The Queen's Garden: Oral Histories of the Piedmont Foodshed

Thomas E. Barbee oral history interview, 2019 March 05
Tommy Barbee, fifth-generation owner of T.&A. Barbee Family Farm located in Concord, North Carolina, discusses the changes he has witnessed in farming over the course of his lifetime. He recounts assisting his grandparents and parents on the farm growing up in the 1960s and 1970s as well as his father's focus on pork production. He explains why he did not originally want his son Brent to become a full time farmer due to the low income farming provides, but is now pleased with the decision. Mr. Barbee describes Brent's initiatives and changes to the farm's operation, bringing all 70 acres into full production with more diversification of crops and an increased workforce via the H-2A agricultural work program. He mentions the decline in local farming due to the Food Modernization Act, which put stricter regulations on food products grown in the United States. He explains how the widening of I-85 would have cut his farm in half if his customer base had not come out in support of his farm at the public meeting for the widening. Mr. Barbee also discusses how the market determines what products they grow on the farm, which include for example kale, strawberries, and rosemary plants.
Kate Brun oral history interview, 2019 April 4
Kate Brun, founder, owner, and operator of Lucky Leaf Gardens, (LLG), in Harrisburg, North Carolina, discusses the greenhouse farming of microgreens, and the past, current, and future operations of LLG, a business she started from her home in 2010. The interview, conducted outdoors in an open-air pavilion, covers a variety of topics, including: greenhouse agriculture and the cultivation of microgreens; the evolution of LLG from a life-long gardening hobby, to a small home business, to a 3,600 square foot greenhouse agricultural operation with an East Coast direct-to-restaurant, retail and wholesale distribution network; the use of technology in greenhouses and small-scale agriculture; grow-to-order crop production; agricultural education outreach programs in local schools; developing community ties through classes and events at LLG's Forest Farm; organic farming practices and the USDA's "Good Agricultural Practices" certification process; the Food Safety Management Act; LLG's adoption of permaculture techniques; the status of Charlotte's agricultural scene, including its microgreen industry, agricultural future, and potential to elevate Charlotte into a "foodie town" and culinary destination; the role of the Piedmont Culinary Guild in facilitating farm-to-table dining and public awareness of local farming; and consumers' increasing dietary knowledge and how this has impacted farmers and their operations.
Rebecca Byrd oral history interview, 2019 March 20
History master's student Rebecca Byrd discusses her involvement with the Student Community Garden at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte). Ms. Byrd discusses topics including student leadership, community gardening, and food insecurity in the Charlotte area. She talks about her personal passion for gardening, while also offering practical information about gardening for beginners. She explains how food is donated from the community garden to the Jamil Niner Student Pantry for distribution to students in need. Other themes she touches on include, the challenges of working with student volunteers, the founding of the Community Garden Club, and access to food for students at UNC Charlotte.
Doug Carrigan oral history interview, 2019 March 27
Doug Carrigan is the fourth generation owner of Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, North Carolina. His family has been farming the land in Mooresville since 1902. Doug discusses the evolution of his farm through the generations and the evolution of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and organic food in the contemporary market. He explains the vital role that word of mouth, whether through social media or otherwise, plays in growing his business. He also discusses how he diversified his farm from a produce farm to what he terms a "private park" that has a swimming quarry, pick your own produce, and events such as weddings and a haunted trail.
Lucy Bush Carter oral history interview, 2019 March 6
In this interview, Lucy Bush Carter, the Executive Director of Friendship Trays in Charlotte, North Carolina, discusses the history of the organization, its evolution, and partnerships with other organizations over time. She describes how Friendship Trays began in the 1970s alongside several other non-profit organizations that came into being to address the needs of vulnerable populations in Charlotte. Friendship Trays grew out of an initiative between several churches in the Elizabeth neighborhood, who came together to provide weekly lunches for the elderly. The organization grew into a comprehensive food delivery service with its own kitchen by 1989. Ms. Carter describes in detail the evolution of Friendship Gardens, a network of local gardens, and an urban farm based at Garinger High School, that supply fresh produce to Friendship Trays. She describes how Friendship Gardens developed as part of the Friendship Trays organization, with the assistance of various partners, including Slow Food Charlotte, and local supporter Bruce Parker. She discusses how Friendship Trays has now partnered with The Bulb, created by Alisha Pruett, which helps with their mobile market. She mentions her collaboration with Loaves & Fishes to provide pantry food items to their clients. Ms. Carter details the significant work of Friendship Trays volunteers who deliver meals to at risk people, emphasizing the important and life changing relationships they develop with clients.
