Fletcher Personal Farm – Chris Fletcher

subject: Farm

Mr. Chris Fletcher discusses and recounts his time working on his personal farm in Cabarrus County. He touches on the reasons he began farming, what he currently grows, and why he chooses to sell his product at the farmers market as well as the benefits of buying from one. Other topics also include the future of farming in the region as well as commercialized farming. Mr. Fletcher also explains his involvement in various community organizations and how education factors into the work that he does.

Tape Log

0:00:57Type of farming Mr. Fletcher does
0:01:37Details of raising cattle as a teenager and past farming experience
0:03:07Recession forces switch to produce growing
0:03:52Why the focus on growing peppers? Challenges of growing peppers
0:05:42Land useage and expansion plans
0:08:07Value added plans
0:08:50Selling at farmers markets and selling to breweries
0:11:19Being a Master Gardener and roles of the master gardeners
0:15:57Urban Plant Festival
0:18:27Other work outside of farming and balancing work
0:20:27Land in clear, land taxes
0:22:41Urban Growth effects on the farm and farming supplies
0:24:27Organic growing and costs
0:26:07Challenges of local weather and weather patterns
0:28:07Plans for potential year long farming and selling
0:29:07Other plants besides peppers being grown
0:30:25Piedmont Culinary Guild
0:32:07Why farmers markets are necessary and pitfalls of commercial farms
0:34:27Best selling peppers
0:36:07No family assistance and future of the farm
0:37:07Views of the current farms in the region and the foodshed
0:41:23Concluding questions, lessons learned



>> Bradley Holt: Good morning my name is Bradley Holt of UNC Charlotte in the public history department. Today is April 16th, 2019. Today I am sitting down with Chris Fletcher. We are at the Editions Bookstore and Coffee Shop in Downtown Annapolis.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: And so Chris, I’ll just let you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.

>> Chris Fletcher: Hi, I’m Chris Fletcher. Born and raised here in Cabarrus County. Been farming for about eight years. But have sorta been doing farming all my life, back through middle school and high school.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and what sort of farming and gardening do you do?

>> Chris Fletcher: Right now, we do all produce. We do a lot of specialty peppers to sell. I probably grow 15 to 20 different varieties of peppers, not all hot. Which, all peppers are not hot. There’s a lot of sweet ones, and there are a lot of ones that are considered spice peppers, which have a lot of flavor and a little heat.


>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and you’ve been doing that for eight years, the entire length here in Cabarrus County?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, cool, so you mentioned that you did it some in middle school and high school. What was that like, what sort of form did that-

>> Chris Fletcher: What we did then, we raised Shirley cattle.


And we Did the North Carolina State Fair Steer Show a few years. And,


>> [MUSIC]


>> Chris Fletcher: This will be my grandmother’s brother-in-law, he started showing me how to doing some growing of produce and stuff like that. So I grew a garden, too, at that time in my life.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and do you remember what you grew in that garden?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes, the usual corn, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, stuff like that.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and you told me before the interview it’s located near your current plot. It’s located here in Cabarrus County between Concord and Mount Pleasant.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes, off Cress Road.

>> Bradley Holt: Cress Road, okay, so you mentioned your family was into raising the cattle. Was that something that they’d been doing previous generations, or would that-


>> Chris Fletcher: Well, they had some cattle, not a lot, but they raised a lot of chickens.

>> Bradley Holt: Chickens, okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: For eggs and for stock, I guess you would say, or meat.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, do you still have any animals?

>> Chris Fletcher: No.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: So what led you to make the switch kind of as you grew older?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well, the recession hurt us pretty bad. We were building some houses and real estate and stuff like that. And with the collapse of that, I knew I had a lot of extra time on my hands.


And I’ve always had a garden of some size or whatever you want to say. But that’s when I started back trying to make some money out of growing stuff.

>> Bradley Holt: So what led you to the peppers, then?

>> Chris Fletcher: Just have always been interested in peppers and the way they grew and I just went on from there.


>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Bradley Holt: So I wanna talk a little bit more about those peppers because I wasn’t really expecting that.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: So what sort of challenges do you have growing peppers here, as opposed to maybe some other more common produce?

>> Chris Fletcher: I mean, they’re pretty relatively easy to grow.


