Barbee Farms – Tommy Barbee

subject: Farm

Tommy Barbee was a 58-year-old man at the time of interview, which took place at Barbee Farms in Concord, North Carolina. He was born in Concord, North Carolina in 1960. He was educated in Concord and is employed as a farmer.

Tommy Barbee discusses the changes he has witnessed on his family’s farm 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 fulltime farmer 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.

Tape Log

Time Subject
0:00:30History of the farm
0:01:07Grandparents were fulltime farmers
0:02:44There used to be many farms in the area
0:04:04Brent decided to become a fulltime farmer
0:05:04Transition on the farm over Barbee’s life
0:05:23Father focused on pork production
0:07:50Teaching the value of money
0:10:45Brent wanted to be a fulltime farmer
0:12:19Why Barbee did not want Brent to be a farmer
0:14:55Brent’s expansion of the farm operation
0:17:39Some older farmers not investing in Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
0:19:01Farm world as competition, but also work together
0:20:10New crops brought in by Brent
0:21:38The hungry months
0:23:02Brent’s first investment (greenhouse)
0:25:25H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers
0:27:41Barbee’s reaction to the H-2A program
0:29:56Society is far removed from its food source
0:30:23Changes in distribution on the farm
0:34:24Farming is a guessing game
0:36:02Davidson Farmers’ Market
0:38:24Widening of I-85
0:41:26Reunited farm under one identity
0:44:09Piedmont Culinary Guild
0:44:30Lowes Food CSA – Carolina Crate



>> Sarah: Okay, today is March 5th, 2019. We are at Barbie Farms in Concord, North Carolina. My name is Sarah Wildes and I am interviewing Tommy Barbie. So Tommy, this is a centennial farm. Could you tell us a little bit about the history of the farm?

>> Tommy: l can tell you back as far as l can remember.


>> Sarah: Okay.

>> Tommy: l remember my grandparents. l’m actually the fifth generation of our family on this farm. l remember working with and around my grandparents on my mother’s side.

>> Sarah: Okay.

>> Tommy: Of course, as a child, and beyond, at the earliest that I can remember, my grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side never had public jobs.


>> Tommy: They made their living from this very same farm that we’re on now. Basically, with three or four milk cows, my granddaddy milked cows, my grandmother churned butter. They sold whole milk and basically peddled what they produced here on the farm. During the summertime they grew multiple fruits and vegetables, mostly vegetables.


At that time there was not a lot of fruits. Of course, there was an apple tree here or there, but as far as for the purpose of creating income, fruits were not a thing then.

>> Sarah: About what time period was this?

>> Tommy: We’re talking, well, I was born in 1960 so we’re talking, of course, I can remember back to seven, eight years old, so late, let’s say mid to late 60s, in that timeframe.


I also remember very vaguely a small amount of cotton being grown on this farm, which was all handpicked. It was all family. There weren’t a large amount of employees. Of course, at that stage in this area there were lots of farms around. And most everybody was kin, so when everybody kinda lent a hand in when you were harvesting cotton or hoeing cotton, or doing whatever, all the neighbors showed up which was all the kin people.


And when everybody showed up, my grandmother fed everybody. They pretty much raised their own beef and pork, and chickens. Always had laying hens to produce eggs. And that was another one of the commodities that they peddled. And actually, that grandfather that I’m talking about was the last generation before my son who was our actually farm manager now.


He was the last generation to solely depend on this farm for income. My dad and mother both worked public work, full time jobs for over 30 years. Myself and my wife both worked public work for over 30 years and our son, Brent, basically decided that,

>> Tommy: Farm life was where he wanted to create his income.


So after lots of begging from his mother and I to not do that, he basically went to NC State and wasted two years of my money and two years of his time and come home and said, I’m gonna farm for a living, so.

>> Sarah: [LAUGH]

>> Tommy: Was that a bad decision?


It is not, it was not. He seems to be comfortable most of the time now. You gotta go in it knowing that it’s not a lucrative way to make a living,

>> Tommy: So you have to set your standards to that, so.

>> Sarah: Live within your means?

>> Tommy: Within your means, absolutely.


