David Correll recounts his family farm’s history dating back to the late nineteenth century as he discusses how the farm has changed over its long history. He outlines how his father and uncle spent their time on the farm growing tomatoes for extra pocket money. This operation grew larger and is now the largest crop Correll Farms produces. David reflects on the changes to the farms operations from issues such as a downturn in the dairy industry resulting in them selling their cattle in 2005 after over 50 years as a Grade A dairy farm. He also explains how the fateful 9/11 attack could have drastically affected their farm. David covers topic such as the changes in safety processes in farming, organic farming, GMOs, 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 talks extensively on farmers markets, and their future in Charlotte. He ends his interview reflecting on the future of agriculture.
|0:00:33||Childhood on the farm and his college education|
|0:01:10||Dicusses crop and livestock production on the farm|
|0:02:31||History of the Correll Farms|
|0:05:55||Talton, David’s grandfather, started a Grade A Dairy in 1938|
|0:06:34||In 2005, they sold their dairy cows and focused on vegetables|
|0:06:53||His father and uncle’s experiences of growing tomatoes in the 1950s|
|0:07:37||His father and uncle formed Correll Brothers Farm|
|0:08:17||Expansion and transition of Correll Brothers Farm into Correll Farms LLC|
|0:09:20||Increased production of vegetables and started participating in retail|
|0:10:04||His routine on the farm (on the day of the interview)|
|0:11:26||Changes in farm’s operations over the years|
|0:14:51||Discusses the process of selling land during September 2001, and possible ramifications from 9/11 on the sale|
|0:18:15||Working with neighboring farm to work on rented land they had previously sold|
|0:19:01||His passion for dairy farming and the reasons behind their move away from the industry|
|0:21:56||Sustainability in agriculture and reasons why they do not farm organically|
|0:24:10||Misconceptions about organic farming|
|0:26:01||Changes in the chemicals and processes used in farming throughout the years|
|0:27:14||Dicusses the chemical mixing facility they built on the farm|
|0:27:48||The continuations and changes to food safety in agriculture|
|0:29:24||Impacts of the international agriculture industries on the US|
|0:30:38||International and national competition to selling his produce|
|0:34:21||Changes in the economy and its effect on his farm|
|0:35:17||Shifting to more retail due to population growth in the area|
|0:36:02||Escalation in land prices in the Charlotte area|
|0:39:02||Reasons behind installing a chemical mixing facility|
|0:41:06||Establishment of the Old Fashion Home Delivery program (CSA)|
|0:43:59||Experiences with their CSA program|
|0:46:31||Uses of social media in promoting their farm|
|0:49:33||Changes in their wholesale of tomatoes|
|0:51:35||Experiences with farmers markets in the area|
|0:53:09||Joined Fresh List in 2018 as a new avenue of sales|
|0:56:42||Participating in local fairs|
|0:59:31||Working with the Water and Soil Conservation and Natural Resources Conservation Service|
|1:01:34||Getting a Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) grant and the requirements|
|1:02:44||Setting up a hydroponic system|
|1:04:24||Working with the North Carolina Agritunity on the hydroponic system|
|1:06:42||Detailing what a hydroponic system is and how it did not work for the farm|
|1:08:42||Family work on the farm during the winter months|
|1:10:03||Hispanic workers on the farm as well as highschoolers and teachers working over the summer|
|1:12:46||Details how he hires hispanic laborers for the farm and why he hasnt used the H2A program|
|1:15:58||Misconceptions of GMOs|
|1:19:47||Biggest issue he has faced growing GMO sweetcorn and the ways he educates his consumers|
|1:22:52||The future for his farm|
|1:23:45||Increasing wholesale and how wholesale markets have changed|
|1:24:46||Increase in farmers markets and the impact on the farmers|
|1:25:47||Plans to establish a retail stand of his own|
|1:27:53||Agriculture is getting tougher in the current economy|
>> Laura: Okay. Hello, my name is Laura Burgess, and I’m a graduate student at UNC Charlotte. The date is the 29th of March 2019. The time is 5:26 PM. I’m here with David Correll at Correll Farms. Hello, David.
>> David: Hi.
>> Laura: So let me just begin with my first question.
So how long have you been a farmer?
>> David: I guess I’ve been a farmer all my life. I grew up here on the farm. I was born in 1974 here in Saulsbury, which is about 15 minutes from the farm and returned to the farm a few days after birth and had been playing in the dirt here ever since.
I graduated from college in 1996 so I actually started full time on the farm around the 1st of June 1996.
>> Laura: So a while. [LAUGH] So what kind of crops or livestock do you grow?
>> David: Currently, our farm, we’re growing about 20 acres of tomatoes, that’s our main crop.
We also grow about 150 acres of field crops, corn and soy beans depending on the year and the rotation. Around half and half each of those. So around 75 acres of each of those. We’ve got 27 head of beef cattle that we graze about 40 acres of pasture.
We do cow calf operations, so we sell all of our calves as stockers. Or as the females a lot of those go as replacement heifers to other farmers. To their herds. And we grow about 40 acres of hay crops each year. And then we also do about six to eight more acres of vegetables, which are just various vegetables, about three or four acres of sweet corn.
And then the balance of that is in spring greens, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupes and many different things that we use for retail.
>> Laura: Okay.
>> David: At farmers markets and through our CSA.
>> Laura: Okay. So can you tell me a little bit of history about farms. I know it’s the 6th generation.
>> David: Right.
>> Laura: So can you tell me a bit more about that?
>> David: Yeah, I’m actually the 5th generation here on the farm and my kids are the 6th. Our farm was purchased in the late 1800s by Martha Isabelle Corell. Martha was married a widower in around 1879.
He had had children by a previous marriage. And so when she married him, he had children from his first marriage that were older and they had my great, great, actually just my great grandfather Towton. Well, no, yeah. Get’s a little confusing. They had a son, Franklin Edgar Correll.
He was born in 1880. Her husband passed away shortly after Franklin was born. So she was widowed, had a son, the children by the previous marriage actually inherited the family farm of his. And so Martha was left with a son and really nothing, no home place, nothing to do.
Because everything, by the times back then, everything was inherited by the oldest son. So she actually in the late 1800s, purchased this track of land, which at that time was about 40 acres. For her and her son, Franklin Edgar. Franklin, so Franklin inherited the farm from her. He married Josie Bell Killian who was actually was his wife.
And they had a son Hubert Towton Correll in 1905 and that was my grandfather. He was the oldest of I guess about six children. And so the farm was passed on to him. He had brothers that farmed as well. Two of them actually purchased, well one brother purchased an adjoining farm to us.
A sister, she and her husband, she married a gentleman that had a farm. About half a mile from here. One of the brothers, Franklin, was a World War two veteran that went on to North Carolina State and was a professor at North Carolina State. One sister moved away and married a gentleman in Pennsylvania.