They have some problems, but not a lot. Last year I had a problem with blossom end rot, which is sometimes caused by calcium deficiency. But it can be caused by too much water or not enough or inconsistent water. And I was able to spray some stuff on the foliage and it broke out.


I didn’t raise as many as I was hoping but still produce some in the end.

>> Bradley Holt: Established some of them, yeah.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: So you mentioned it can kinda be inconsistent watering, you said, or-

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, the blossom end rot can be some numerous different things what can cause that to happen.


Too much rain or not enough but they’re like most plants like a consistent amount of water.

>> Bradley Holt: When do you normally harvest those?

>> Chris Fletcher: They start around August.

>> Bradley Holt: August.

>> Chris Fletcher: And they’ll go until frost.

>> Bradley Holt: Then that would make sense with last year with the tropical systems that rolled through and just flooded everything out.


Did you have any other issues maybe last year with that record breaking rainfall?

>> Chris Fletcher: Not really, not that I see associated with the rain.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so you mentioned before the interview that you have about a half acre of land?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well, I really have about 16 acres.


But I wanna use, some of it’s hay fields that my father in law cuts for his cows and other parts of wood. But I do just about a half an acre of cultivating.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so you have family that still works with cattle?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, he’s got a few cows just to keep himself, he just likes to have cows and he’s got-


>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Got some.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, does anyone else in your immediate family still do farming?

>> Chris Fletcher: No, only one.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, you’re one of a kind here. All right, so since you’re only working on a kind of that smaller plot of land, what sort of challenges do you kind of come across as opposed to maybe a larger operation has or maybe even benefits?


>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, I mean for what I’ve got right now just about all I could do by myself. If I get any bigger or anything, I’ll have to hire somebody or something because my wife is retiring from 30 years in the school system this October. So I might have some help there to get a little bigger, but,


>> Chris Fletcher: A bigger operation would kind of stretch me too thin because I can’t make a full living on what I get off the farm. I do other jobs.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, how did you get that land? Was it in the family already?

>> Chris Fletcher: It’s not like family land from years ago or whatever, which my dad did buy a farm, and brother was living in the older house.


And he gave me ten acres to build my house. And I ended up with 16 in the end cuz by the recession my brother lost his house. My dad let his go back under foreclosure. And so I’m the only one still out there.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: So you mentioned that you don’t really rely on any outside labor at all, correct?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, but possibly with your wife retired you might be able to expand. Do you have any desire to do that, or are you happy with kind of what you have at the moment?


>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, I’d like to be able to Increase my volume of what I’m growing, cuz I might be trying to do some value-added stuff here soon. And I’ll need more of some things and less of others.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: And by value added, I mean like taking the hot peppers and making them into hot sauce.


>> Bradley Holt: Yeah.

>> Chris Fletcher: And drying peppers, and making them into a powder, stuff like that. But I’m just now trying to figure out where I need to be with that, cuz there’s a lot of legal stuff you have to go through to just-

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, anytime you’re preparing something, yeah.


Speaking of kind of legal and regulations, do you have any that you have to deal with now?

>> Chris Fletcher: Not really.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: So you mentioned that you do sell at a farmers market these specialty peppers. How did you start going to the farmers market to sell?


Did they approached you, or did you inquire with them?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, I just signed up with them, I needed a place to do, and it was on a waiting list, well not really a waiting list. Didn’t have a permanent spot in the market for a couple of years.


And I was moved around in the market when people were there and people wasn’t there.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and you’re at Winecoff?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, Winecoff.

>> Bradley Holt: Winecoff Farmers Market?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, Piedmont Farmers Market.

>> Bradley Holt: Is that with Piedmont, okay.

>> Bradley Holt: Are you at any other farmers markets, or is that the only one?


>> Chris Fletcher: That’s the only one.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: I do sell some stuff to a couple breweries and a couple chefs in Charlotte, here and there.

>> Bradley Holt: What do the breweries use the product for?

>> Chris Fletcher: I use, I grow,

>> Chris Fletcher: One brewer, he uses some of my habaneros for one beer that he makes.


And I grow some Thai Roselle hibiscus, which is like a Florida cranberry. It’s real zesty, and sort of a zing, citrusy type flavor. And they use it in a lot of, I guess, I don’t know if you would call them a sour beer, but not really. They use it with other fruity stuff like strawberries or stuff like that.