But to get back to the history side of it, and that was kind of a brief overview, within my lifetime, this farm has transitioned from three or four milk cows, the butters, the eggs, the vegetables during the summer. There again, when my dad kind of took the farm over, we went into pretty heavy pork production.


We had about 50,

>> Tommy: Farrowing mothers, farrowing sows. And we raised pigs to what was then known as top hogs, which is butcher size pigs. They went to market. And during, I guess, let’s say from early 70s, early to mid-70s through probably the mid-80s, that was our main crop.


And when we were growing the pigs, of course, we were growing everything that they ate. We were growing wheat, barley, corn, soy beans. We made our own feed, ground our own feed. So all of the inputs were still pretty much, we were still pretty much self-contained. Then in the, I guess, the mid-80s, early to mid-80s when I chose not to farm for a living.


Of course, this is always, when you don’t farm for a living, but you still farm you’ve got two jobs, so to speak. When I chose to not farm for a living and went to vocational school, went to work for a living. And we kinda downsized the pork production part of it.


We went from raising top hogs or slaughter hogs to feeder pigs, which narrows the window of amount of time that an animal’s on your farm. And then they go to another farm and they’re grown from the 40 to 50 pound feeder pig into a market size pig. And then, and during this whole time, even back to I can remember with my grandfather, during the summer, fruits, fruit, vegetables, not fruits, vegetables, and I say not fruits because we did a lot of melons.


So yes, fruits and vegetables.

>> Sarah: More local fruits, not-

>> Tommy: Yes.

>> Sarah: Fruits from farther away.

>> Tommy: Right right, that was the way I made money. I did not have a job when I was in high school, but I was told at a very young age an allowance was not something I knew anything about.


>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: That was not. My allowance was in the garden, in the field. That was, if I wanted something then there is your money then go get it, turn it into money and so I value that. You don’t know how much I value that and I value that enough to pretty much pass it onto my son.


When the allowance question came up, of course, he goes to school and learns about kids getting an allowance.

>> Sarah: [LAUGH]

>> Tommy: So we pretty much had that same conversation that my dad and I had, about okay, there’s your allowance, lets see what you do with it.

>> Sarah: Yeah.


>> Tommy: And so that’s part of history that I’m glad has not changed. I now have a five and a half year old, he’ll be six in August, grandson which is the seventh generation.

>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: On this farm [COUGH] and we are in the process of teaching him those same values.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: And it’s, I spoke of years ago when this was a large agricultural area.

>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: If you saw driving in here you probably didn’t see a whole lot of farms around here, now.

>> Tommy: It’s not a farming area anymore. But this, it’s home to us.


>> Sarah: Of course.

>> Tommy: And it’s definitely not something that we’re ashamed of. No reason to be. We’re actually proud that we have been able to hold on. But I think being able to hold on has come through values taught to us by generations before us. So living within your means so to speak.


And knowing what those means are.

>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: But then I guess in the [NOISE] as Brent my son started to grow and he got more interested in of course making money so we started expanding the vegetable side of the operation, basically has it was basically giving to him to say okay we got 70 acres here, how much acreage do you want for vegetables and then the rest of it?


We still grew corn and soy beans and traditional row crops. And as the years progressed and he got older, the vegetables acreage went from two acres to five acres to ten acres to, and now we’re totally at, for last six years I guess it is seven years. Maybe even eight years.


We’ve been totally at the same total 70 acres. There is nothing but fruits and vegetables so that’s kind of the life line sort of speak, I guess it’s as I remember it and again I was born and raised here, and been here for 58 and two third years now so.


>> Sarah: All right just wanna go back for a quick, you said Brent went to NC State?

>> Tommy: He did.

>> Sarah: Why did you not want him to pursue farming full time?

>> Tommy: I wanted him to be able to make an amount of money that was, that would give him, him and his family a comfortable living.


>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: Because I knew the money’s just not in, especially a small farm. It’s just not there. I mean, and it’s kinda sad and there again, it’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s not something I’m gonna hide either. When our farm manager is on the poverty level line.