So Granddad Talton was left here on the farm, to manage the home farm. He started by raising some produce back in the 20s. And then started milking a few cows. And in 1938 Granddad started Grade A Dairy.
>> David: My father was born in 1943, my uncle in 1944.
Granddad always said he was too young for World War one and too old for World War two. So he never was drafted or went to war. Cuz he was just kinda in that strange age bracket at that point, he’s just too young or too old. So he started the Grade A Dairy in 1938 and continued to have a dairy until 2005.
In 2005 we sell the milk and herd the cattle and switched to primary vegetables. The kind of funny thing is, my father and my uncle, in the late 50s when they were turning 16 and wanted some spending money, my granddad encouraged them to start growing tomatoes. They wanted spending money, they needed something to add to the farm so he said, you know, why don’t you grow some tomatoes.
Because he had grown them back in the 20s when he was around and there are some other tomato growers here in the community. So they started planting a few tomatoes and along with having the dairy cattle. And they continue to have the tomatoes my dad put that first crop and in 1959, so we’re still we’ve been continuously growing tomatoes here since then.
My uncle Tawton Jr. how to work on the farm. He and dad after granddad retired formed Correll Brothers Farm and so he and dad farmed together. I guess they started that in the late 70’s it actually changed to Correll Brothers Farm. With the two of them managing the farm and operation.
In 2001 my dad and uncle had inherited some land that my grandfather has bought in the 60’s. That’s about three miles from the home farm here, and- [SOUND]
Is he picking her up?
>> Laura: Yeah, it’s fine.
>> David: So the land that they had inherited is about 100 acres.
My dad and uncle agreed to sell that property. And my dad was able to use his share of that money to purchase my uncle’s share of the home farm and the buildings and the cattle and everything here at the farm. So that was the best way that we could transition from the two brothers owning the farm to my parents owning the farm exclusively at that point.
So the farm was transferred to, at the time of that sale we change the farm name to Carrell Farms LLC. Formed the LLC with my mother and father and I as the three partners in Carrell Farms LLC. In 2005, we continue to milk cows till 2005 and in 2005 we decided to sell the milking cows and increase our amount of vegetables we’re selling and growing.
And also start doing some retail on the tomatoes and added the beef cattle in 05.
>> Laura: Okay, awesome. Well it’s a very extensive history, thank you. So can you describe a typical day on the farm, in the summer?
>> David: [CROSSTALK]
>> Laura: Yeah, so around about this time, I know it’s difficult, it depends.
But say today, what was, what did you do?
>> David: Today was a good day. It’s spring and we’ve had a really wet winter and early spring. So we’re getting ready to start preparing ground for our corn crop. My uncle would spent the day tilling some ground and getting it ready for planting corn here in about three weeks.
I spent my day, first part of the day in the greenhouse. We’re growing our tomato plants in greenhouse now, that we’ll set out sometime around the middle of April. So I spent the day working in the greenhouse and watering the plants, and fertilizing them and continuing to get them growing.
My uncle came in and had a piece broke on a piece of the tillage equipment that he had. So he spent a few hours working on that. It’s never a typical day. And I think that’s what I enjoy about the farming. Is there’s never, it’s funny, my wife asked what are you gonna do today?
And I said, we’re gonna use my plan, but that’s probably not what gonna happen. [LAUGH] But then when it’s all said and done.
>> Laura: Yeah, fair enough. So please, a long, long standing farm. Can you tell me more about the farming operations, and how they’ve changed over the years?
>> David: It’s changed a lot. My grandfather, when he started milking cattle in 38, he put in a milking parlor to milk the cattle. He could milk well two cows at a time, he had two cows on each side of the parlor. And so he’d milk two cows, and then he could shift over and milk two more.
In the early 70s I guess they put in a parlor in a that they could milk five cows at a time. And thought that was really moving up. And speed up operations. In the late, mid to late 80s, we put in a parlor that we can milk 12 cows at a time, six on each side.
[COUGH] And the unique thing is, the cows were always milked within about 40 foot of where they were during that whole period. My granddad’s original parlor.
>> David: We had closed and built the single five parlor over there in the 70s.
>> David: And actually, it was built right beside that other one.
When we got ready to expand the double six parlor, we actually remodeled the whole parlor that my grandfather had started with in 38. They had my dad, well, my grandfather was actually a partner in Rowan Milk Transport as well. So we had a local dairy here, Rowan Dairy, that my grandfather.
In addition to milking cows he also drove the milk truck and picked up milk at other farms in the community and took the milk in to Salisbury. As that changed in about 1970 they bought their first tractor trailer tanker for rolling milk transport. A funny story is, my mom and dad went to Wisconsin to pick that first trailer up, and both of my sets of grandparents were upset.
And standing there is my dad, and mom got ready to go on this journey to Madison, Wisconsin to pick up a new tanker trailer. And mom and dad got in the truck, and drove off. And mom said to my dad said, if we’d have told him I was pregnant with Brian who is my brother before they left.
He said they’d never have let us leave. So mom and dad left there in 70. That would’ve been in 1970 to go pick up the first tractor trailer to haul milk. And my dad actually drove the milk truck a lot. My uncle did more of the work with the cattle.
>> David: So in that partnership, they were able to work through that and actually be a part of that mill column business as well. Through the early 80s I guess.
>> Laura: I’m just gonna go back, cuz obviously this has been here for so long. I wonder, did, for example, World War one or World War two affect the farm in any way?
Or any kind of big events kind of throughout its history? If you could think of a specific example.
>> David: There’s not been really huge impacts. I guess the blessing for us is when in the 2000s when we were prepared to sell the land and it was going to be the opportunity for the farm to transition from two brothers to one.
Which is the only way that it was gonna give me the opportunity to come back to the farm. The problem with farms and the transition of farms now is the value of the farm is so high. The equity’s here, but it’s really hard to ever make enough money to be able to buy out another partner.
And so we had the opportunity to sell that 100 acres of land which It’d only been in the family for about 40 years. In order to a company that was gonna put in maybe a gas powered electrical generating plant. And it was tough to be able to figure that out, to see whether we wanted to let that land go, to be able to do that or not.
But the decision was made, all the paperwork was worked up to sell the property. And the company that had the auction on the property was called Entergy out of Louisiana. They had to pick the option up on that property before September 9th. On September 9th, they picked up the option on that property and on September 11th was the bombing of the World Trade Center.
So it’s kinda unique. If that bombing had happened two days earlier, there’s a really good chance that that company, and they told us this all along, that there is a really good chance they wouldn’t have picked up that option on that property because of they would’ve probably extended it, but probably maybe not picked up that option at that time.
So we are really blessed. Well, I feel that we’re really blessed that we were able to make that transition. But that event in itself, had it happened two days earlier or three days earlier, could have probably, and it maybe changed the way everything is now as far as how we would have made the transition from Carrell Brothers to Carrell Farms.