>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, kind of more of a tart, maybe?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes, a tart tasting, which you can make tea out of it, which I’ freeze some and make tea out of when I don’t have them.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, I’ve seen those pepper beers and stuff, but I’ve never been brave enough to try one one of those.

>> Chris Fletcher: The High Branch, where I sell to him, his Yucatan Stout is very subtle, the heat of the habanero in it, is very subtle. You can have a few drinks of it before you start realizing that it’s there.


And it’s not bad, which I drink, one brewery had a ghost pepper chili, and it was not good, I mean, it was too hot. And I’ve had a few other ones that are not good.

>> Bradley Holt: High Branch over by Gibson Mill, right?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, yeah, right across from Cabarrus Brewing.


>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: All right, so you mentioned that you’re a master gardener, what exactly is a master gardener?

>> Chris Fletcher: The master gardeners are a part of the Cooperative Extension Service of, I guess, North Carolina Department of Agriculture. And what they do is help the local extension agent out, perform her duties.


And we also do a fundraiser with the Urban Plant Festival, it was just last Saturday. And the money we raised for that goes to a scholarship to someone going into the horticulture field. And they also give grants out to all the schools or places where they can do a garden or anything associated with horticulture.


And over a period of time, I think they’ve given out, probably thirty-some thousand dollars or more, worth of grants and stuff like that over the years.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, I’ve heard a little bit about the extensive service from working on another interview’s transcript So what other assistance do you offer to local farmers through the extension service?

>> Chris Fletcher: I mean, the extension aid, Lauren here, she’s the one who sorta helps all the farmers out or whatever, around.


She’s a good source for stuff. If not, she can figure out where to get it.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Stuff like that. But as far as the master gardeners themselves, they don’t really go out and help farmers or anything. It’s like I said, they’re more just to help her answer the phones when she’s not there.


Because people are calling in with questions about stuff all the time. And most of the people are retired, which I was probably the youngest one. And so back during the recession, like that, I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go. And I went to the meeting, started liking all the people there, and that’s one reason I stayed.


I miss a few meetings here or there, but I do try to help them out. There are a lot of nice people, and smart about different things. Each one of them has, not specialty, but know something about something somebody else might not know about.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, okay, so how did you, you mentioned you kinda started going to the meetings during the recession.


What does it take to become a master gardener?

>> Chris Fletcher: I mean, you don’t have to take the course, there’s a course that she offers you have to take. But there’s some of us, and I’ve took the course, but there’s a few people there that haven’t taken the course but still come and help.


And they just can’t be on the board or anything like that. They can just help. [LAUGH].

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so just volunteer.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, it’s volunteers, that’s what it’s actually called, the Cabarrus County Master Donor Volunteer Association.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: It’s all volunteer.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: Now, is it county based?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah each county has, I don’t know if every county has a master gardener thing, but each county has a cooperative extension agent.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, from the Department of Agriculture?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.


>> [MUSIC]


>> Bradley Holt: So is there anything else about master gardeners that you think people should know about? Because I don’t know if they’re exactly well known. Or even if the Cooperative Extension Service is well known even.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, I mean it’s there, so I mean, it’s there provided by the state, I guess, or maybe the county.


I’m not sure who funds whatever.

>> Bradley Holt: ]CROSSTALK]

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, but I mean, it’s information there for people in the state of North Carolina to get. I mean, it’s free, like the soil samples, if you need your soil tested, they have stuff there to tell you how to take the sample, packs it up and send it to Raleigh.


They do charge for it from December to March, but other than that it’s free to have your soil tested

>> Bradley Holt: And soil testing would be for what purpose?

>> Chris Fletcher: To see what your soils lacking, make sure-

>> Bradley Holt: Nutrition and stuff.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, make sure it’s got the right pH, and then they’ll tell you what needs to be added on there.


You can check a general garden or you can check specific plants, and that’ll tell you what you need for that specific plant.

>> Bradley Holt: So it’s a valuable resource to small farms and large farms.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, it’s there for anybody.

>> Bradley Holt: Anyone, okay. So you mentioned the Urban Plant Festival, what is that exactly?


>> Chris Fletcher: That’s how the master growers make their money to give out the Grants and scholarships.