David Correll oral history interview, 2019 March 29
David Correll, a farmer from Cleveland, North Carolina, recounts his family farm's history dating back to the late nineteenth century, and discusses how the farm has changed over this time. Mr. Correll explains, for example, how his father and uncle started growing tomatoes on the farm for extra pocket money, and how tomatoes have now become the largest crop Correll Farms produces. He also reflects on the changes to the farm's operations caused by events such as a downturn in the dairy industry, which forced the sale of their cattle in 2005 and ended a more than fifty year run as a Grade A dairy farm. He discusses how the fateful 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center could potentially have stopped the sale of part of the farm and changed the course of their success if it had happened just a few days later. Mr. Correll also covers topics such as the changes in safety processes in farming, organic farming, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and the impact of international agricultural markets on the farming industry in America. His experiences include constructing a hydroponic system and chemical mixing station on his farm in attempts to successfully produce healthy crops and find new ways for people to farm. He also discusses farmers markets in detail, and their future in Charlotte, and he concludes his interview by reflecting on the future of agriculture.
Elizabeth Anne Dover oral history interview, 2019 March 13
Elizabeth Anne Dover is a lifetime resident of Concord, North Carolina. Ms. Dover received a degree in medieval Spanish from Davidson College before settling on a career as a winemaker and farmer. She owns The Farm at Dover Vineyards, a produce farm and vineyard located near the Charlotte Motor Speedway. She opened her business in 2009. However, her family has farmed in the Charlotte region since the mid-1700s. Ms. Dover provides insight into the challenges and satisfaction of small-scale farming and selling produce in the Charlotte region. She discusses the physical and economic effects of Charlotte's growth on historic farmlands and describes how public perceptions of small-scale southern farming are at odds with the realities.
Shelley Proffitt Eagan oral history interview, 2019 April 26
In this interview Shelley Proffitt Eagan discusses her work as an owner/operator of a cattle company for the previous ten years in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Topics include how the farm began, methods used to raise cattle for slaughter, the process to become USDA certified organic, and the changes that have been made to the farm over the years. She recounts the farm's rotational grazing process and describes the types of grasses the cattle eat. Ms. Eagan explains why it is important for both the health of the cattle and the grass to rotate the herd. She recounts an incident from a few years earlier when a farmer lost a cow because she ate toxic plants in his pasture, and discusses grass management. Mrs. Eagan also mentions instances of sexism from farmers that she encountered when she began cattle farming.
Anson Eaves oral history interview, 2019 March 28
Anson Eaves, owner and operator of Bethel Feed & Farm in Midland, North Carolina, discusses the past, current, and future operations of the feed mill, a third generation business originally owned by his grandfather. The interview covers a variety of topics: the history of the Eaves family's involvement in the local farming community; the changing character of family farmers and their lifestyle; the feed milling process and business, including local sourcing of raw ingredients and the different types of livestock feed; the customization of livestock feed; the impact and cost of increased regulatory oversight, including the Food Safety Modernization Act; the impact and cost of organic farming, farm-to-fork, and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) movements on the feed milling industry; and the current and future status of regional agriculture.
Ronald Edwards oral history interview, 2019 March 11
Ronald Edwards, the general manager of Springs Farm in Fort Mill, South Carolina, reflects on the history of the farm and his personal farming experiences. Mr. Edwards discusses the origins and legacy of the farm, the size of the operation, and the businesses that comprise Springs Farms, which include its farmers market, retail store, and growing fields. He details the food that they produce, including the Carolina Reaper peppers, peaches, strawberries, and various vegetables, and he examines challenges that the farm has faced such as the current rainy weather conditions. Mr. Edwards also discusses the interaction between the farm and the local community, and how certain crops like the Carolina Reaper are certified organic while others are not, due to the importance of keeping costs down while competing with larger corporate farms. Mr. Edwards' descriptions and accounts clearly illustrate the challenges faced by farmers in the region during an era of change, encompassing organic strategies and competition from corporate farming.