>> Laura: You wouldn’t think something like that would affect farming in another state.
>> David: Right, but it was just the fact of the uncertainty of those weeks and months that followed that. That company had no idea what might happen after that. Putting in another generating plant probably wouldn’t have happened.
But the irony of it is they never built the plant anyway.
>> Laura: I was just about to ask that. [LAUGH]
>> David: And we actually farmed that land up until 2016. We rented it from the power company. In the fall of 2018, they actually have put solar panels on part of that farm.
There are still some open land there that will be farmed, but we have a neighbor that we work really closely with that’s actually gonna do that, continue to farm about half of that 100 acres with us, as we transition and my dad got older and my uncle’s older.
At this point, they’re 76 and 74. I’m not as passionate about growing corn and soybeans and row crops like that. So the ability to have another farmer work that ground and everything makes me glad that he’s able to do that and I can stay here and concentrate on the vegetables and that sort of thing.
>> Laura: Is that your passion, then, growing vegetables?
>> David: I really enjoy it. It’s funny, my degree is in animal science from NC State. So I went to college with intentions of coming back home and dairy farming, which is what I did for nine years. But the economy of the dairy business, we were milking around 120 dairy cattle.
>> David: The dairy economy was changing at that point, and really we would’ve needed to expanded the dairy herd to probably in the 4 to 500 cow range to have been profitable in the way we were doing things. We actually had the top herd of dairy cattle in North Carolina and the Southeast in the 2000s.
We had the highest milk production of any herd in the Southeast. The first herd in North Carolina for their cows to average over a 100 pounds of milk per day. So, it was pretty hard. It was a pretty tough decision to say it was time to sell the cows.
As the years have gone by, we’re 14 years removed from that almost now, the dairy economy has not changed. It’s tougher now to be a dairy farmer than it was in 2005 when we decided to sell, and it just solidifies our decision to have sold them when we did.
We sold at a time where we were still able to get a premium for our cattle, and,
>> David: Pretty happy that that’s the way it turned out. I do miss the dairy cattle. I miss the daily challenge of, with a plant you plant a new variety of tomatoes or a new vegetable and it’s three months, four months before you really know whether you did something right.
With the dairy cattle, the challenge always was I could tweak a feed ration, I could change what I was doing a little bit, and within two or three days I could tell whether I’d done something right or not. So it was the science of dairy farming was a lot of fun.
And I miss that daily challenge of what’s gonna happen if I do this. It makes you a mad scientist when you’re a dairy farmer. The vegetables, you still have those changes you make and decisions you make and they’ll impact things, but it’s not the instant gratification or instant deflation that the dairy cattle had.
>> Laura: Yeah, of course. [LAUGH] So talking about the vegetables you grow, do you farm organically?
>> David: We do not.
>> David: The question of organic or not is something that we get every day at the farmer’s market. It’s a question we get all the time. Sustainability is a buzzword now in the farming industry, and especially in the produce industry, and one of the keys to sustainability is the ability to continue the farm, to continue to grow things, and to be profitable as well as protecting the soil, protecting the environment for future generations.
And for us, on the scale that we are, I think it’s really tough to farm totally organically, especially with the tomatoes. The tomatoes have so much disease pressure that it’s really tough to use the organic chemicals and sprays to handle everything. With that being said, we scout our fields every week.
We target what pests there and we try to use the most in evasive thing that we can to handle those pests. I think a lot of folks look at organic farmers and think of a guy with a straw hat and overalls on and a hoe in his hand.
I wore overalls all day today. But I think on a larger scale organically grown produce probably is truly no safer than what we’re doing. The organic guys are using a lot of different sprays. Just because they’re carbon-based doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a safer product for the consumer or for the farmer to use either.
And that’s one of the biggest misconceptions is that the organic guys don’t use any spray.
>> David: Especially when you look at the large-scale organic producers, they’re probably spraying fields. More often than we are. So, we made the commitment to protect the environment, to protect the sustainability of the farm, and to use, I think, everything we have, whether it’s fertilizer’s, whether it’s sprays, farming practices and everything else.
We call it our tool box. You have all these items in your toolbox. Whether an organic spray or inorganic spray or certain type of fertilizer and I think you have to for us, we open the toolbox, and we try to find the best product that we can use for what we’re doing to maintain the sustainability, to protect the environment, and to protect the farm.
And that’s a tough thing to do a lot of days, cuz that’s where it adds to that mental level of what you do and we talked about the dairy cows earlier and how that was a challenge and how you could change things on a daily basis. And that’s kind of my new challenge that we look at is research looking at what the best product is to use each and every day.
>> Laura: So you would say that this increased interest in organic produce, and obviously the buzzword of sustainability has kind of influenced the way you farm?
>> David: I think a lot has changed since the 60’s when farmers that a one point, were using some chemicals that were pretty nasty.
They were available, they were, it was just, it’s what everybody did. I think as a younger farmer, the chemical companies and everybody else have really changed their processes. I think the research, the work with FDA and with USDA, on products is totally different than it was 40 or 50 years ago.
Every product that we have now has gone through so much scrutiny. It’s gone through so much testing and time and
>> David: And research that I think we can feel a lot more comfortable now with what we’re using than what the older guys did 50 years ago.
>> David: It’s as simple as here on the farm now we have a chemical mixing facility that we mix our sprays for our tomatoes and our vegetable crops in.
It’s a self-contained facility that we’re able to fill up the sprayers. We’ve got gloves, we’ve got a respirator, I’ve got everything that I need, as far as what the label reads to be able to mix those sprays safely. We’re spraying now with tractors with cabs on them. I don’t know that produce safety is a lot different than it was back 30 years ago.
I think those guys were still doing things that was safe for people to consume. There wasn’t an issue with consumer safety. But I think there was a lot of producer safety. The guys were spraying with some pretty crazy stuff, like DDT and everything else years and years ago.
With open air tractors. We are spraying now with a cab tractor. That has air filter that filters the cab air as it comes in and everything else. So the chance of those things harming us are a lot less. Every spray we use has a reentry period of time that we can’t go back in the field after we spray it.
It’s got a post-harvest interval, that after spraying certain things you can’t harvest the crop for a day or two. And we adhere to that extremely strictly, and probably go a day or two longer most of the time than what’s required. To ensure that we’ve got a safe product to go out.
But I don’t think food safety has changed that much. I think our food supply here in the US is as safe as anywhere in the world. And as you look at it, we’re producing. Food for the world now, but the world’s also producing food for the US. There’s no seasonality in the grocery stores anymore.
There’s apples available 365 days a year. There’s lettuce available 365 days a year. There’s people buying green beans here that are grown in South America. There’s people buying all these products, are available year round at the grocery store.
>> David: And so the US, I think, is doing a great job of producing a safe product.