>> Chris Fletcher: And this little pasture was our 14th year of doing it.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: And it’s sorta changed faces over the years. They started out wanting to be more having people come speak, have people listen.


But then it went on, it wasn’t getting much people coming to listen to that so it just basically turned into a big sale, all plants and outdoor stuff.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, where is that held at?

>> Chris Fletcher: It was held at the Piedmont Farmers Market up until last year and this is our second year at the Cabarrus Arena


>> Bradley Holt: That’s what, okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: On the fairgrounds, not in the arenas. On the grounds last week and it was a monsoon. [LAUGH]

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah I went up to Piedmont Wine Croft and talked to Eddie.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: And he talked about how they were getting rained out over there from the other day.


>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah last Saturday morning there was a major monsoon [INAUDIBLE].

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, well it rain from pretty much the time we opened till about 2 :30 and I’ve had enough at the end so I was packing up. Yeah

>> Bradley Holt: Was there still a decent turnout at that one or-


>> Chris Fletcher: Last year, on a good day we had over 4,000 people come through and this year was right about two.

>> Bradley Holt: 2000?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, how many gardeners take part in that?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well, there was 90-some vendors. And like I said, not all of them garden. Some of them are hand made stuff.


It’s supposed to have something to do with outside, but a lot of the stuff is hand made or whatever [INAUDIBLE]. Still good to come, and 90 vendors, and a couple food trucks and stuff we had, plus some educational areas.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Bradley Holt: So that, like you said, was just the fundraising to help fund the grants, and- [CROSSTALK]


>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, it funds the grants.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and have you personally led any of the classes, or anything like that?

>> Chris Fletcher: No, I’m not real good at public speaking. We have a speaker every month at the meeting and I’m brains for Speakers’ Forum.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so you mentioned you do other work on the side.


Do you care to tell us what happens?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, I do painting and handyman stuff.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: I’m for hire. [LAUGH]

>> Bradley Holt: So how do you balance that work along with your farming?

>> Chris Fletcher: Sometimes it’s difficult, but other times it works out okay cuz it depends on the job I’m working on.


Right now, I’m sort of, I’m probably three to four weeks behind on my paintings and stuff, so I’m really stretched.

>> Bradley Holt: Thank you for taking the time out to do this. [LAUGH]

>> Chris Fletcher: No problem.

>> Bradley Holt: So has that work, you been doing that work along side farming.

>> Chris Fletcher: Well I clean carpet, I’ve cleaned carped 30 something years.


And which in those 30 years I was painting and remodeling some external houses and stuff like that and I did work for them like that. And I was getting tired of cleaning. And when my machine broke, that was, I’m done with that now.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: I started doing the painting and stuff.


It took me a couple years to get where I’m behind, got people waiting on me to come.

>> Bradley Holt: Gotcha.

>> Chris Fletcher: So other time, it was hit and miss. Somebody would call, I’d have work to do then it might be a week that I’m having anything to do other than work at the farm or work at my house.


>> Bradley Holt: Gotcha, so the farm kinda started just to have something to do and maybe supplement your income a little bit.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, and two I was trying to get it on, my land on the farm program for the county so it will help me on my land taxes-


>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Or whatever, but it’s kind of a little bit rigged, I would guess you would say. I got enough acreage but I don’t have enough acreage in the clear.

>> Bradley Holt: And what does that mean?

>> Chris Fletcher: I have to get that ten acres. Unless you have cattle, then you can have, I can do cattle on my sixteen acres.


But I can’t because I’ve only got nine in the open, seven are in the woods.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: To do, unless I just not do cattle, I just have to have 10 [INAUDIBLE] and I would have to clear about an acre and a half of trees to get the 10 acres just to grow my produce or whatever.


So it’s sort of how we, it’s county stuff, it’s government stuff so I guess I shouldn’t say any more.

>> Bradley Holt: And so that’s a tax program. They use a tax relief program.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah for farmers.

>> Bradley Holt: So that’s kind of one of the reasons you also.

>> Chris Fletcher: That’s what I started, I was thinking about doing that and I found out all this stuff.


>> Bradley Holt: Government regulations.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah and I think it was kind of unfair that you don’t have to have ten acres in open and have cows because they can go in the woods. But I can grow stuff in the woods if I wanted too. I mean I could grow mushrooms, that would be where you could grow those.


