Writing is in his nature

Published 10:24 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

ZUNI—To Rex Alphin farming isn’t just a job. It’s a way of life.

“This vocation is very much like being immersed every day in miracles,” he said. “Just the miracle of a seed coming out of the ground, the sun coming up or calf being born … and just the joy you derive from that.”

His experiences on his family’s farm inspired Alphin to write a series of essays and poems, which, along with photographs taken by Alphin, were recently published in his first book, “The Nature of Things: Stories from the Land.”

“It’s a unique way to live a life, because it’s not just earning a living,” he said. “And that’s what I tried to somewhat capture in these pages — not so much this vocation but this lifestyle.”

The 54-year-old farmer is no stranger to regular readers of The Tidewater News. He has written for the newspaper for about four years and currently writes a weekly column that’s published every Wednesday.

“I’m able to connect with people and that’s a great privilege,” he said of his columns.

Alphin, along with his father, Bob Alphin, and Jack Arrington, work the 1,000-acre Sunset View Farm along the Blackwater River in Isle of Wight County. Family members have worked the land since Alphin’s grandfather purchased the farm in the 1930s.

“Most of the stories … they come out of the soil from this place here,” he said of the family farm.

So what made Alphin start writing?

“I guess I had something I wanted to say, and it seemed like the printed word was the best way to do it for me,” he said. “I’m an avid reader. I like words.

“I think most writers have a love affair with words.”

Alphin said he comes from a family that values communication and has “always liked communicating.”

He said he started submitting work to The Tidewater News, and eventually became a weekly columnist.

Alphin said his weekly column spurred comments and e-mails from a number of people telling him he should collect his writings in a book.

“I got a lot of encouragement,” he said. So, he put his writings together and sent them off to a publisher.

“He called me up and he said, ‘I think you’ve got something that’ll sell,’” Alphin said of the publisher. They started editing and saving the best writings. Including photographs, Alphin said he worked on the book “off and on” for about a year-and-a-half.

The first essay in the book, “Tied to the Land,” is also the first column Alphin sent to The Tidewater News.

“I think it’s a pretty good summation of the gist of the book, as far as what it means to be tied to the land,” he said, adding that “all people are tied to the land” in some respect.

“It’s much more than just driving a tractor,” he said.

Alphin said he sees fewer farmers working larger acreage in the future, but he doesn’t foresee an end coming to family farms anytime soon.

“I personally think that there will always be family farms around because there’s a love for the land that I don’t think money can replace,” he said. “The farm is not a piece of real estate; it’s a piece of life to people.

“You can’t put a price on it.”

Alphin said that he’s received “a great response” since the book was released on New Year’s Eve. In the acknowledgements, he thanks his family as well as the community as a whole for their support.

“It’s not a book about me or my life, it’s a book about this great community I live in,” he said. “I feel indebted to this community for giving me stories to write.”

Alphin has several book signings scheduled for the near future.

Books will be available for purchase at the signings. They’re also available online at www.rexalphin.com and Alphin expects the book to be available on amazon.com soon.