The “Dog Days” of summer is such an interesting phrase. But what exactly does it mean? It refers to the hottest and most humid days of the summer. The Farmer’s Almanac tells us it begins July 3rd and ends August 11th. The term conjures up images of sitting on a front porch sipping lemonade, sweet tea, or your beverage of choice. But, alas this was not the case. Instead Where The Food Comes From spent the first week of August in the beautiful sweetpotato (yes, it’s one word — look it up!) fields of North Carolina filming Season 1, Episodes 6 and 7.
SO THE JOURNEY BEGINS!
Our first visit was to Leggett Farms in Nash County, NC. In addition to growing sweetpotatoes the Leggetts grow tobacco, cotton, soybeans, peanuts, and strawberries. What an assortment! The interviews with Brent and Sue Leggett were great, but it was the interviews with the boys that really hit home. The first interview with 10-year-old Carter, the younger of the 2 boys, took place in the sweetpotato field (which I am still tempted to spell as 2 words – please don’t tell our friend Michelle Grainger, the Executive Director of the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission!).
Carter was a polite, but slightly shy young man. He spoke with pride about how he feels about the farm and what his role is, and what it will be. Side note, Carter really enjoys driving the tractor – what boy wouldn’t! Collin, the older of the two, was only 14 years-old at the time of the filming. But even at this young age he can run the entire farm and his father agrees. Collin has done it all!
Both of these young men were so impressive I could not help comparing them to some preteens and teens I know — their fields are computer screens. I am not saying there are not advantages to being a “city boy,” but the farm is such a different world. I can’t help thinking about Aesop’s fable, The City Mouse and The Country Mouse. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids had a chance to really experience both worlds!
OFF TO NASH PRODUCE!
Nash Produce is located in Nashville, NC and is a pretty big operation. Nash Farms is a grower-owned co-operative that represents 15 or so NC sweetpotato farmers. You see the interviews with CEO Thomas Joyner in the television show. But the highlight was filming the NC sweetpotato commercial featuring Rebecca Scott, Marketing Director for Nash Produce. Rebecca, at the time of filming, was very pregnant and wearing a cute gingham dress. In my opinion (don’t forget I am from the Northeast) she looked like the epitome of a country girl!
What she gave us was a list of all the things you can cook with NC sweetpotatoes, Forrest Gump-style. She went on for minutes, just like Bubba in the movie. The list was so extensive I cannot even begin to remember all of them (but sweetpotato fries stand out). In the end, none of that even mattered, at least not for Season 1. The original plan had been to use some of Rebecca’s list as part of the NC SweetPotato commercial you see above — but she was so great we hope to turn that into a commercial of its own!
OUR JOURNEY CONTINUES – HELLO JONES FAMILY FARMS!
What can I say about the Joneses? They are one terrific family with so many personalities. We met the head of the family Jim Jones first. He is a quiet man, but one I would not want to mess around with when it comes to all aspects of farming and beyond the farm. His interview was in the sweetpotato field. When Jim finally let Chip pull out a sweetpotato plant I was shocked to see how many are actually on one plant!
His son and righthand man Jimmy Jones III is a character unto his own. He had me cracking up about his farm experiences, California experiences (he went West to become an actor) and back to the farm. He truly admires his father and I got the feeling he would like to be like him when he grows up, one of my favorite phrases. You can look for him — and should — on all social channels under @JimmyDJonesIII.
But, my favorite interview was with Jim’s wife Barbara under a beautiful old oak tree. Barbara is an elegant lady. Her stature and the gleam in her eyes shows the love and pride she has in the farm and her family.
She is one lady who does whatever it takes to keep things moving along. And I do mean anything, from driving the tractor and moving boxes of product and so much more. We had a visitor with us, Larry Smith — our favorite Christmas Tree Farmer and Newland, NC’s own hometown hero. Larry was under the weather and Barbara gave him a home remedy. Larry did admit later the remedy did make him feel better. I would like that recipe, but a family secret is a family secret.
FINALLY, OUR LAST STOP – SCOTT FARMS!
Scott Farms in Lucama NC, is a 6th generation farm going back to the 1800s. That is pretty impressive — I don’t even know where my people were that far back. I guess I can hit ancestory.com, but Chip keeps me too busy for that. I digress. Our interviews took place in the office of the packing house. Through the office window, I was stunned to see how clean the packinghouse was and that is was air conditioned!
It was late in the day so there was not much going on. But, in the corner of the packinghouse was what looked like a blue spiral slide. I really wanted to sneak out and see where it went, with the secret intent of riding it. But alas this did not happen. Besides, I probably would have been run over by a forklift. I still want to know where it goes.
For me, the highlight of the interview is in the sweetpotato commercial segment between brothers Linwood and Dewey Scott. Chip was interviewing them when I had the bright idea for an ending to the commercial, and CoCo Daughtry, Commission Communications Specialist, agreed.
The idea: Why don’t the brothers say something simultaneously? Great idea, right? Chip and the crew just about died. Apparently something said in unison is really hard to do – Chip says he’s tried it 100 times on a set and it just never works. But Linwood and Dewey nailed it on the first try! Yay for me!
The final “Oh My Gosh” moment for me was Chip walking through a tobacco field, which is the opening of the show but the last thing we filmed! Doesn’t he know spiders & snakes live there? He never once looked down as he walked through the rows of head-high plants. I was convinced he was going to step in a hole or on a snake. Well he said he wasn’t worried — he said he looks for holes before he picks his path, and that snakes don’t like nice manicured and well maintained fields. I’m still not sure about that one.
This “Behind The Scenes” peek would not be complete without giving CoCo – and the rest of our friends at the Commission! — a huge thank you. I think I am a pretty organized person, but CoCo puts me to shame. She coordinated the two days spent in NC and really kept the flow going. I would not want her job for anything. But thank goodness she and the rest of them are there to do it.