>> Bradley Holt: Yeah.

>> Chris Fletcher: But I asked them about that and they said well you have to come show us that you have two acres of mushrooms growing in the woods.

>> Bradley Holt: That’d be a lot of mushrooms.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so and if you had done those ten acres, you would have probably had to hire help most likely you think?


>> Chris Fletcher: No, I would probably leave it. I’d still leave my fields where they can be cut for hay. Because that is the farm income.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: And you said, do you currently sell hay?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well, I’ve let my [INAUDIBLE] for getting the guy to cut it and bail it and all that, I’m just giving them hay.


>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: I could show you something if I needed to show that I made money of it or benefited from it, begin in the farm program, I could. But there’s no need to because it ain’t enough.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, okay.

>> Bradley Holt: So in terms of, we’re still in the Charlotte Metro area out here in Kannoplis which is just outside of Concord.


As the rapid growth of some of these little cities outside of Charlotte affected your farm in any way?

>> Chris Fletcher: Not really.

>> Bradley Holt: No?

>> Chris Fletcher: No.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, and what about in terms of like supplies for the farm? So is it easier maybe to get supplies or tougher?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well there’s not really, I mean there’s a few places around there that you can buy farm stuff or whatever.


But I usually, there’s a place in Pittsburgh that I buy a lot of stuff from and I usually make a trip that way one or two times a year. I wanted to get my sweet potatoes and any amendments I need. Because I usually can pick up the sweet potatoes right at the end of February, first of March.


And I can get a load of what I need there then, and then if I need to go back again later in the season, I will. And it’s not that far away, I mean really, a few hour drive here or there. But they have some stuff you can’t get around here.


Or if you do, it’s way high.

>> Bradley Holt: What sort of things?

>> Chris Fletcher: They have all kind of organic stuff. Amendments and stuff you can put in the soil. And they have a lot of different, like you said, they get a lot of different sweet potatoes that you order and I think they do sweet potato slips, and they do garlic, and onions, and stuff like that, just real old school, Southern States.


>> Bradley Holt: Okay. Now you brought up organic, do you grow organically, or are you certified?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well I’m not certified organic, but I try to practice what they do.

>> Bradley Holt: That’s seems to be a-

>> Chris Fletcher: Sustainable, is what I can say I do.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, that seems to be a common theme we’ve heard across a lot of our interviews is, “I’m not certified, but I grow organically.” There’s some challenges in terms of being certified organic, have you attempted doing that?


>> Chris Fletcher: No, I think it’s costly.

>> Bradley Holt: Costly, okay, yeah.

>> Chris Fletcher: Just something else you’re gonna have to add to it. And I’ve come to find out, by being at market all these times, people don’t really care unless, all they care about is whether they’re sprayed with anything.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.


>> Chris Fletcher: And you spray it with organic stuff too, so a lot of people don’t know that. I mean there’s organic spray to go on to solve insect problems and there’s also non organic stuff too, for insect problems.

>> Bradley Holt: And you use

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, if I wanted If I need to get something off, like the potatoes, Colorado potato beetles, are on them, they have to be sprayed, or they won’t make anything.


And I use organic spray on that. But that’s probably about the only thing I really spray with something. I mean, there’s probably a few other things that I’m not thinking of, right off the top of my head.

>> Bradley Holt: I think you mentioned that the start has pray for when you have the issues.


>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, but that was a calcium spray.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so it’s another-

>> Chris Fletcher: So it’s organic spray, it was a foliage spray. It wasn’t to kill anything, it was just to give the plant more calcium.

>> Bradley Holt: Gotcha, okay.

>> Bradley Holt: So we talked a little bit about the weather here, what we, last year again, of the heaviness of rain.


What other challenges does weather here in North Carolina give to you and your farming?

>> Chris Fletcher: Hot, and humid and dry like it goes in spells. We’ve been saying all year that all this rain we’ve had, we’re not gonna get any this summer. Rain all that’s wet, it seems like it always goes we get too much at one time and then not enough.


Cuz last year rain was getting her watered around a lot of places, but not in our place.

>> Bradley Holt: Really?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes and it was really, really dry. And I’ve started having trouble, well I have trouble with deer all the time, but they were kept at bay with my fence or whatever you wanna call it.


