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Wilson County Farmer Must Jump Unusual Hurdles to Prepare Field

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WILSON — Farming is difficult enough without extra hurdles, and one farmer has quite a few to get by, literally, as he tries to prepare his land for this year's tobacco crop.

The edge of Jack Bissette's field looks like a junk yard instead of the tractor path it is supposed to be. The mess is slowing down work at one of the busiest times of year.

"A lot of this stuff could go in the dump up here at the end of the road. Some of it could go to the landfill, and why people won't take it, I don't know. I take mine there," said Bissette.

The normally pastoral scene usually steers clear of crime; now, Bissette will be steering around the illegally dumped items. In some places, there is so much junk, his tractors have to detour to reach the fields.

"You can find most anything back here," Bissette said. "It's just a mess."

Not only are people dumping items illegally, they are using the area as target practice. It is hard to find anything in the makeshift junk yard that is not riddled with bullet holes, and that makes Bissette's workers nervous.

"They might be down at the far end or something like that and somebody will come up and go to shooting guns and not just one time, just rapid fire, and next thing I know they're showing up back at the office, or at the house, and they're telling me they're not going to work back here because of the gunfire," Bissette says.

Sheriff's officials say the offense is easy to prosecute if they can catch someone in the act of dumping items on the property or shooting at the items.

Officials periodically sift through the junk looking for identification. They say there is little else they can do. If caught, offenders would face fines up to several hundred dollars.

Deputies say the best way to protect private property is to block off access. Securing land and then putting up "no trespassing" signs gives deputies solid grounds to arrest troublemakers.

If the land is properly marked, all deputies need is a word from the landowner.

"We basically need the owner of the property to say 'No, this person is not supposed to be on the property. My land is posted.' At that point, we can issue a uniform citation or we can arrest the person and bring them to the magistrate's office," said Lt. Billy Radford of the Wilson Sheriff's Department.

Bissette cannot block access to his property because the dirt road running through there is public.

He hopes increased patrols by deputies, which are already on schedule, will finally help him get a handle on the growing trash heap.

Deputies say that if you see someone causing trouble on your property, you should avoid a confrontation and call 911 instead.

Anyone caught dumping illegally could be fined up to $500 for the first offense.