I think some of the questionable things may come from, are other governments that are bringing produce into the US year round are they following the stricter guidelines as we are. So I think that the global aspect of agriculture is probably what scares me worse than the US.
>> Laura: Yeah.
>> David: Part of agriculture.
>> Laura: So talking about this kind of new global agricultural kind of, I guess in some respects, food ways from wherever, have you seen that affect how you do in terms of selling your produce? Because now there’s more competition in some ways.
>> David: It makes it a little challenge.
We’re selling tomatoes as our primary crop. And
>> David: And they’re in the really year round now. There’s tomatoes from Mexico coming into the United States. It used to be when we grew tomatoes you know even 25 or 30 years ago our competition was California, Florida, South Carolina.
>> David: And later in the season Virginia and Ohio.
Now we have a new player. There’s a tremendous amount of tomatoes grown in greenhouses in Canada that are coming South. There’s a tremendous amount of tomatoes grown in Mexico that are coming North into the United States. So it used to be. And I can remember when I was a kid.
Some of our tomato buyers here, we get offers from people in California that said, hey, I’m going to send you a truck load of tomatoes. And I say, well we don’t need tomatoes, they we’re going to send you one anyway. All we need out of it is the freight.
Which might not be a dollar or two a box. So we had to really watch some of that competition coming in from California that might totally wreck a tomato market that we had. Now, we have to watch tomatoes coming from, there’s potential for it coming from two more nations not just the states.
And So, globally, we have an issue with that. And even on the farmer’s market level, a simple crop like okra, that’s a Southern staple.
>> David: You can see in the farmer’s market. If some of the farmer’s markets allow producers to buy some things to sell along with the crops that they’re growing, they can get okra out of Florida as early as mid-April.
We can’t have any okra grown here till around the middle of June. So you see a crop that comes into a market, like a farmer’s market, that’s coming from out of state that people are gonna buy and people are gonna love cuz they can get it early. It’s not something that grocery stores carry a lot, but it’s something that people crave.
So sometimes we see a crop like that, that’s brought to the farmer’s market. The customer base is not excited about it when they can get local okra. They’ve had their availability to buy okra for the last two months. And so it’s kind of that way with tomatoes. We used to have a tremendous amount of folks that would come for locally grown tomatoes.
>> David: Because they haven’t had a great tomato for in a month, since the last fall. But now they’re able to buy tomatoes year-round in the grocery stores, so there’s not some of that initial demand for a local product like it was. I can remember, gosh, when I was a kid, in the late 70s, our first tomatoes we’d sell for $50 a bushel.
Thatâs $1 a pound wholesale, which was great. Now our first tomatoes, 40 years later, we get $50 a bushel for a few of those first ones. So when you look at how the economy’s changed and everything, when you’re getting the same thing for a product you got 40 years ago.
With the increased cost of everything else around us from fuel to fertilizer to all the crop inputs, and living expenses, it’s getting tougher and tougher to make a living doing it.
>> Laura: I’m sure. So what’s some of the challenges or strengths of farming in the Charlotte area that you’ve seen.
>> David: I think as the population grows, I think our transition to doing more retail and doing more our old-fashioned home delivery, which is our CSA type program. I think we’ll be able to, just with the increase in population, we should be able to, as we penetrate that market more, to be able to increase sales here from that.
>> David: And I think that’s the biggest advantage to the growing population and the growing climate here in the Charlotte area. I think the biggest disadvantage is, as the population grows, prices for farm land continue to escalate. And a lot of that it is caused by some folks that may have farmland in that Charlotte regional area, that are selling that land, and they’re moving north or south.
But for us, it would be them moving north and purchasing land,
>> David: Because there’s a lot of tax advantages to if you sell land, to purchase more land. So they’re able to sell land at a tremendously high price down in that Charlotte area. And then they’re coming up here to buy land.
And so it’s inflated the price of land here, just because they have excess money to spend. An example is my uncle’s farm that’s across the road here from us. It’s a 100-acre tract that we would have really liked to have purchased. But that land wound up selling for around $7,500 an acre, which, for a 100-acre tract, sounds like a lot.
Sounds like maybe not such a terrible deal except the only access to the property is going across a railroad track. And so there’s one way in, and one way out of that property. So it’s not a property that would ever be developable, because it’s only got that one access road into it.
The guy that bought it lived in the Davidson area, and had a large tract of land that adjoined Davidson College, and was able to sell that land for 40, $50,000 an acre. So he had a tremendous excess of money to be able to buy land in this area.
So that land went for $7500 an acre, whereas it’s okay farmland, not what I would consider great farmland. Its rolling hills would be better for pastureland as far as an agricultural use. And at that, at 2,500 to $3,000 an acre would be the most the true farmer could be able to spend on that property.
So that’s where there gets to be a disconnect in what we’re able to do to expand or to increase here, really based just on land prices.
>> Laura: Of course, so you mentioned that, I’m gonna get back to one thing and then continue. You mentioned the chemical mix facility, is that a requirement of that size farm or?
>> David: It’s not a requirement whatsoever. The North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Service, which is a North Carolina government funded group, has money available for cost share for them to help pay for improvements that will help soil and water quality here in North Carolina. We applied for some help in funding that facility.
It was a facility that I felt like that if I have intentions of being here on the farm for a long time. I have kids that are sixth generation that both at this point are interested in coming back to the farm, or staying on the farm and continuing to change our business, but to keep continue farming.
And I felt like that was a real need here. We have tour groups here from time to time. We’re not an agrotourism location, but we have a lot of school groups that come out just to To see the farm and that sort of thing, and for us to have to a building where we could mix those facilities, keep all our pesticides looked up in a locked room that’s climate controled.
So we don’t have a decrease in quality of those products from year to year. It seemed like a no-brainer, especially with some help with those cost share funds to be able to assist us in building that.
>> Laura: Okay then, and so now I’m gonna work back. So you mentioned the CSAs.
So I wonder, how long have you been doing that program?
>> David: This will be our sixth year that we’ve been doing that. We call ours our old fashioned home delivery program. My wife and I actually were on our way home from a meeting in Pennsylvania several years ago, and we were trying to think of ways to expand the operation, to expand sales and everything.
Because as my dad and uncle get a little older, managing the 20 acres of tomatoes is getting tougher and tougher all the time. It just takes so much man power, so much labor and management, that it’s a harder thing for me to manage all that. So we were looking at ways to expand, and I love growing the variety of produce that we do.
>> David: I say everything from artichokes to zucchini, we grow anything and everything you can kinda think of that’ll grow here.
>> David: And so we started talking about it, and thinking about how we wanted to work that program into our operation. And decided we’d call it the old-fashioned home delivery, kind of modeled after when the milkman used to bring milk to the door.
Kinda as a nod back to our days of being part of the whole Rowan Dairy here and Rowan County and Rowan Creamery before that. With still a lot of old guys here in the community that used to work for those coops and one gentleman that goes to church with us was one of the delivery men.