But it’s a fact of life, I’m sorry. And that’s what I did not want him to endure, I wanted him to, I had, I had as a young adult growing into an aged adult let’s say. I had good jobs. I had technical skills. I had good jobs. I had good paying jobs.


Still lived within my means. And was through the generations have been basically handed this farm. So I’ve never wanted for anything that I needed. Of course we eat very well, because we eat what we produced 90% of. I love to hunt. We eat a lot of venison. So that’s just kind of our life style.


And there again it’s not something that I’m ashamed of.

>> Sarah: No reason.

>> Tommy: At all.

>> Sarah: You got your land, you got your food.

>> Tommy: I do, I do, and I guess being able to pass that tradition along and for it to actually stick. Not pushing it the envelope, so to speak, cuz like I say, I begged him not to do it because


>> Tommy: It can be very tough, very tough. Just one of my goals in life that I failed at. But did I fail?

>> Sarah: I don’t think you did.

>> Sarah: So you, so Brent obviously has really expanded the operation?

>> Tommy: Without a doubt, yes. He has gone, the building that we’re in now was Brent’s first major project.


And it was due to, I don’t know how familiar you are with FSMA, food safety modernization act. It was just enacted during the Obama administration.

>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: And it was actually farmer driven, let’s say American farmer driven driven because in the past, fruits and vegetables that came from abroad, from anywhere other than United States were not as-


>> Sarah: Controlled.

>> Tommy: Controlled, they didn’t go through the inspections that our-

>> Sarah: Okay.

>> Tommy: Domestic food went through and that to me, that’s a problem. You know, our food source needs to be secure, it needs to be all treated alike. But there were no stringent government regulations on, I mean, every state is different.


And every municipality had their different little flukes.

>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: So this is actually a national set of rules so to speak.

>> Sarah: Okay.

>> Tommy: And Brent had enough foresight

>> Tommy: To be able to look ahead and say, okay this feels the thing is coming because when you’re in that and to sure you gotta keep watching what’s in the works, he saw that coming and as a matter of fact, we went under regulation last year.


Which we were, we’re four years into this building so,

>> Tommy: And are doing, what they, the county has actually held training seminars at our farm to show people how it’s done right which were pretty proud of.

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: When it’s a brand new situation, there are a lot of farmers, fruit and vegetable farmers, my age that are basically sticking their head in the sand and saying, you know, and there again back to living within your means.


If I were within less than ten years of retiring and I was in this not having a somebody that’s coming in behind me on this. I daresay for a fruit and vegetable farm our size that was starting with nothing, building-wise, you could tie up a couple of million dollars.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: There’s not a couple of million dollars in a lifetime profit in a farm this size. It’s just not there.

>> Sarah: Especially if you’re looking to retire. You want to put that investment to it.

>> Tommy: Right, If I was within ten years of retirement, it would be an absolute It would be ludicrous so and i can’t get there


>> Tommy: But then i actually look into

>> Tommy: These are the it i’m gonna say compete and i don’t want you to look think that it’s a competition world.

>> Tommy: The farm world is very, yes it is competition. Just like when you were at Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

>> Sarah: Yeah, of course.


>> Tommy: I’ve got one goal when I go up there, it’s to make a living.

>> Sarah: Of course.

>> Tommy: And if I’m not selling something. And a guy across from me is selling and something, and I need to figure out why. So yes, it is a competition. But it’s a very friendly competition, and I don’t if know how much you’re around and I mean I’m talking to farmers.


We’re all in the same boat, so a rivalry it’s not there. But yes, there is, and here again anything that doesn’t have a little bit of friendly-

>> Sarah: A little friendly competition.

>> Tommy: Competition, it doesn’t hurt anything.

>> Sarah: No.

>> Tommy: So.

>> Sarah: So what type of crops that Brent bring in and you mentioned that you grew corns, soybeans, melons, sort of the standard local

>> Tommy: Right.


>> Sarah: To be sort of bring in.

>> Tommy: Right now, in mid summer, and I think you can check our website, we have an our website, it kinda breaks things down.

>> Sarah: I saw that list.

>> Tommy: And everything that’s on that list is grown right here.

>> Sarah: That’s an impressive list.


