Joe Carr, 32, walks past Midas (left) and towards Firecracker (right). Joe has adopted four rescue horses and keeps them on his grandparent’s farm in Sedalia, Missouri, on Sept. 28, 2023. After long days working in the mechanic shop, Joe spends part of his evenings feeding and keeping his horse's company.

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Laboring for His Dream

Eleanor Moseman | United States

Joe Carr, now 32, has worked and lived on his grandfather’s farm since he was 15. He dreams of being a full-time farmer, but it is nearly impossible financially. Between the early morning and evening hours, he works in his automotive mechanic shop in the town center to fund his lifelong dream of farming. His close relationship with his deceased grandfather and the love of the family farm is the heartbeat that keeps him working every moment of his waking hours.

He spends his days grappling inside diesel engines, wiping sweat from his brows with greased hands. Everyone in this town knows Joe, the mechanic, as he’s been working on other people’s vehicles since he was 16.  But the solitary man who returns to the farm is hidden from the public eye. As the sun sets along the Missouri skyline, he feeds his four rescue horses and pets his fourteen-year-old “ditch dog,” Clyde.

Joe is a gentle, loving, and insightful man fueled by love to preserve a way of life and culture for generations while feeding America.

This story was developed and completed during a week in Sedalia, Missouri, while attending the 75th Missouri Photojournalism Workshop. While working closely with mentors and peers for a short time, I could only capture 400 images for an essay.

In a week, I was able to develop a small story focusing on Joe's life. His solitary life drew me in, and I witnessed him making immense sacrifices for something he felt was important. (It resonated with my fellow photographers in Sedalia and me for that week.)

We are hoping this is just the beginning of a long-term story. I was informed of the mental health issues American farmers are currently facing. In January of 2024, PBS NewsHour released a statistic: "Farmers are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population, according to the National Rural Health Association."

It was a life-changing and much-needed experience, and I was urged to apply during the SDN Portfolio Review of 2023. My deepest and sincerest thanks go to Joe Carr, who let me into his life and home. Currently, I am looking for more American farmers to document while looking for funding to share these often unseen stories that ultimately produce the food on our table.

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