So that’s how we decided to term it. We started the first year with around 30 customers in the Solsberry area. Have increased some every year. Last year we had around 90 families. We actually expanded last year into the Davidson Huntersville Cornelius area. And I think that’s something that’ll be interesting to see how it grows.
You see a lot of farms that do four or five hundred of those CSAs each year. I do not think I want to get that big with it, but it’s a great opportunity especially this time of year. We’re taking in the funding, the customer’s pre-pay for the CSAs so during this late winter, springtime period
>> David: The income that’s coming in from that, is what we can use for operating expenses to get us into the summer. Until we’re really starting to sell a tremendous amount of tomatoes, and that sort of thing. So it’s been a great fit as far as operational income, to be coming in early in the spring.
>> Laura: Great so your overall experience of that has been good then? You really-
>> David: It’s good, it’s fun for us. It adds a fun aspect to delivering to people’s homes, and getting to know folks. And the interactions that we’ve had with the different families that receive our basket each week.
We do package ours in baskets, so a lot of folks just put it in a box, but we have a nice display, when folks get their basket, we hope it looks good, it’s all filled in a basket and pretty. So we get a lot of Facebook likes, and social media shares and likes from organically through that, from people saying look what I got today on my porch.
So it’s a good experience. It’s been great to get to know the customers. We run for 15 weeks, we start late April and go through the month of July. And the reason for that, we’ve kind of found it about a 15 week season, we’re able to give our customers a little bit of everything that we grow.
So they get the full experience of early season greens, and radishes, and turnips, and broccoli, and cauliflower. And then we transition in June to more squash, cucumbers, cantaloupes, tomatoes, watermelons, okra, peppers and that sorta thing. So they kinda get the full picture of what we grow. But they’re also not getting worn out from getting too much of the same thing every week.
So the 15 weeks kind of gives them that summer full of vegetables. If they choose to, they can come shop with us at the farmer’s markets. For August and September while we’re still going to markets, but, they don’t get tired of us doing it for 15 weeks. I think some folks that do 20 and 25 week CSAs, the people by the end of the time sort of, it begins to wear on them that gosh, we’ve got another basket here.
So with this we shorten the season, and that affords us time to, our children show sheep at the county fair, state fair. And different things and kind of gives us an opportunity not to have that on our plate. When fair seasons come and as we’re trying to get corn and soy beans and that sort of thing harvested as well.
>> Laura: Okay, so you mentioned social media. Do you utilize that quite a lot in terms of trying to get your farm out there?
>> David: We do, we have a Facebook page, Correll Farms Red Barn Market, that we try to interact a lot with our customers on. My son, Talton who is 12 does Farming with Talton videos which are a lot of fun.
He is a born salesman, and it’s funny we see 1500, 1000, 1500 views on those, depending on how they’re shared, and how they’re liked and how they go out. And his tagline for the videos always start with kinda him with his back to the camera and turning to it and saying, hello there I didn’t see you,
>> Laura: [LAUGH]
>> David: Welcome to Farming with Talton. And it’s so hilarious people will come out of the market, he’ll be with me and they will be like hello I didn’t see you, I mean it’s his tag line, it’s great, and it’s kinda spurred its own little [LAUGH] thing for him.
It’s hilarious to be in town, and people be like are you Talton from Farming with Talton? And it’s like yeah that’s me.
>> Laura: We’re gonna have to check that out.
>> David: He’s great, he does a great job with it and we had a lot of fun trying to share things.
It’s simple things for us that we don’t think about, but maybe how to pick a ripe watermelon. And it might be how peppers turn from green to red, or green to yellow. A lot or people think maybe peppers start out red. Well, a pepper has to start as green and transition to those colors.
He’s also got some laying hens, and so a lot of his videos are about his chickens, and how he interacts with them. So it’s always fun to do that, and I think that adds to our social media aspect a lot. People get tired of seeing pictures tomatoes or pictures of this and that because videos keep people engaged in our Facebook.
We have a website that we setup a couple years ago that we get a lot of traffic to we use it primarily for sales for our CSA for our delivery program. Don’t really update it as much through the year. We try to drive people to the Facebook page to get their up to date information.
But you know, if we pick a lot of sweet corn and we’re going to have corn or something different at the market on a Saturdays, we always try to post that. And try to encourage folks to come out and see us.
>> Laura: Great, so farmers’ markets, as well as farmers’ markets that had trouble last year.
Is there any other points of selling your produce.
>> David: Sales.
>> Laura: Yeah, sales, yeah.
>> David: Yeah, the tomatoes are probably 95% wholesale. Our tomatoes currently we have a buyer in Charlotesville Virginia that’s buying probably 30 to 40% of our tomato crop. We have another buyer in Winston Salem that is probably buying somewhere in that range as well.
One in Ashville that buys some, and one in
>> David: Cane of Virginia. We used to sell a tremendous amount of tomatoes what we call the top of the mountain. That’s going up 77 to and that area. There was a big group of produce wholesalers up in that area at one time and in the mid 80s we would take truckloads of tomatoes up there everyday.
Those guys have shrank in number tremendously. So we were blessed being able to find the gentlemen in Charlottesville that has handled a lot of our tomatoes. It’s interesting growing up we put a 100 bushes on a pickup truck with a cover on the back and haul them an hour and a half or so.
About a load or two of those a day. Now we’re packing everything in 25-pound boxes, and we’ve got a truck that we can haul 700 boxes on to go to Charlottesville and some of those areas. So, a lot more ease in In handling the tomatoes being on a pallet, being in boxes.
But we’re also having to start going just a little bit further out than what we did back years ago, to actually move the product.
>> Laura: So do you do a lot of farmer’s markets?
>> David: We’re currently doing the Davidson farmers market and the Salisbury farmers market. Both of those are Saturday morning markets, both very good markets.
And that’s another reason that we started our delivery program. But you have produce the first of the week that it’s really hard to find a farmer’s market that is, I’ll say good on the earlier mid-week. People tend to buy their vegetables on Saturdays. Those markets are generally very good.
And any market that we’ve tried, Tuesdays, Wednesdays are pretty tough. You can sell some product, but it’s a third of what a Saturday is. So it gets pretty hard to justify going to. Up until last year we sold at a Thursday evening market in Statesville. That was a good market for us but we were able to we increased our delivery numbers by about 25 families last year, so we just didn’t have.
Enough product to retain that market. And it was a market that declined the last several years. So we were able to stop going to it.
>> Laura: So, is there any kind of local cooperative, opportunities with other farmers that you’ve been involved with or have you seen any in the area?
>> David: We started in 2018 working with freshly established Charlotte. They are an aggregator of produce for restaurants in the Charlotte area. We’ve tried in years’ past to do some restaurant sales. But restaurants are a real challenge. One challenge is the chefs keep totally different hours than the farmers.
