Thursday, September 2, 2010

Crossville, Tennessee: Chris Hughes, greenbean farmer

Chris Hughes sounded tired when he agreed to meet with us and we found out why when we showed up at his bean processing facility. During harvest season he works so hard that sleep just doesn't fit into his schedule and so when we arrived he was going on 40 hours of straight work with no nap scheduled in the near future.
Chris has been no stranger to hard work since he began in the bean business shucking with his future father-in-law's operation. Now Chris has 3,000 acres of his own green beans and 300 acres of butter beans with a crew of 100 people working during the harvest. There has been a big heat wave this summer that has dried up many of Chris' competitors' beans, which means that Chris can charge more for his if they survive the heat. He gets a hopeful look on his face as he tells us there's a chance it will rain tomorrow.
"You have to be an optimist to be a farmer" and Chris seems to really take that to heart. He has invested 2.5 million dollars in his bean fields (for one crop) and there are so many elements of growing that are out of his control. It's not just summers that see Chris working night and day; in the winter he and his wife and a skeleton crew head down to Florida to custom harvest other farmers' beans. The last 3 winters have had a lot of freezes in Florida and so Chris has taken a financial hit there.As we interviewed him inside his office within his new barn, filled with state-of-the-art sorting and separating equipment (another massive investment), he constantly checks the TV screen that flashes through scenes around his property. We talk about government regulation (a popular topic) and how it affect farmers on so many levels. He will soon have to get rid of the wooden boxes he uses, in favor of plastic ones due to new vegetable regulations. Boxes don't seem like much, but on the scale that most farmers in this country work, they add up to a lot of worth. But he loves this life, as he must to dedicate 14 months out of the year working with beans on some level.

The day after our interview with Chris it does in fact rain, just when he needed it most.


Anonymous said...

14 months out of the year? Huh?!

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