>> Tommy: It’s at our peak in mid-summer, at the Davidson Farmers Market that you were at, we will have over 45 different items on the table at one time.

>> Tommy: And I invite you to come back, if you’re around sometime

>> Tommy: Let’s say July, August time frame. And actually when we start into,


>> Tommy: Right around Labor Day in the September time frame. When we still got all of our summer crops, we’re starting to get back into our fall. Greens, that’s when we get,

>> Tommy: We’re almost like a grocery store. You have lots of options. And this time of year, I mean right now from mid February [COUGH], excuse me, through,


>> Tommy: Probably mid April, which is when we start, usually mid April, mid to late April’s when we start picking strawberries. And of course everybody loves strawberries. But those are our right now are what we call our hungry months. Because our storage crops. We’re starting to sell down on everything that we grew last year.


That’s in storage.

>> Sarah: Mm-hm.

>> Tommy: I mean, you can’t grow anything. You can a little bit.

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: We’ve got a little bit of greenhouse production but there’s not a lot going on outside cropwise right now. So I don’t know if you know rosemary plants.

>> Sarah: Yes.


>> Tommy: Things like that, when you start seeing rosemary plants, we’re money.

>> Sarah: Gotcha.

>> Tommy: So, there again, those rosemary plants were started in August. We didn’t just all of a sudden say, hey, we need something for income. This is, there again, something that’s come in over the years knowing that February, March, and April we’re struggling for money so we’ve got to have something to sell.


We’re going to get creative.

>> Sarah: Yeah, no.

>> Tommy: So.

>> Sarah: When did the greenhouse go out?

>> Tommy: That was, it’s kind of an interesting story. When Brent was in

>> Tommy: A senior in high school.

>> Tommy: I guess that was his first major investment. That greenhouse, when it was put up,


>> Tommy: The 90s. Late 90s.

>> Tommy: Brent had this vision. He went to one of the classes that Cabarrus Extension Service does. And the girl was talking about lown greenhouse for makers will bring came away with a from that same and all with may dollar visions in his hay and that greenhouse was designed For greenhouse tomatoes.


That was about a $70,000 investment. And I mean, a kid coming out of high school ain’t got $70,000, I’m sorry.

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: I didn’t have enough confidence in him to think that it would-

>> Sarah: Work.

>> Tommy: Work. I offered him a small amount of the money but I told him, I said I will not-


>> Sarah: Yeah

>> Tommy: Invest in the whole thing. And my dad told him, said, if you wanna build it, I’ll loan you the money, I’ll give you ten years to pay it back. And in three years time he was paid back.

>> Sarah: Wow.

>> Tommy: So, is it a million dollar investment?


No, it’s not.

>> Sarah: It’s still a big one.

>> Tommy: It is and we’ll go in there when we get finished and I’ll show they’re actually working tomatoes in there now. We’re actually have been picking tomatoes out of there since right around Thanksgiving or so. And we will pick tomatoes out of there until we start picking tomatoes outside first of June.



>> Sarah: Year-round tomatoes.

>> Tommy: Pretty much we do have year-round tomatoes and I don’t know if you noticed the Mexican guys. That’s a big step that Brent has taken as far as labor. The labor force in this area does not exist. We have two guys that work for us year round full-time.


I guess it was six years ago, Brent started utilizing a government program H2A labor force. Where we got the immigrant people up here,

>> Tommy: We started out the first year, and I’m pretty sure it was six years ago. We started out the first year with four guys. And I mean we go through North Carolina Grower’s Association.


>> Tommy: We basically tell them how many people you need for what time frame, and all of the-

>> Sarah: Applicants.

>> Tommy: All of that goes through their system. That’s basically all they do is they’re a lifeline through to this government program.

>> Tommy: The first year we started out with four.


I think it was two years later we increased to six.

>> Tommy: The following year we increased to eight. And now, I think it’s March 31st, it’s not been about three weeks. And last year was the first year we had 12 as the amount of guys that we have come up.


The first four that we’ve got that we had are still with us today, and we have been extremely lucky.

