[piano intro] [lighthearted music] - [Narrator] Today travel with us to meet families, leaning into traditions in farming, fishing, food, and business to create their own unique legacies.
- First time you guys are with us, right?
- [Tou] Oh my, well welcome.
- [Narrator] It's all on "My Home", coming up next.
[upbeat music] All across the state we're uncovering the unique stories that make North Carolina my home.
♪ Come home ♪ ♪ Come home ♪ ♪ [birds chirping] [dog barking] [lighthearted music] - [Tou] We can't just be farmers.
We had to be people that wanted to educate, people that wanted to go out of the norm a little bit and make sure that the community is benefited.
- When you build that relationship between you and your customer, you bring your produce to them, and they come back and thank you for what you do.
You know, it's that feeling that you bring something good to society, that's what made me wanna grow more.
My name is Chue Lee.
- And my name is Tou Lee.
- [Chue] Our home is Marion, North Carolina.
- We are the owners, officially she is the owner, I'm the worker of Lee's One Fortune Farm.
There we grow cassava.
We grow mainly specialty Asian fruits and vegetables, and heirloom rice, four varieties of it, brought over from the mountains of Laos.
We produce it here with our extended family network, in the western North Carolina area.
[birds chirping] [dog barking] [people chattering] [upbeat music] - [Tou] You have the onion skid today?
Yep, don't forget the onion skid.
- Good morning, how are you?
- This is spinach, the Japanese spinach.
Cilantro, all these are Asian varieties by the way.
First time you guys are with us, right?
- Oh my, well welcome.
- Tou Lee is really outgoing.
When people come by and don't know what something is, he'll say, oh, that's such and such, and they'll say how do I cook this?
And he's got all kinds of suggestions.
- He like to talk, I just like to listen.
[laughs] - Well, it's true.
Bok choy will work good.
Yu choy will have a better flavor.
You gotta go one to one.
- One to one.
- Garlic chives.
Chop it fine, put it in your fried eggs.
It actually builds a very nice flavor to it.
In a combination of never being able to meet a stranger, and don't know how to shut up, and have a little bit of business training background, you can see where that can go.
[laughs] Sure, Terry wants a whole basket.
I remember the first three years that we started, if we had one person in the stall with us, it was great.
Nowadays we'll have 25, 30 people standing in line just waiting to get into our stall.
- They have a very loyal fan base, including some local restaurants who sometimes will swoop in and grab everything.
- [Tou] I got Buckingham, you like it?
- I do, but I really love these Virginia beauties.
- [Tou] Okay, good.
- Can I buy a whole case of these?
- That's yours my man.
That is wonderful.
I believe it was like 2017, or 2018 maybe when we first started really buying from them, and we've been buying every week since then.
We basically have their rice on the menu all year long.
We buy hundreds of pounds and put it in the freezer and use it the whole year.
- Unfortunately, no we don't have rice.
We sold out in December.
- Their rice is amazing, it's just got so much flavor, and it just brings a dynamic thing to any menu item that I just can't get anywhere else.
And that's the thing that they do all of this hard work growing these vegetables and I just try and get it on the plate.
[chainsaw roars] - Once we got the property, it looked like this overgrown, with the saw briars, the blackberries, the sycamore, you name it.
And my wife and I cleared everything here to get the field to look like it is right now.
We had a little small, what they call a garden size tractor.
I cut quite a bit here with a chainsaw, an old traditional tool to cut the saw briars, and it takes a lot of work.
But I kind of consider us lucky, because the Hmong families that first started growing rice in North Carolina 40 some years ago, this is all they had hoe and pickax, no tractor at all.
[laughs] So it was tough.
[dog barking] I remember how it was in Laos growing things, but in Laos if you didn't know how to utilize the land, you wasn't gonna eat.
So all of us as kids, as soon as we were able to hold a tool in your hand, were ushered out into the fields to help.