So that takes me 11 o’clock at night to say what they needed that week, while I was in bed and wake me up. And then I’d think about it at 6:00 in the morning when I got up to respond to them, and then dang if I wouldn’t wake them up cuz they were in bed at that time.
And chefs to me by nature are a difficult group of people to deal with. They’re great folks but they want everything ready that day. They’re so used to being able to order from their wholesale distributors whatever they need that week. It’s just like the grocery store they can order tomatoes year round.
They can get squash, cucumbers, whatever year round. But it’s really hard for them even the higher end restaurants. And it’s getting better to understand the seasonality of local produce. And, so this group, Fresh List out of Charlotte, started in 2017. And really got their foot in the door in ’18.
But there’s about 60-80 restaurants, I think, that they work with on a weekly basis. We send them on Thursdays a list of products we’ll have available for them that week. And they send that to the restaurants. The restaurants place an order with them, and they call us on Monday or Tuesday and place their order to pick up Wednesday.
And then they take all this aggregated produce from several different farms and go into the restaurants. Where the restaurants are able to get a larger percentage of their produce from. Because they they’re aggregating produce from several different farms, maybe 20 different farms, that each of us kind of have a unique group of produce that we’re able to sell to them.
And that’s been a good group to work with. I think that’s the kind of thing that’s gonna be able to get local produce in more and more restaurants. But it’s also able to free us up to not have to make individual calls to restaurants. And Charlotte is just a hair too far for us.
We’re about an hour from downtown Charlotte. So to be able to go, and it would take a day to go to those six rate different restaurants. Whereas now, our produce may be in 15 or 20 restaurants, but we’re not leaving the farm. They’re coming and picking that produce up, and delivering it to
>> Laura: Okay. Oops. I’m gonna roll back to another thing mentioned which I hadn’t really thought about. It’s these fairs cuz they’re so fascinating. Do you do a lot of these fairs cuz you said that you’d like to freed off for this?
>> David: We did two or three county fairs and in the state fair each year, showing livestock.
The kids have shown goats, chickens, primarily sheep at these fairs. And it’s just a lot of a good time, especially the state fair. That’s in Raleigh in October each year. It’s kinda great for me especially. I mean, the kids love it. They love interacting with the animals. But also they’ve got friends that will go spend several days in the barn at the fair grounds.
And they’re able to play and everything. But it’s also great for Cheryl, and my wife and I, being both graduates from NC State with animal science and agriculture degrees. So many of our friends have kids the same age. So it’s almost like a reunion every year for us to be able to go.
And visit with folks, that we may not see but once a year but we catch up and especially before Facebook came along. These folks really had no idea what was happening with them every year or a year and so. The fairs are a great way for us to educate the public.
For them to see agriculture and to touch and feel what is happening on a daily basis on a farm. But it’s also a reunion for us. I’m currently livestock director and on the board for Rowan County fair here in Salisbury. So I’m managing all the livestock shows and taking any treats for the shows and selecting judges and that sort of thing.
That’s one way that I see that we’re touching the community and being able to provide something. There’s nothing like a good county fair or state fair for people really takes experience agriculture. The rides are there and the foods there. But if you really talk to the general public, viewing the agriculture and seeing the animals, we always take a.
Being on the Fair Board I can kind of find out how many entries they have in some of the produce categories and that kind of thing. And if there’s things that are missing we try to take some of those items here from the farm to fill up the display and to be able to show folks.
I did account.
>> Laura: So you mentioned earlier that when construction of the chemical mix of service are used among subsidized-
>> David: All right.
>> Laura: Farming. So is there any other local government or community support that you’ve used, in terms of expanding your farm?
>> David: [COUGH] The soil and water conservation folks and NRCS, which is Natural Resources Conservation Service, which NRCS is a federally funded program.
Both of those programs gear money towards farms in a cost share program. Which I think is important. It makes the farmer put skin in the game. It makes the farmer look at what he really needs. So it’s not money that’s just coming. As a grant to pay for the full thing.
But we use them. Have used funds there to put in grass waterways around the farm to keep soil erosion down. We’ve used moneys through that for heavy use areas in our pasture that, and waters in the pasture that help keep our cattle out of the streams. And out of the branches and that sort of thing to help water that’s flowing downstream.
So we’re sending water through the farm It’s just as good of quality when it passes through here then it was when it got here. Potentially better a lot of time. So those programs are government sponsored programs that really have helped improve. Maybe not so much our farm, but farms that are, farms and communities that are passed to us.
The only real grant opportunities that we’ve had, we several years ago received a grant from RAFI, which is the Rural Agricultural Foundation for. That they received money from the tobacco buyout or from the golden leaf foundation. Back years ago when they were encouraging farmers to stop growing tobacco.
There was a lot of funds that were put in to be able to help farmers transition to other crops, instead of tobacco. We never grew tobacco here on our farm, so it’s kinda strange that we got a grant through them, but they were working on finding alternative. You could write a grant if there was something you could see as an alternative way to grow things.
But then you had to have cooperative extension services involvement. You had to be able to allow tours of what you were doing, and writing reports on what you were doing. So that if there was farmers who were looking to transition from tobacco, that they’d have some data points to be able to share.
Hey, this worked, or this didn’t, or this was a new idea that you might want to consider. We got some money from them to help fund a hydroponic system here. To be able to grow some plants in the water, in the tunnel of a hydroponic system. These are utilizing vertical hydroponics.
And it was a unique system. That we never could get to work here.
>> Laura: How are they?
>> David: It’s a system that in Florida works really well outdoors. They’re able to grow a lot of strawberries in this system, and some lettuces, and that sort of thing. But here we we’re really never able to make it work.
>> David: Not exactly a failure but it’s something that I’m glad, it was a neat program. We were able to report that it wouldn’t work very well here. Not on a scale for. That I thought that other farmers should do.
>> Laura: Uh-huh.
>> David: So honesty in the reporting was pretty important to us.
However, we did get some side benefits from it. Because this is a vertical hydroponic system
>> David: You could plant, harvest and grow things without bending, without stooping, without doing anything else. Because everything was from about 18 inches to about 6’0 high. Where we found a real use for it, we actually wound up working with North Carolina Agritunity that works with disabled farmers.
That works with VA hospitals. That works with other groups with people with disabilities. That they came and saw the system, and some of them have implemented that kind of system in training people that were maybe veterans at VA hospitals that were able to go out and get their hands in some dirt.
They could grow some things. Whereas we were looking at it from a profitability standpoint, they were looking at it as an opportunity for folks to get their hands dirty that couldn’t get down in the garden and grow things. I actually have a friend that was a younger farmer.
He was in his 40s and had a stroke. And Chris loved to farm, he loved to do, was going to some farmer’s markets and that sort of thing, and had a stroke and basically lost the use of one side of his body. I invited Chris out, and I said, look, man, this is what you need.
