This year, Kingsford launched the Preserve the Pit fellowship, an initiative celebrating and fueling the future of Black barbecue. This three-part series sheds light on Kingford’s Preserve the Pit fellows while showcasing the skills of three HBCU filmmakers working behind the scenes to bring their stories to life.

To whom much is given, much is required, and Ronald Simmons, owner of Master Blend Family Farms in Kenansville, NC, is carrying quite the load. After years of hog farming, Simmons’ family was ready to walk away from the business, but Simmons was not. In fact, his work ethic and perseverance wouldn’t let him, so he focused on the health and quality of his livestock and challenged himself to do something so many thought could never be done: create a thriving and successful hog farming business that will be passed down for generations to come. But the path to success is never easy.

Simmons lost approximately 22-percent of his farm’s product when COVID-19 struck, leaving his family and employees wondering about the future of the Master Blend Family Farms. But the expert hog farmer is known to overcome any obstacle or challenge in his way; thus, he was forced to get creative and think outside the box. Though Simmons doesn’t reveal his secret for turning Master Blend Family Farms around, the result is clear: a booming business—with all its employees still intact—that provides premium pork products and whole hogs to local restaurants and businesses. 

But that’s not all. Simmons has also collaborated with local schools to host tours on his farms. One day, he even hopes to transition one of his farms into a full-time agricultural school, complete with a whole hog barbecue station to share his family’s history and create opportunity for future Kenansville residents. Through Kingsford’s Preserve the Pit Fellowship, Simmons is able to collaborate with mentors and pitmasters Amy Smith and Bryan Furman to whip up the recipe for a successful business and impactful school for the long haul.

In this episode of Preserve the Pit​​​​​​​, you’ll get to know Ronald Simmons and his business through the lens of David Robinson, a senior filmmaker at North Carolina A&T State University, as he documents the challenges and triumphs of Master Blend Family Farms.