That I had to set up til it was so dry that they said the heck with it or going through.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah

>> Chris Fletcher: And then after that is when it all started raining again. I think we went six to eight weeks without getting rain at our place last year at the first of Summer, which was after the real wet spring, then it was dry.


And then it’s rained ever since after it started raining again.

>> Bradley Holt: So you’re kinda predicting another dry summer?

>> Chris Fletcher: Probably, I mean, that’s the way it goes around here.

>> Bradley Holt: So do you take any water conservation efforts during those dry spells to try to help you out later or?


>> Chris Fletcher: No, I do use some drip irrigation to keep the plants alive when it is a drought.

>> Bradley Holt: And do the cold winters Have any effect on you or are you just not really growing much?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah I’m not really growing much there yet. I do have a high tunnel I’m trying to get in operation but it’s not there yet.


>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Bradley Holt: So-

>> Bradley Holt: You say you sell on that farmer’s market seasonally, correct? So just, are you looking to maybe go full year round or you thinking seasonally?

>> Chris Fletcher: Probably not all the way full round. My high tunnel food gets staged, that would extend my season.

>> Bradley Holt: And what exactly is that?


>> Chris Fletcher: It’s like a greenhouse but it doesn’t have any form of heat, you just grow in the ground underneath it.

>> Bradley Holt: Gotcha.

>> Chris Fletcher: And you know it’s not, if it’s cold it gets cold inside there too at night but in the daytime with the sun shinning on it it get’s-


>> Bradley Holt: It insulates that heat in there.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Bradley Holt: What would you grow in that?

>> Chris Fletcher: Probably lettuces, and kale, and radishes, and beets, and stuff like that.

>> Bradley Holt: And you don’t grow any of that at the moment, do you?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yes, I do grow that outside, yeah.


I wait until a certain point to start planting them. There I could probably microgrow those all year except for the very hot of the summer.

>> Bradley Holt: So in addition to the peppers and the kale, lettuce type thing what else do you grow?

>> Chris Fletcher: We grow the Tower’s Hill.


I do been growing the last few years a couple of varieties of heirloom corn for them to collect seed. And I do grow some tomatoes which

>> Chris Fletcher: Probably grow some again this year, but I been debating on the years, whether or not to do that, because there’s a lot of work in doing tomatoes.


>> Chris Fletcher: And in the summertime I grow squash, zucchini,

>> Chris Fletcher: Beans, peas, stuff like that.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, do you sell, do you sell all of that?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: How much of it do think maybe you sell versus keep? Do you keep any of it, or?

>> Chris Fletcher: I just keep enough to, if I want that for supper, I’ll get some.


You know what I mean? I eat what I want to and then try to sell the rest, or give it away to parents or something.

>> Bradley Holt: Does that mean you get to avoid the grocery store pretty often?

>> Chris Fletcher: Not really, still some things you have to get there.


>> Bradley Holt: So you mentioned you were part of the cooperative extension service, are you part of any other organizations? Piedmont Culinary Guild, which is a group of farmers, chefs, restaurant tours and artisans and breweries.

>> Chris Fletcher: And we’re trying to make people aware of good food. So much stuff now has got e-coli or something on it, you don’t know where it’s coming from, and they’re here to promote local.


>> Bradley Holt: Local growers and producers?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: How do they go about trying to do that?

>> Chris Fletcher: Just education.

>> Bradley Holt: Education?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, they have a symposium in the spring and they have a group of taste makers, which they go around to different farms or restaurants will open their place up, I think it’s about 200 of them.


And stuff like this, just trying to educate the public about, and let the public know that there is a lot of food in this area being grown that you can access.

>> Bradley Holt: How did you get started with them?

>> Chris Fletcher: A friend of mine, they were actually getting started and I’m more of the ground floor people.


>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: A friend of mine told me about it. I went to the little meet up or meeting, that’s where it started.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay how long have you been apart of that?

>> Chris Fletcher: Seems like they’re three or four years old.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay so.

>> Chris Fletcher: So its relatively new the association.


>> Bradley Holt: So when you’re selling at the farmers market, what reasons do you ever talk to people about? Maybe why they’re choosing the farmers market over traditional grocery store?

>> Chris Fletcher: No, never have.

>> Bradley Holt: Do they ever bring it up maybe?