>> Tommy: That is probably the,

>> Tommy: Best decision. And there again, that was all on Brent, because that was not a comfortable decision for me to make. The reason being, if you come to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, you come to buy local product.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: My thought then at that time was okay, if I’m one of my customers and I want you to buy a local product. Why should you not want me to use a local labor force? And I would if it were available, but it’s not.

>> Sarah: It’s not like you didn’t try then.


>> Tommy: Absolutely, but that was my fear in going into the program. Going back I would not change a thing ever. No way, these guys are like family to us. And they get that way in a very short period of time. They’re here for one reason, that’s to make money.


The only way they can make money is to work and satisfy but we do, quality standards, you show them one time what you’re looking for.

>> Tommy: That’s done. It is just been a super win-win situation.

>> Sarah: Okay.

>> Tommy: And I think, I guess if there were one thing that I wish the American consumer,


>> Tommy: Would get comfortable with, is,

>> Tommy: How much work there is, how much hand labor there is, to produce some food. I’ve heard people say, we’re three days away from starving to death. And there are people in this world that sadly enough are, maybe not three days. Because we could all do without food for three days.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: But so as a society we are so far removed from our food source, it scares me. And I say we,

>> Tommy: I’m really not.

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: But as an American.

>> Sarah: As-

>> Tommy: As American people, I think we are very, very far removed from our food solution, and like I say it’s sad to me.


>> Sarah: Yeah, I agree.

>> Sarah: Going off that, I see on your website that Brent has not only pushed, how much you’re growing and what you’re growing, but how much you’re distributing.

>> Tommy: Yes.

>> Sarah: You have your farmers day and you also go to the Davidson Farmer’s market. But you also wholesale to-


>> Tommy: Quite a few people. I would say now when Brent was in high school and through college,

>> Tommy: Probably 90% of our sales were retail sales. We did eight different farmers’ markets a week. We were kinda like nomads. I mean we run around with tents on the back of the truck.


And of course, we had a different location every day. Actually, we had two different days that we had two markets. We didn’t do a market on Sunday, but we were actually doing eight markets a week. And that was when it really got to the point to where we were doing a whole lot more selling than we were farming.


And farming started taken,

>> Tommy: I don’t know what the word I’m looking for. We started suffering on our farming end because we were concentrating way too much effort on the distribution end and we weren’t paying enough attention to the actual growing. Well guess what, if you don’t pay attention to growing, distribution is not a problem cuz you don’t have anything to sell.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: So we started suffering and we saw it in plenty of time to be able to correct ourselves. And then, the increase in the number of gas that we get is directly proportional to the increase in the amount of crops that we’re moving. The downside of it is when you’re moving stuff through a retail market,


>> Tommy: All of the money’s coming straight back to the farm. Well, when you’re moving stuff through the wholesale channels, the amount of money that’s actually coming back to the farm per product is about half. You’re moving in greater volumes, I mean, we got trailers backing up here now, as opposed to the little trailer that we were in on Saturday morning.



>> Tommy: You’ve kinda got to marry the two together. You’ve got to get A,

>> Tommy: Reasonable amount of retail and I like dealing with,

>> Tommy: People that I’m feeding. I like to give input back and the only way I can do that is meet you face to face and look in your eyes and tell me what you like, what you don’t like.


What can I do to fix this? Is this a variety of tomato you like, or is this a variety of tomato you like? Input coming back here in because my end goal is to satisfy you as a customer. That’s the only way I’d get you back, that’s the way I make a living.


So, all of the wholesale market dealing with the hairs tiders and the Lowes foods, and the bigger outlets, I don’t get that satisfaction.

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: But it pays the bills. I like for the lights to come on when I turn the switch, you know that I mean?


So that’s what I say, you’ve got to marry those two and keep,

>> Tommy: And it can be a guessing game.

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: What’s gonna be the biggest food fad this coming year?

>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: I’ve got ideas.

>> Sarah: [LAUGH]

>> Tommy: But I don’t know, I know what I can grow, I don’t know what you’re gonna buy.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: So looking into your crystal ball and say, what’s the next kale?

>> Sarah: I was gonna say, when did kale become a thing.

>> Tommy: Right, kale, in my childhood, kale was not a thing. Nowadays, kale is a thing, and we’re actually starting to see kale tail a little bit.