James C. Ferebee oral history interview, 2019 March 19
In this interview, livestock farmer James Ferebee discusses the animals he raises and the rotational grazing methods he employs on his farm in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Ferebee Farm is five acres and Mr. Ferebee leases another twenty to twenty-five acres. He began farming commercially in 2015, and raises heritage sheep and pigs, as well as chickens and ducks. He also has a small herd of dairy goats for personal milk consumption. Mr. Ferebee explains how his pigs provide meat, his sheep wool, and his chickens meat and eggs, which he sells through farmers markets. He recounts how he first learned about rotational grazing methods, and the benefits it has on the environment and his animals. He explains what heritage sheep are and why they are suited to living in the southeastern United States. Toward the end of the interview Mr. Ferebee recounts surprising elements of farming livestock and discovering the ways that people are ignorant of farming and the origins of their food supplies.
Chris Fletcher oral history interview, 2019 April 16
Chris Fletcher discusses his time working on his farm, Green Meadows Acres, in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. He explains the reasons he began farming, what he currently grows, and why he chooses to sell his products at the Piedmont Farmers' Market, as well as the benefits of buying from one. He examines the future of both family owned and commercialized farming in the Cabarrus region. Mr. Fletcher also explains his involvement in various community organizations such as the Piedmont Culinary Guild, the Piedmont Farmers' Market, and the Agricultural Extension Office (now NC Cooperative Extension).
Nadine Ford oral history interview 2, 2019 April 18
Nadine Ford grew up in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her love for growing things began in her early childhood when she lived on a farm and learned gardening from her parents and grandparents. This love for gardening transcended into a desire to help her community through teaching, sharing and growing food. She found the opportunity to follow this dream when in 2009 she obtained permission to revive an untended community garden in Charlotte's Belmont neighborhood. The garden became a success, and Mrs. Ford was asked to open another garden in Druid Hills, which she did in 2016. In this interview, Mrs. Ford discusses the history of Charlotte and its inner city, her personal history, and the history of the Little Sugar Creek and Druid Hills gardens. She also reflects on her recent interview on Charlotte's WFAE radio station, where she discussed food deserts and food insecurity with Charlotte Talks host Mike Collins. She relates what was discussed during the interview and what was not discussed with respect to Charlotte's problems with food access, racism, segregation and displacement. Other topics in this interview include the challenges faced by the gardens in the Belmont and Druid Hills neighborhoods, with particular reference to volunteer staff and female growers. Highlights include discussions of the growing, donation and distribution of the food from the gardens, and also the opportunities, dialogue, education and advancement provided by those who have volunteered and participated in the gardens' growth. Other organizations that feature in the interview include The Males Place, Charlotte Greens, and Friendship Trace Community Garden. Ms. Ford's descriptions and accounts illustrate the challenges faced by urban farmers and in particular, minorities in the Charlotte region during an era of demographic change and displacement.
Amy Foster oral history interview, 2019
Amy Foster discusses her twelve years as a livestock farmer and co-owner of Gilcrest Natural Farm in Iron Station, North Carolina. Mrs. Foster describes how her desire to control her food and develop her land were factors that led her to become a full time farmer. She explains why she chose to raise cattle and chickens, and she describes the methods she uses to raise her animals naturally. Other topics Mrs. Foster discusses include farming as a business, the usefulness of the Internet for farmers, the many resources that are available to farmers through the North Carolina State University such as the N.C. Cooperative Extension, the pros and cons of urban development,, local farmers markets, and the importance of educating consumers.