The thing with the Hmong people is, you know you do have that reminiscence of how life used to be in the old world that you came from.
The majority of the older families that came here they look at these mountains and that's what it was like in the old homeland that the Hmong community lived.
We're considered the mountain people of Laos.
And so when the Hmong people came here, it feels like home.
- [Chue] I was born in Laos.
Through the refugee camp, my uncle sponsored us and we arrived in America in 1984.
I was about 10 years old.
- [Tou] My father worked with the United States military in the war in Laos that was supportive of the Vietnam War.
He flew with the United States pilot on scouting missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The place that I was born in was actually a secret covert operations military base built by the United States, and that city it's called Long Tieng.
That's the focal point of where we feel like we lost everything.
[explosion booms] My father was shot.
Luckily the pilot was able to bring him back into the airfield.
What my grandmother told me was when she heard that his plane was hit, she left everything that she was doing, she ran to the airfield, and she was able to hear a final word.
It was something that she told me many times of what he said and the only words that he uttered was, "It is all gone."
[projector whirring] I was three months old and it wasn't long after when the country start going through turmoil before the fall of the Vietnam War.
Unfortunately my brother and sister both died during the trek in the jungle, and I was the sole survivor for my entire family.
My uncle, he got onto the aircraft to escape outta Laos.
And then when we sent word to the United States Embassy that we have made it to Thailand, he immediately sponsored my grandmother and I, and that's how we was able to be brought into this little town called Marion, North Carolina.
[soft music] [wind blowing] This is, I will say, progress 2.1.
[laughs] One side, this is done, but right behind there on that berm, the other way, that once converted will add another four acres.
- [Interviewer] You have some big plans for this place, don't you?
- Yes, I do.
[laughs] As a matter of fact.
She wants me to retire and do this permanently.
I don't mind that.
[gentle music] [gentle music continues] In a way I want to go beyond the farmer.
I'd love to go to the educational side and create a little mini cultural teaching center, where we can teach people the variety of ingredients that we grow, how they can grow themself.
I want to teach people that yes, you can grow this variety of rice here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
I wanted to see something like that happen here in this area because this area, to be honest, has given my family a lot.
And here is something that we can give back.
[gentle music] - [Interviewer] There's two locations where this type of fishing happens?
- [Jeff] This is the last.
This is the last one on this beach.
[lighter flicks] You gotta have patience to do this.
Oh man you gotta be kind of crazy.
We've been doing this for, my father done it, my grandfather done it.
- [Beverly] Jeff used to often say that he loved me the best, but he loved fishing on the beach, second.
- Me and Jeff, that's all we did.
Me and him stayed in the dory, and he had the greatest eyesight of anybody I've ever known, fishing.
He could see anything.
- It's something we done all our life.
Love to do it.
I love it.
I wouldn't do it, if I didn't love to do it.
[lighthearted music] - My name is Beverly Smith and my home for the past 51 years has been Salter Path.
I married my high school sweetheart, Jeffrey Smith.
We married and moved here 51 years ago, had three children, and he was a commercial fisherman for many years.
His passion was fishing on the beach.
[waves crashing] Jeff passed away October 17th at 3 o'clock in the morning.
My girls, when I told them about you coming and that there was some footage of their dad they both just cried.
They said he would love it because that was just he loved fishing on the beach so much.
[group chattering] When Jeff first started, the men that were the head of the crew were like his mentors.
I think they mentored them as much about life as they did about fishing.
I think it may partly have been the camaraderie 'cause they surely didn't make a bunch of money.
- Takes about 5 grand to get started on an average year.
And I think we're caught about $500 worth of fish.
So we're running way in the red this year.
- The men in Salter Path have fished on the beach for generations.
I don't know that there's any place else on the Atlantic that still does fish on the beach like that.
Neil and Jeff fished for 50 years.
They just grew up together and because the community was so isolated they were always together.
They were just like brothers.