>> Chris Fletcher: No but you do see a lot of people, same people coming in there everyday so they know where to get the good stuff.


>> Bradley Holt: Good stuff, okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: And so then why do you personally believe farmers’ markets are important to the local food shed?

>> Chris Fletcher: Those commercialized food is not sustainable. It eventually collapse, seems like I heard somewhere that it takes, to make one pound of meat, it takes 170 gallons of water.


What you think about that? That’s not going to be really sustainable.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, that’s.

>> Chris Fletcher: At some point the water’s gonna run out.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, we’ve already seen, I think.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Out west there have been issues with water basins and stuff.

>> Chris Fletcher: Mm-hm. Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: So you think sustainable farming [CROSSTALK] local and sustainable is the future of.


>> Chris Fletcher: Of food.

>> Bradley Holt: Of food shed.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: And two, like the big commercialized Monsanto, they’re not good for the American people.

>> Bradley Holt: Why do you feel that is?

>> Chris Fletcher: Well it makes stuff that’s round-up ready and they spray it on your food and Biphosphate now, people are saying you can get cancer from it.


>> Bradley Holt: Carcinogen.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, and it’s probably not from people spraying it, it’s probably from people eating the food that was sprayed with it, that’s my opinion.

>> Bradley Holt: So, those chemical sprays, basically those,

>> Chris Fletcher: Insecticides.

>> Bradley Holt: Yeah, insecticides. You see it’s harmful to the food shed. So real quickly, because I just want to go back to the peppers one last time here-


>> Chris Fletcher: All right.

>> Bradley Holt: Because I just, ‘Cause I think that’s really interesting. So what are some of your best-selling peppers?

>> Chris Fletcher: Corno Di Toro is a good one. It’s a sweet bullhorn-looking pepper. I sell a lot of those. I grow those other than the bells, I don’t grow the bells, I grow those.


Doing okay of trying to convert my customers to trying that and going with that

>> Bradley Holt: How does it compare to a bell?

>> Chris Fletcher: It’s a lot sweeter.

>> Bradley Holt: A lot sweeter?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah. And I grow two different chilis for a guy that makes hot sauce. Carolina espelette and aji dulce peppers.


Espelette’s got some heat to it, maybe 5,000 on the Scoville. And the aji dulce looks like a habanero, but doesn’t have the heat. It’s got a fruity sort of- If you wanna look tough, that’s the one you eat and [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah, act like it’s bad. Now sometimes in the season of things, there will be a little bit that you’re not expecting but-


>> Bradley Holt: Gotcha.

>> Chris Fletcher: Most of them are not too bad.

>> Chris Fletcher: And makes a good flavor for his sauce.

>> Bradley Holt: And you said the peppers are fairly easy to grow.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, yeah. Pretty much. I have a trail system that I been using and some of the plants need and the other ones don’t.


They are sturdy enough they can hold up, the peppers.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay. And I don’t remember if I asked you this or not why peppers?

>> Chris Fletcher: Just started liking them and this is something that interested me in the way they all have different shapes and sizes and colors..

>> Bradley Holt: Okay so it was just interesting profits try out this kind of stuck.


>> Chris Fletcher: And I’ve sort of made a little niche for myself at the market up there people know that they can come to me for different types and stuff of peppers.

>> Bradley Holt: I’ll definitely have to come check that out you say you’re up there starting next weekend.

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, I’ll be there next weekend but I won’t be there the next.


My daughter’s getting married that weekend but after that I should be there but the peppers will not come in until right August, that’s when they’ll start coming in.

>> Bradley Holt: So you mentioned briefly just now that you have a daughter, do you have any other children that take part and help you out?


>> Chris Fletcher: No, just one.

>> Bradley Holt: Just one?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay, so kind of wrapping things up a little bit here. You mentioned a couple of little goals that you have for your farm, kind of expanding the land maybe a little bit and adding that new winter growing system a little bit.


Kind of what do you see for the future of your farm?

>> Chris Fletcher: I hope I could value add my peppers and maybe just grow those and do that, and something like this. I’ve already been doing okay with and just keep going with that like I said maybe just grow them exclusively.


>> Bradley Holt: So kind of taper off some of the other.

