I grew up in these mountains. My folks weren’t well off, and whatever we got, we had to work for ourselves. As I grew up I saw things change and not always for the better. I saw small farmers struggle to compete with big agribusiness, and get pressured into growing crops the way the big businesses wanted, not the way their families had for generations. I saw Walmart come into small towns and put all the small shops out of business because they couldn’t compete with cheap Chinese goods. I’ve seen wages sink lower and lower to where making $10 an hour can’t pay the rent like it did in the 1980’s. You can’t just work for one company anymore, get health benefits, and retire at the end of 40 years with a pension. Those days are gone.

 

Meanwhile, the dream of owning a small business, of earning an honest living as long as you’re willing to work hard, seems unattainable for most. After attending college at UNC Asheville, where I graduated with a degree in philosophy, I started a small farm. I worked 80 hours a week, 7 days a week, trying to make a living as a small business owner. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. After a few years, I started to see that there were some big things wrong with our food system and with the economy, and that the odds are stacked against family farmers and small business owners. I sold my farm, and got a job with a nonprofit that works to make farming a more accessible career for young people.

 

Around that time, I started a local chapter of Our Revolution, the organization that came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign. We quickly grew to become one of the most active and successful chapters in the country, and helped get thousands of people all across North Carolina involved in the political process for the first time. But my work in politics here in Western North Carolina is just beginning.

 

The hardworking people of this region have been let down by both parties over the years. Politicians do favors for big businesses, but leave small-town America to fend for itself. We have to do better than that. I know firsthand because I’ve been a farmer and a small business owner. I’ve experienced the pressures of trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck in ways most politicians haven’t. The people of this region don’t want a handout, they just want a fair chance.

 

Washington needs Congressmen and Congresswomen who represent real people, from real places like the mountains of Western North Carolina. I believe I’m one of those people. Join us in our fight.