The Heroes

Dean BrooksBrooks

Dean Brooks and his family process more than 50,000 tons of biodegradable waste a year at their Chatham County compost facility in Goldston. Brooks was running a dairy farm when hard economic times in the late 1980s led him and his wife Judy to seek a new livelihood. In 1993 they turned their farmland into a compost facility. For the last 10 years they have collected commercial food waste and other biodegradable matter from restaurants and businesses throughout Alamance, Orange, Wake and Chatham Counties. After letting the organic materials cure for 10 to 14 months, Brooks sells the compost to schools, recreational facilities, landscapers and private individuals. Brooks' business is now a family affair with his daughter Amy and sons Alan and Jonathan working full-time on their operation in Chatham County.

Gary GrantGary Grant

Community activist Gary Grant grew up in Tillery, an African-American farming community in Halifax County that had its roots in the New Deal in the 1930s. From 1965 through the 1970s Grant worked as a school teacher. In 1991 he helped establish a health clinic for the Tillery community. Later, he worked to establish a moratorium on intensive livestock operations in Halifax County. That effort contributed to a statewide moratorium on new large-scale hog operations in the state. Grant is now executive director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, and founding co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. He also gave the commencement address at the 2009 graduation of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Todd MillerMiller

When Todd Miller was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, Bogue Sound in eastern North Carolina lapped up onto mostly rugged, undeveloped land. The fishing industry prospered at that time, and Miller and his three sisters spent hours clamming and boating in relatively unpolluted waters. After completing his master's degree in city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Miller returned to the coast to find development booming. To help preserve the area's natural wonders, Miller founded the North Carolina Coastal Federation in 1982. Since that time the NCCF has completed more than 50 restoration projects and restored more than 40,000 acres of estuaries. The NCCF has also acquired more than 8,500 acres of land for preservation and currently has almost 10,000 members.