Mendy Godman, Sue Hawes, and Kim Aprill oral history interview, 2019 March 27
Mendy Godman, Sue Hawes, and Kim Aprill began the Charlotte, North Carolina, chapter of Food Connection in September 2018. In this interview, they describe how they met, the mission of Food Connection, how it functions, and the larger food distribution network in Charlotte. They detail how Food Connection partners with larger institutions such as The Bulb, Town Brewing, and Catawba Heights Baptist Church, who donate food to them on a weekly basis. Food Connection then distributes the food to those in need.. By rescuing leftover food, Food Connection reduces food waste in addition to fighting hunger. Other topics discussed during the interview include food sanitation practices, donor and recipient eligibility criteria, and the Good Samaritan Law.
Emma Hendel oral history interview, 2019 April 20
Emma Hendel discusses her five years as a microgreens farmer and co-owner of Fair Share Farms, LLC in Pfafftown, North Carolina. Mrs. Hendel describes why and how she and her husband, Elliot Seldner, came to North Carolina and started their farm. She explains what microgreens are and why they decided to grow them. Other topics discussed include organic farming methods, Organic Certification versus Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification, urban sprawl, distribution partners, environmental issues, and social media.
Cindy McKenzie and Robert Suydam oral history interview, 2019 March 25
Cindy McKenzie and Robert Suydam, leaders of the Avondale Community Giving Garden on the campus of the Avondale Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, discuss the history of the garden and its relation to other local social justice organizations. Ms. Mckenzie discusses how the garden got started through a collaboration with the Common Grounds Farm Stand, a volunteer farm stand in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte, which raised money for the Urban Ministry. She details how the work to maintain support for the farm stand by growing and donating vegetables became very labor intensive, and how the stand increasingly stocked prepared foods rather than vegetables. Mr. Suydam describes how the community garden subsequently re-focused their efforts to support Friendship Trays, a local organization providing food to the elderly and infirm. Ms. McKenzie and Mr. Suydam continue by describing their recent venture to offer community members the opportunity to rent their own plots in the garden and grow their own food, which has diversified membership. Other subjects discussed during the interview include the types of produce grown in the garden, problems with animals and insects, watering systems, and using a volunteer labor force. Ms. McKenzie and Mr. Sudyam conclude the interview reminiscing about childhood memories of gardening and how those experiences shaped their views about gardening today.
Connor M. Newman and Kimberly H. Schoch oral history interview, 2019 March 12
Connor Newman and Kim Hodges Schoch of Hodges Family Farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, discuss the past, current, and future operations of the farm. The interview, conducted in the bridal suite of the farm's 1932 barn, focuses on a variety of topics, including the history of the farm and the Hodges family farming traditions, the evolution of the farm and its crops and livestock over the past century, and the transition of the farm from a purely working farm to a combination working and educational farm. Other topics discussed during the interview are the farm's expansion into agritourism and special events; the curriculum Mr. Newman and Ms. Schoch have developed to introduce children to farming; the decline of large family farms and the new generation of younger, smaller-scale urban farmers; the accompanying decline of resources (ranging from in-person educational opportunities to qualified governmental personnel for inspections and certification) to support farmers; the impact of climate change and urban sprawl on farming operations; the Hodges Farm's efforts to expand beyond direct-to-consumer distribution into "farm to table" networks and organic farming; and efforts to deploy ecologically effective farming strategies and techniques at the farm.
Mark and Mindy Robinson oral history interview, 2019 March 18
Mark and Mindy Robinson are the owners of Tega Hills Farm in Fort Mill, South Carolina, a two acre urban farm with five hydroponic greenhouses. They employ five full time employees, and distribute their produce through the Matthews Community Farmers Market, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, and multiple high-end restaurants in the Charlotte and surrounding areas. Tega Hills Farm dates back to the early 1970s as the brainchild of a chemist who was interested in hydroponic science and growing tomatoes. The farm was purchased by the Robinsons from its second owner in 1999. They became profitable around 2004 when Mr. Robinson decided to try growing microgreens. This interview covers the history of Tega Hills Farm, its owners, farming techniques, and their relationship with the community over the past twenty years. The Robinsons describe their devotion to the farm and community, and concern for the welfare of their workers.