>> Chris Fletcher: Taper off the other stuff and do that if I can get something value added and I mean hopefully I’ll get a lot of stuff then.

>> Bradley Holt: Do you do any rotation with the peppers, like crop rotation?

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


>> Bradley Holt: So you already talked a little bit about kind of your stance on local farming versus more commercialized farming. How do you view the current farming or food shed even this region. What are your thoughts on it?

>> Chris Fletcher: I think looking pretty good. There’s a lot of people around growing stuff.


Probably needs some publicity or basically the people hoarding actually get it. I mean, a lot of people know about the farmers market. But.

>> Chris Fletcher: There’s about a lot of farm, I mean there’s quite a few farmers’ market. But there’s, seems like there should be some in other places too.


Some places got more than others I think downtown Concord would have a good one, you know. Piedmont tried to do one there but it’s not really caught on yet and I don’t know why.

>> Bradley Holt: I think Eddie Au mentioned there was one down by Afton and that-

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah.


>> Bradley Holt: He said that one had a few issues because there was to much traffic in the area. Do you kind of do that maybe as an issue to if you have too much traffic?

>> Chris Fletcher: Not enough traffic makes customer, you know? The more of them there but, you know, [INAUDIBLE] I don’t know what maybe it’s referring to just a lot of people out in Afton And there’s too many cars.


>> Bradley Holt: I kind of think of it as car traffic.

>> Chris Fletcher: Car traffic? Yeah. And, yeah, I just think the city of downtown Concord ought to benefit from one, which there is one there.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: But we only get one vendor to go there. I would try it but in order to get my place there, I don’t want to give it up.


Because if I’m down there and it doesn’t work out for me and I can’t get back to where I was at. So I’m sort of kind of stuck.

>> Bradley Holt: Gotcha. And maybe that’s where you can expand a little bit and have some extra surplus [INAUDIBLE].

>> Chris Fletcher: Yeah, somebody else there, yeah.


I just think we just need the farmer’s market needs promoted a little bit better. Try then to get people to come to it more so.

>> Bradley Holt: Have you seen an increase in the number of farmers markets and people getting into farming over the past eight years or so?


>> Chris Fletcher: It seems like there’s more now but there’s a lot of them that still are there when I started too.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay. So long term.

>> Chris Fletcher: I mean there’s more than there were when I started, most definitely. But we have lost some, there’s a few of them I know that have quit doing it and said they can’t make enough money or whatever.


In which, I may be in that same situation at some point. It’s not worth doing what I’m doing there but it’s not there yet. I think I’m doing okay.

>> Bradley Holt: Okay.

>> Chris Fletcher: Hasn’t been getting worse, it’s been better or the same.

>> Bradley Holt: And maybe that’s where that value added might help augment that a little.


>> Chris Fletcher: Yea, because that could be stuff that I could sell throughout the year.

>> Bradley Holt: Solving something I’m always looking to get. [LAUGH] So my final question for the day, what lessons have you learned over the year through your farming?

>> Chris Fletcher: Better save up.

>> Bradley Holt: Save up?

>> Chris Fletcher: Save up your energy.



>> Chris Fletcher: Because in the summer, it gets tough out there. Wind and hot sun, and you just got to pace when you’re out there.

>> Bradley Holt: You do that all by hand?

>> Chris Fletcher: I got a tractor that I get my stuff ready with but as far as weeding and digging and everything else is all by hand.


And when I get down to late September and October, to pick the peppers, it takes me a good half a day to pick almost all I have. And that’s sometimes every two days.

>> Bradley Holt: You’re out there every two days.

>> Chris Fletcher: Or picking something, that’s one reason towards the end of the year, I’ll get down and I don’t have anything but peppers at the market, that’s all I’ll have.


>> Bradley Holt: That’s all you have time for.

>> Chris Fletcher: I don’t have time to plant anything else, I don’t have time to harvest anything else, it’s getting them peppers.

>> Bradley Holt: Is there anything else you want to add here at the end of the interview? Anything stand out that you want to say?


>> Chris Fletcher: I don’t think I can think of anything else I need to tell you.

>> Bradley Holt: This has been an interview in the Queen’s Garden, histories of the Piedmont food shed. Thank you for sitting down with me today and telling me a little bit about your history here and what you do.


>> Chris Fletcher: Thank you.

Captioned Audio