And he fell in love with the system, put some up outside. I told him some things that I thought he could change that would make the system work where he could maybe use it to grow some things. And Chris was able to continue doing a little bit of farming and to at least grow his own vegetables using this system.
And he couldn’t get down, he couldn’t get in the dirt on the ground. But he was able to use this system to do that. So it’s kind of a blessing that we got it, because I think it probably helped a lot. Maybe not a tremendous amount, but it helped some people not in production ag.
But it helped some of these other folks that you really weren’t thinking about when I wrote the grant. We were writing the grant to try to make some more money, but that didn’t happen. But it’s helped some people along the way that you maybe wouldn’t have thought about, so.
>> Laura: Just to someone who doesn’t quite know what that is, do you wanna explain a bit more about?
>> David: What this is is there’s a series of styrofoam pots that are stacked together, four to five pots in a stack. And the pots are about 14 inches square. And so they’re stacked.
They’re put on a pipe where they’re stacked. The first pot is about 18 inches off the ground at the bottom. And then the next pot just sits on top catty-cornered on top of that pot. So they’re stacked up where the corners are exposed of these styrofoam pots, and the plants are planted in the corners.
So you’ve got in a 14 square inch area, you’ve actually got five or six pots. So you’ve got from 20 to 24 plants in this small, very small space. So in a 30 by 48 greenhouse we had room for about 2,500 plants.
>> Laura: Wow!
>> David: Because they’re in rows, and pretty densely placed in there.
We grew strawberries in it one fall with some limited success. And we grew some lettuce in there with some limited success. But what we found is we really couldn’t extend our season and provide these things earlier by using this system. We could grow things in about the same season that we could grow them outside.
And so, we, with us being set up to grow outside, we could actually grow stuff maybe faster and a little better outside. So it just made sense for us to do that instead of in that greenhouse.
>> Laura: So do you have a labor force working? I’m assuming you have a labor force working on the farm.
>> David: We do, as of right now.
>> David: During this time of year when we’re just kinda getting everything rolling, my uncle is still able to work full time.
>> David: He’s here full time. He’s not able to charge forward real fast. But he’s got things he does. He does a lot of work with the cattle.
He does a lot of my tractor driving jobs. He’s working up ground and kind of my extra set of hands here through the fall and the winter and early spring. My brother works for me here as an hourly employee now, as needed. He’s starting, probably in a few weeks, he’ll pretty well be full time through the first of November.
My dad’s had some real health problems over the last three years, so he’s not able to do a lot. But he’s out and about some, and at least, thank goodness he’s able to give a lot of advice, and to do some of that physical labor he’s not able to do now.
But we also have a group of Hispanics here on the farm. Right now there’s four Hispanics that are working. They work hourly probably from November to,
>> David: I’d say till we plant the tomatoes in mid April. They probably haven’t worked more than 50 or 60 hours each during that time.
But they’ll start once we set the tomatoes in the field. They’ll be working full time doing that. We’re in a position, our main Hispanic worker is Paulino. And Paulino’s been here since 88. He’s 62 years old now. His brother’s here, Pedro, who is in his late 50s. Pedro’s wife, Lucia, is here.
She’s been here since,
>> David: Since the late 90s. And then we have another gentleman that’s here, that’s been here now for two or three years. They live here on the farm year round. Even though they’re not working for us, we still continue to provide them housing during the wintertime.
They do pay the utilities during the winter, but not when they’re working for us full time in the summer. But Paulino is able to, in the summer, we’ll have easily about eight Hispanic laborers here all the time including the four that are here year round basically. Then we’ll have, I’ve got another retired tomato farmer.
Johnny has worked for us the last four seasons. He’s gonna be called in the wintertime, too, if we need some extra help. But he comes in and helps us, especially when we’re harvesting and grading tomatoes and packing them. And then we’ve got a couple of high school kids that’ll come and work for us.
And we’ve got a few ladies that are teachers during the school year that are looking for some summer work that help us. And then my wife does a lot of the deliveries and does all the paperwork for the deliveries, and that sort of stuff. So we just sort of all get it done as we go.
>> Laura: How do you find your workers?
>> David: Our Hispanic labor, I call it the friends and family of Paulino plan.
>> Laura: [LAUGH]
>> David: Paulino will let me know, he and I will talk, and talk about how many folks we need. He’s got a huge family here, they’re all actually all from El Salvador.
>> David: Paulino has been able to always find legal good labor for us to hire. So we haven’t had to use any of the government programs like the H2A program yet to do. We’re kinda in a unique position. We’ve been living here year round and working for us. We’re not paying as high wage as what the H2A workers make.
So we’re actually saving some money on our labor costs. We’re on our labor by the hour doing that. But with Paulino and Pedro, we see in their late 50’s and 60’s, they’re also probably not as productive as if we had some younger folks coming in from the H2A labors.
So that’s a challenge that we have that they’re not able to work as quickly and as strongly maybe as some of these laborers that we could bring in through H2A program. But Paulino’s been here since I was 14 years old. Been here 30 years, so he’s, he’s almost like an uncle to me.
He’s been around. I took some Spanish in high school, I took some Spanish in college and I’ve been with him so much when I was in high school, I was in the field all summer working side by side with him, and Paulino doesn’t speak any English, he doesn’t try to speak English.
And so, our method of communication is all in Spanish, good or bad.
>> David: And so, that’s, they’re family, they’re family. I’ll sit down with them and go back to their homes, and sit down and talk couple evenings a week and hang out with them. And we try to treat them like family, so.
>> Laura: Okay, so, is there any aspect of farming that you think people donât consider or misunderstand from your experience of talking with the community who aren’t in agriculture?
>> David: I think the biggest issue today in 2019 is GMO products. I think there’s a huge misunderstanding, we’ve talked about social media some, and social media tends to perpetuate a lot of falsehood about farming, a lot of, It begins to perpetuate a whole lot of falsehoods about farming, a lot of things that as a farmer, I think we’re our own worst enemy because we won’t combat false falsehoods.
It’s a lot easier to get mad and say I can’t believe they said that. Than it is to challenge folks back and try to really educate people. GMO’s have been around for a long time. We’re probably the most studied thing in the world over the last 20 years.
As to the health aspects of GMOs to the and to the ability to continue to feed this world that we’re living in, GMOs are probably gonna be a key to be able to do that, with the increased production levels, with the increased. Everybody thinks of GMOs as just products that you can spray around up on the, to use as a weed killer.
There’s GMO oranges coming out that are. There’s just some diseases that have done a tremendous amount of damage to the Florida citrus crop. So, for us to be able to continue to grow different products and to grow products that have been here in the US forever, some of these GMOs are gonna be a key to be able to combat some diseases that have come in that are challenges.