>> Tommy: Is it a fad? Is it here to stay? Normally when you start seeing something trend down a little bit, you get a little bit nervous about it, so what’s next? What’s the next new thing? And I guess that’s the reason we like, a lot of people will ask us what our main crop is on this farm and we like to say it’s diversity.


>> Tommy: Not putting all your eggs in one basket. What if kale fell off the edge of the Earth and I was a total kale farm? I’d be kind of in a mess then but with it being one of 40-some products, not gonna like it, but big deal. Let’s go on to something else, and there again, the Saturday mornings, especially at the Davidson market, and the reason we like that market so well and it’s one of the very few in the area.


It’s a producer only market. Meaning, if you don’t grow it, you don’t sell it there. Not like the Charlotte Regional Market where it’s,

>> Sarah: Your middle man.

>> Tommy: It’s a middle man market, that’s what it is. It’s a trucking Market. So, and at that Davidson Market, and that’s the only market, I don’t know if I mentioned that, that’s the only market that we do now.


That’s the only off site retail that we do is that one market on Saturday mornings.

>> Tommy: So with that being said,

>> Tommy: And I don’t wanna lose that connection, cuz like I say, Saturday morning, that’s my vacation day. That’s when I go and get to meet people that are enjoying my product and that community is what a farmer needs on Saturday morning after a rough week, I’ll tell you that.


Because you get beat up all week long. You’re working 12, 14, 16 hour days. It’s hot and dry and just somebody coming up and saying thank you. I can’t put a price on that, a value, it’s extremely valuable to me. So,

>> Tommy: And I mean, you don’t get that from, when truck backs up here.


>> Sarah: Yeah.

>> Tommy: Push a pallet on, sign the invoice.

>> Tommy: Maybe get a check 30 days later, [LAUGH]

>> Sarah: Okay, keeps the lights on so that you-

>> Tommy: It keeps the lights, exactly.

>> Sarah: And then you can go and enjoy the people in Davis.

>> Tommy: Exactly. So,

>> Tommy: And if I’m rambling, feel free to-


>> Sarah: Not at all.

>> Tommy: Stop me at any time.

>> Sarah: Not at all, rambling’s what we like. [LAUGH]

>> Tommy: It’s good, [LAUGH]

>> Sarah: It’s all good stuff, it’s all good stuff.

>> Sarah: So tell me about, I 85 widening, I read an article from I think it was a few years back they we re trying to put a extension road through your farm.


>> Tommy: They did affect our farm.

>> Tommy: I really and truly,

>> Tommy: This is gonna be tough for me to say but it’s probably one of the best things that ever happened to our farm in hindsight. When they first started talking about it, they were actually going to break our farm right down the middle.


And there again, that was,

>> Tommy: Two years, three years into us starting to go to the Davidson Market, which we were one of the founding farmers of that market. We’ve been there for, this will be our 11th year.

>> Sarah: So it was about late 2010s?

>> Tommy: That’s somewhere in the neighborhood, yeah.


>> Tommy: And I made one phone call when we found out that one of the recommended proposals was actually moving PS School Road because it was coming out too close to the exit ramps on A5. [COUGH] It was going to break our farm down in the middle and if that had happened, we won’t be here talking today because we could not have maintained what we’re doing now.


With a road down the middle because we would have crossed that road hundred times of day just would not have been doable. But I made one phone call to a lady in Davidson when I found out about this happening and that there was gonna be a public hearing about it.


>> Tommy: And that’s where my work ended and when that public hearing was actually at the high school that I grew up, that I graduated from here in Cabarrus County,

>> Tommy: It was phenomenal the amount of people, not just from the Davidson community, but that was a big portion of it but from our customer base all the way around.


It was a.

>> Tommy: It was massive, a lot of them spoke and I actually had people from DOT to tell me that that public outcry is what changed the Piskel Road Route. And the proceeds of the property that they took from that, actually let me put this farm back together.


>> Tommy: When my grandfather that I spoke of earlier, he and my grandmother had two children, my mother and a son. And of course when they passed away, this farm was split down the middle between those two, between my mother and it’s always been all as a unit even up until that point.


