed the pigs and check the young rooms.
“After I feed the animals, the first thing I do is check to see which sows have had babies over night,” she said, “then I have to move babies around to make sure no mother has too many nursing on her at one time, but you have to be careful with this because the babies can’t be moved from sow to sow after two days.”
Megan can have anywhere from 5 to 20 sows that give birth in one day, which equals a lot of piglets if each sow births thirteen. “It can be a lot of work and certainly takes a lot of time, but being with the animals every day, especially the baby animals, is more rewarding than I can possibly put into words,” she said. Prestage Farms has been family owned since its inception in 1984 and continues to raise high-quality turkey and pork products.
As a young person in agriculture, Megan wants to remind those looking for a career that agriculture is an industry welcome to all degrees and mindsets. “It doesn’t matter if you grew up in this industry, we have a spot for you,” she said, “regardless of your degree or mindset, we need young people with big ideas to flood this industry and help us take on the challenge of feeding the future.”
For now, Megan is taking her spot in the industry as a learning opportunity and soaking up all the experience she can in animal agriculture. In the future, she would love to revive her family farm and utilize the land in a way that not only furthers her experience but helps her leave her mark on the industry she has loved all her life.
(This article was reprinted with permission from the NC Department of Agriculture.)