Eli Morris – Kentucky Nomination & Photography by Morris Photography Issue 50 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Eli is inspiring because he is overcoming obstacles and has a positive outlook on what life has dealt him lately. Eli has been recently diagnosed with Alpha-Gal (an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork) as well as several other foods. Eli is a talented young man, helping run his family farm and raising his own herd of registered livestock. Eli plays the guitar, which has been an outlet for him.
Photography by Morris Photography
What would you most like to be interviewed about? I want to raise awareness about Alpha Gal, a disease caused by a tick bite. Alpha Gal causes an allergy to all red meat. An allergic reaction can range from a severe stomach ache, nausea, and headache to hives or an anaphylactic episode. With a diagnosis of Alpha Gal, I have to read each and every nutrition label before I eat anything. There are meat byproducts in so many foods, including gelatin in fruit snacks and medication capsules. There are so many people struggling with this disease and the public doesn’t really know much about it. If you were to present a topic to a group of your peers, what would it be and why? The topic I would present would be food allergies. So many people live with food allergies, some even have to be home-schooled and/or miss out on social functions. I was recently diagnosed with Alpha-Gal, an allergy to all red meat. Alpha-Gal is not a well known disease and I would like to help share information about it. I am also allergic to several other foods which makes it a real challenge to plan dinner, and especially to eat out. Recently being diagnosed with Alpha-gal, as well as allergies to milk, almonds, and shrimp, I am learning first-hand how difficult it is to live and socialize with food allergies. It is important that people understand the struggles and emotions that come with watching everyone else eat what you can't and having to miss out on events such as going out to eat or having to pack meals to stay the night at a friend's house. Food allergies do not just affect what you can eat, but food by-products are found in things such as soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and even medicines.
How has Alpha-Gal affected you and what do you want others to know about it? With a diagnosis of Alpha Gal, I have to read every nutrition label before I eat anything. There are meat byproducts in so many foods, including gelatin in fruit snacks and medication capsules. Planning family meals such as Thanksgiving is a huge endeavor. I can’t eat regular butter, can’t have foods with beef broth or bullion, nor can I have regular mac-n-cheese. Eating out takes research. My family and I can no longer just stop at the nearest restaurant. I have to research the ingredient list of each food before ever choosing from the menu.
What are your favorite foods to eat when planning dinner? Ever since I was diagnosed with Alpha-Gal, with my new restrictions on what I can eat, the average person would think I'm a vegan. This disease will steal your ability to eat any red meat with several other foods that vary by person, such as milk for me. That means no fast food restaurants, limited on gas station snacks, and foods at the grocery store have to either be vegan or very closely examined for byproducts. Chicken strips have been my go-to food. I also really like Jelly Belly jelly beans, Annie’s Vegan Mac-n-Cheese and unfrosted Pop-Tarts.
Photography by Morris Photography
Tell us more about your family farm. What are some of your favorite things to do on it? I have my own herd of registered Kiko goats that are pastured alongside my parents’ herd. We have always lived on a farm, but moved to a larger farm in 2019. The name of our farm is Blessed Acres Farm because my parents say they feel blessed to have found it because it is exactly what they have wanted for a long time. I like to hunt and fish. We have a pond on our farm and a lake right down the road. I also love to ride horses. We own three Tennessee Walking Horses.
What have you learned about farm life that non farmers may not know? Raising livestock takes dedication, hard-work, organization, and can also be emotional. We have to meet the needs of the animals no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it's freezing or raining, animals still must be fed. Family vacations take lots of planning because you have to have someone reliable to be available to take care of the livestock while you are away. Organization is also very important in raising livestock. Record keeping is detrimental to our future goals that we strive to achieve. We only keep the best to breed and send the rest to market. Taking them to market or dealing with the loss of a sick goat can be emotional at times.
Do you plan to go into farming as an adult? Why or why not? I can imagine myself, after graduating from college, living on a farm. On this farm I will be raising livestock, although I am raising goats now it may change when I get older. Learning how to work with livestock, such as giving vaccines and how to focus on the health of every individual goat, will help me in college one day when I learn large animal and wildlife veterinary science.
What was your portrait experience like with Morris Photography?Having a mom as a photographer, do you collaborate on ideas together or do you let her run the show? Although I usually let my mother run the show, sometimes we work on ideas. My mom is the one who is teaching me how to shoot photography with her own tips and tricks. Morris Photography has been in business for about 5 years now, and I can still remember the first couple shoots I helped with.
Photography by Morris Photography
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? I have my own mowing business. I currently have four yards that I mow and I also mow our church's yard for free. I am really good at saving money and I am currently saving up to purchase a truck next year. I am learning to play guitar and have taught myself several country music songs.
Why did you get into landscaping? I have been mowing since my feet could reach the mower deck and weed eating since I was strong enough to carry a weed eater. Maintaining the yard has always been mine and my brother’s responsibility. I started looking for paying jobs so that I could make money and save for a nice truck. I started by asking neighbors and giving them estimates then I got a few jobs that my dad has to drive me to. Next year, I plan to expand because I will be able to drive.
What was the most challenging thing about starting your business? What do you find the most rewarding? The most challenging thing about starting my business was to find customers in our rural area without having to drive. I have a few yards that I mow that are right down the road, but I have a couple that my dad has to drive me to. The most rewarding part is knowing that at 15 years old, I have my own business. It is also rewarding because I get to see that a nice looking yard makes people happy.
What is your favorite country song to play? Who is your favorite country singer? I really enjoy playing the guitar. I have taken guitar lessons for a year and half. One of my favorite songs to play is Lady May by Tyler Childers. When it comes to music, I like old country and classic rock. I also love bluegrass and enjoy listening to it with my grandfather. My favorite country singer is Hank Williams.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans? In five years, I plan on being in college pursuing my dream of becoming a large animal and wildlife veterinarian. I plan on going to Auburn University.
3 Things on your bucket list Have a family and live in a house on a hill. Write and publish music. Help people know about Jesus.
Who do you find inspiring? I find both of my grandfathers inspiring. I look up to my Grandpa Kevin because of how wise he is. Any question that I ever have about anything that has an engine, Grandpa Kevin can answer. He is also very kind to people. My Dot-Dot has always been my best friend. I spend several days a week with my Dot-Dot. Before he got sick, we’d work together on his rental properties and go fishing. I love listening to his stories about growing up. My Dot-Dot is a hero. He is retired from the Army and fought for our country.
Look for Eli in issue 50 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!