There’s a lot of studies out there that have shown that the activists use to show GMOs as bad. But I’ve done research after research. Personally, I’ve read not only, I try to read both sides of the issue. I read a book a few months ago that was an anti-GMO book, and trying to read those things to see where consumers are coming from on some other things.
And it’s always interesting, the anti-GMO information that’s out there, absolutely none of it is science-based. It’s scientific theory but there’s no true scientific research that have gone through the scientific model, that I have seen, that are, that have proven anything wrong with GMOs. There are scenarios that are out there that people perpetuate and that sort of thing.
But none of it is actually using a true scientific model with a control group and a. In another group that shows if there’s anything wrong and then you read data from trial after trail that have been done with correct scientific method that have shown there’s no issues. Our crop here that I have the most challenges with is a GMO sweetcorn that we raise and we go to a farmer’s market and there’s customers that will say is this GMO?
In my answer, I’m always totally honest with our consumers and my answer is yes and when they get ready to turn away? I say can I tell you about it? And that’s where farmers have to educate the consumers. We grow a GMO sweet corn that is resistant to Roundup, but also the main reason we grow it is it’s resistant and has the Bt gene in it that protects it from corn earworms.
With that corn, we never spray any insecticides on it, because it has that Bt gene in it.
>> David: Corn that is not GMO, in the summer here, has to have probably eight or ten sprays,
>> David: Of some insecticides that, they’re not that bad. I mean, they’re not what I would consider a really dangerous or a bad insecticide, but they take about eight sprays of this pesticide.
So for me I would prefer growing the GMO, than having something that I have to spray eight times during the season to ensure a product that is safe, and healthy, and everything else. And the problem is the consumers want non-GMO sweet corn that’s never had a spray on it, but they don’t want a worm.
And so they can’t have the cake and eat it too on that. So there’s a level of understanding that the consumers have to have that they can’t have that. It just doesn’t happen. Not in the south, not in July and August, you’re not gonna have corn without worm in it sometimes, and,
>> David: So most of the time if the customer will give me a couple minutes of their time, they will wind up buying it. But they have just seen that they need this, they wanna ask the question, but they don’t really know why they’re asking it. And so that’s where we have to educate them, why farmers need to speak out as to why we do do some things that we do.
>> Laura: Right, so what is the future that you see for your farm? And then I’m gonna ask a more expansive one, on farming in Charlotte? So whichever one you want to tackle.
>> David: Right, here on our farm, that’s the tough question.
>> David: I truly see myself as farming continuously for,
>> David: For my lifetime. My kids are 12 and 15, I would like nothing more than for them to be able to stay on the farm and to earn a living on the farm as they do. But there’s a lot of challenges in that, and,
>> David: I think being able to retail more of our products or to get an increase of our wholesale, whether it’s through the restaurants or through retail, will be a key to being able to do it.
Because as we see with the wholesale markets, the profit margin keeps decreasing. And there’s really no control as we get into the global markets, as we talked about. Farmers don’t set their price on any of these wholesale products anymore. Produce is becoming a commodity, just like corn and soybeans, that is priced on a global market.
You get what you get that day for it depending on how much of it’s out there. With retail you can have a little more control on what you’re doing, and that sort of thing. So I think we will continue to transition a little more to the retail, but in saying that too, well, this area is becoming more and more saturated with farmer’s markets.
Over the last 10 years I bet I’ve been asked to go to 20 different farmer’s markets, new farmer’s markets. Hey, we’re starting one at a hospital. Hey, we’re starting one in downtown Charlotte. Hey, we’re starting a new market in Morrisville, we’re starting one here and there. And every time we do that, every time a new market opens it dilutes an existing market.
Because you’re taking customers that have been buying produce somewhere to go to a new market.
>> David: And so it may end up being a survival of the fittest kinda thing, where eventually some of these markets are gonna close. It’s gonna increase the ability of the existing markets to get a little stronger, but,
>> David: I would see ten years from now we would probably have a stand alone retail place here on the farm somewhere. If not actually on the farm, in the Salisbury area. Where we’re able to retail products that we grow plus possibly some other farmers as well.
>> David: And possibly more year round basis.
I think we have to look at, we’ve typically not grown any produce that we sell from November to mid April.
>> David: I think we’re gonna have to try to find ways and products that we can grow continuously through the year,
>> David: In order to increase income through the farm.
If both kids want to stay on the farm, you have to look at adding enough things to be able to generate enough money for them to be able to do it. And I think that with cost of insurance, with cost of everything else that we look at now.
I think that’s where we’re gonna have to look at some expansion in some of the produce we grow instead of some of corn and soy beans, because corn and soy beans are great products to grow. They’re a great thing to grow in rotation with some vegetables, but the profitability of them has gone down tremendously over the years.
So we’re gonna have to look at utilizing what we have and expanding some of those retail markets and that sort of thing, to be able to do that.
>> Laura: And I’ll end it with this last question, and is there anything else you want to add? Is there any questions you thought I should’ve asked, or?
>> David: No, I think it’s getting tougher. I think it’s getting tougher for all agriculture.
>> David: And it’s maybe not just agriculture, but it’s everybody. If you look at prices and everything else, and if we’re talking about how commodity prices and agriculture prices haven’t changed very much in 40 years For a farm and a farm family to survive, it just takes so much more income now than it did 40 years ago.
My parents had a $200 or $300 a month house payment. They had a $20 phone bill and a $50 phone book. We look at what expenses we have as a family now with a thousand dollar month house payment.
>> David: A phone bill that includes your Internet that’s $130 a month.
If I told my parents 40 years ago we’d pay $70 a month to watch TV, then they’d say you were crazy.
>> Laura: [LAUGH]
>> David: All those things add up so fast now. That we’ve got to try to figure out a way to increase profitability on the farm. And increase money generated so much just to be able to live like our parents did.
And that goes for everybody whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a farmer or whatever. But I think that’s where the challenges is gonna come the increase in farm income has lagged behind. A lot of other aspects, and we have to get to a point where the farmers can demand enough from their crops to be able to get a living wage.
>> Laura: Mm-hm.
>> David: We have so much money invested here our return on investment [COUGH] is just not high enough. And that’s where it’s so much easier for farmers to get out and stop farming than it is to continue. We’ve probably with land value, equipment value.
>> David: And everything else, there’s probably a couple million dollar investment here.
And that’s a tremendous amount for the return that we get on our investment each year. And so we have to look at ways and hope as we move forward that we can increase that return on investment. It’s crazy over year. Insurance calls to that kinda thing, health insurance gets to be It’s a tough thing.
Our health insurance is close to $2,000 a month. That’s what it actually costs us.
>> Laura: Wow.
>> David: So to generate enough to pay for that is, I mean, that’s just the economic challenge of the business we’re in that makes it tougher for self employed folks. For folks that are trying to survive on land, that’s an added cost that you just don’t think about.
>> Laura: Mm-hm, okay. Thank you. Well thank you David for your time today, and we’ll end it there.