Joseph Rowland oral history interview, 2019 March 20
Joe Rowland, the owner of Rowland Row Farms in Gold Hill, North Carolina, has been farming for nine years, having initially begun his agricultural career in the Incubator program in Concord, North Carolina. His eighteen acre farm is family-run by himself, his wife, and a team of employees. In 2018 he partnered with a neighboring farm in order to share equipment and labor to efficiently produce organic vegetables. Mr. Rowland discusses his experience as a new farmer, from his time in the Incubator program, to the changes and challenges he has faced running his small family farm. He recounts his childhood, where he first developed his love of agriculture when he spent summers at his grandparents farm in Indiana. Mr. Rowland offers insight into the motives, trials and opportunities available to new farmers in an industry defined by conventional farming. He also discusses an interest in serving his local community, and the ways in which agriculture and the community can support one another.
Kim Shaw oral history interview, 2019 March 18
Kim Shaw, the owner of Small City Farms in Charlotte, North Carolina, discusses some of the issues with urban farming and recalls some memories of starting the farm in 2007. She explains how urban farming is difficult due to the lack of tax breaks and incentives. Mrs. Shaw mentions the benefits of Fresh List, a mediator between farms and restaurants which provides additional income as well as the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that allows the community to come to the farm and pick up produce. Finally, she states that the future of urban farming may be heavily affected by the development of Charlotte.
Mike Smith oral history interview, 2019 April 17
Mike Smith is the owner and operator of Big Oak Farm in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Mr. Smith shares that the farm has been in his family for nearly two hundred years and has been used to raise cotton, corn, and now beef cattle. In this interview, Mr. Smith talks about day-to-day activities on Big Oaks Farm, changing the operation over from crop farming to cattle and pig farming, and why he does not subscribe to organic farming. Mr. Smith discusses the impact of weather, soil conservation, and farming techniques. He explains how he became involved with the Davidson Farmers' Market and how the increasing demand for his products surprised him. Mr. Smith expresses his concern about the future of farming, people's ability to feed themselves in case of an emergency, and the need to embrace modern technologies to keep up with demand.
Jeff Stevens oral history interview, 2019 March 10
Jeff Stevens is the owner and operator of the Muddy Springs Farm in Lincoln County, North Carolina. In this interview, Mr. Stevens explains how he became a farmer and how he manages to run a farm while also working a full-time job at Duke Energy. Also, Emily Stevens, Jeff Stevens' spouse, speaks about her role on the farm. Mr. Stevens describes the loss of viable farmland in the area and he notes that Wytheville, Virginia is a hub for trade, specifically cattle trade. Other topics discussed include raising cattle, selling hay, the challenges of farming, GMO seeds, and the rapid decline of youth involvement in agriculture.
Zack Wyatt oral history interview, 2019 April 1
Zack Wyatt is the executive director at Carolina Farm Trust, a non-profit organization founded in 2015 which seeks to support local farmers and to educate communities on the importance of local food. Mr. Wyatt provides insight into the challenges of local farming and shares his belief in the need for strong local food sources. Other topics discussed include how Mr. Wyatt started Carolina Farm Trust, his past and present goals for the non-profit, the challenges that black-owned farms face, and the importance of urban farming and educating urban communities. He also discusses his work on The Farmer That Feeds Us, a documentary which examines the food desert in West Charlotte and how it affects the area's predominantly black population. Mr. Wyatt ends the interview by explaining how Charlotte locals can support farmers in the area.
Eddie Yow oral history interview, 2019 April 9
Mr. Eddie Yow raises livestock and sells beef in the North Carolina Piedmont region. He is a native of Stanly County, North Carolina and has lived in Stanfield, North Carolina for over thirty years. In this interview, he reflects on the many changes to farming and raising livestock in the area. Mr. Yow shares what raising livestock entails, why his methods differ from other farmers, and the changes he has made in how he sells his product. Other topics discussed include what farming was like in the 1960s-1980s, feeding livestock, and farmers' markets. Mr. Yow also describes what he sees as the future of farming in the region and the challenges that newcomers face.