The heirs of my uncle rented us their half of the farm and it all still stayed in the family. Well, with the proceeds from the 85 deal, we were able to buy that half back to put the 70 acres back together, in one identity, and back the way it was when my grandfather had it.


>> Sarah: So that’s why the website says it was formed in 2008.

>> Tommy: Yes.

>> Sarah: Gotcha, so it was more like it was reunited together.

>> Tommy: Yes, yes, we didn’t go out and buy more land we were basically doing the same thing it just went under one identity. Which was probably one of the things I’m most proud of in my lifetime of being able to.


>> Tommy: Keep my grandfather’s farm together as opposed to selling off and moving somewhere else. There again this is where I was born and raised, this is home to me.

>> Sarah: Yeah of course.

>> Tommy: So financially I’d be much better off to sell this place and go somewhere else but somewhere else is not home.


>> Sarah: I mean you’re happy here?

>> Tommy: I’m happy, I ain’t going nowhere. [LAUGH] Have you figure that out yet? [LAUGH]

>> Sarah: I mean that’s more than some people can say.

>> Tommy: Yeah.

>> Sarah: You happy with your job? You’ve got your family, you’re well fed.

>> Tommy: I am very well fed, my wife’s the best cook the world.


>> Sarah: [LAUGH]

>> Tommy: But I tell her she’s got the best grocery store in the world.

>> Sarah: [LAUGH]

>> Tommy: [LAUGH]

>> Sarah: All right.

>> Sarah: Are you familiar with the Piedmont Culinary Guild?

>> Tommy: Yes, and actually my son does a lot of work with Piedmont Culinary Guild, yeah.

>> Sarah: Yeah, I heard about them from another farmer on Saturday.


>> Tommy: Right.

>> Sarah: But it sounds like all of your food is staying here in sort of the Charlotte regional area.

>> Tommy: Pretty much it does, it really does, we actually started last year.

>> Tommy: Don’t know if you’re familiar with.

>> Tommy: Do you know about CSA?

>> Sarah: Yes.

>> Tommy: Okay, Lowes Foods has a.


>> Tommy: CSA program, sorta speak, it’s called the Carolina Crate and it’s.

>> Tommy: Don’t know if it goes I don’t think it goes into Virginia, I do know it’s in North and South Carolina.

>> Sarah: Okay.

>> Tommy: But it’s very regional at the Lowes Foods and it’s their version of a CSA, you have a pre packed box every week.


Well, Barbie Farms is the one that’s packed those boxes last year and Brent just came from a meeting with them yesterday in Winston-Salem we will be packing them again this year. So, and we actually get things from other farmers, we supply a lot of the stuff but we have free reign to source whatever we need to source.


>> Sarah: Yeah, to fill an order.

>> Tommy: Yes, it’s an 11 week program, they want six to eight different items every week, so in 40 some items you run out of six or eight different ones over 11 week period. [LAUGH] So, and like I say we source that with farmers in our area that do different things than we do.


If we like last year we had a very, we had a very mediocre peach crop as far as number wise, we lost a lot to a late freeze last year. So we sourced most of the peaches out of Peaches & Cream out of Wadesboro. Which is at the Davidson Farmers Market, there again he’s a farmer that I talked to about every week.


Yes we’re competitors but I didn’t have peaches he had peaches, we need peaches for the Carolina Crate, so you use those resources. So yeah, that’s a program we’re kind of proud of, my only reason for going there was to say some of our product is going into South Carolina but how far South Carolina from Charlotte, South Charlotte about that far.



>> Sarah: Yeah, not far from here.

>> Tommy: So I don’t know of any of our product that’s going.

>> Tommy: 100 miles.

>> Sarah: Yeah, further than that.

>> Tommy: If you’ve got any good resources, if we can get more for it we’ll take it there. [LAUGH]

>> Sarah: All right, well I think that might be a good selling point.


>> Tommy: Well I hope you’ve got something you can use out of my.

>> Sarah: Absolutely.

>> Tommy: Babbling.

>> Sarah: Thank you so much.

>> Tommy: You’re welcome.

Barbee Farms

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