- We got like grandfathered in and really nobody else can't come in, but you gotta get permits for it, and stuff like that.
It's like a grandfather thing.
I think when we quit, it'll be over with.
It's called stop net fishing.
And so set a net out there, like a L shape off the beach, and we wait for the mullets, the stripe mullets to come to us.
- Look that place a little mullet.
- [Neil] And it's like a waiting game.
- Gotta go to that Bogue Inlet net.
- [Fisherman] We'll catch two baskets.
- That more than we caught last time.
I'm Jeffrey Smith and this is my drawing of my set net.
Come on out, it's 200 yards, approximately 200 yards.
And then, back here they called that a backstaff.
And you leave there and go this way, 200 yards.
There's a staff there's.
There's an anchor right here.
You know that holds the net in a horseshoe or a L. Now if the mullets get in the net, you can see 'em jump.
Okay you see that's the mullets in the net, right here.
We'll hook the boat off down here, and go put the seine out, this the seine.
And go around the mullets.
And the two tractors pull 'em in.
[tractor chugging] - The main reason we're being doing it is to have fun, get together, just the time of year we see everybody and get together for six, seven weeks.
We're like the mullets.
When the mullets, that time of year, they bunch up leave, migrate, and that time of year we bunch up and go do it.
[chuckles] [somber music] He passed away, he was 68 years old, so I'm 67.
We've been friends for over 60 years.
We're always being easygoing.
Jeff mostly, he was a really big joker.
When he passed away, I told the boys, I says, "I'mma tell you, he ain't gonna let us catch any this year.
He can't be here and he is not gonna let us catch no fish."
He confirmed it one day we finally put the net out one day, and it had a few fish in it and the net got on a snag and we couldn't get the net in, and we lost all the fish.
I said, "Jeff, he just confirmed it, that we weren't gonna catch any this fall."
And I miss him.
Ain't gonna tell you no different.
I miss him.
I loved him dearly.
- It's like it was in his blood.
It was just in his blood, he just loved to do it.
Jeff had two heart attacks.
And when I found out he was still at the head of the dory, going out to the ocean, I said, "One of these days, you're gonna have a heart attack standing right there on the head of that dory."
And he kind of laughed at me and then I said, "Nevermind, I hope you go standing at the head of that boat."
- [Interviewer] Why do you guys keep doing it?
- [Jeff] I don't know, I told you, we're crazy.
- [Interviewer] Do you think you guys will be the last generation to do it?
- More than likely.
[gentle music] [washes crashing] [washes crashing continues] [upbeat music] - Whenever I was in college, they would say, "Where are you from?"
I'd say, "Newton Grove", they said, "Oh I've been through there on the way to the beach."
I said, "Yes, we have the drugstore."
"Oh, you've got the best milkshakes anywhere in the state of North Carolina."
"Well thank you, we do, yes."
I tell people, you could drop me off anywhere in the world and I could find Newton Grove.
'Cause all roads lead to Newton Grove.
People caught the circle of opportunity.
We've always been on the circle here as a part of it with some of the other older businesses.
- This is more like a family place than it is, I mean, even for the customers, than it is a pharmacy.
Because we treat everybody like family.
You know, if you go to a business and they treat you ugly you're not going to go back.
- What about the grandchildren?
- Oh they're all- - They're special, aren't they?
[laughs] We don't allow any customer to leave without having done the very best we can in helping solve their problems and make them want to do business with us.
[lighthearted music] My name is Thomas Williford.
I'm more referred to around in Newton Grove as Tommy.
The name of our business is Newton Grove Drug Company and we are a retail pharmacy, an independent pharmacy.
I'm on my 53rd year as the pharmacist, manager, and the owner of the business.
- To be able to provide the service that you do and to be able to have those relationships what does that mean to you?
- It means a great deal.
I knew what I wanted to do in life when I was in the 7th grade and I knew I wanted to become a pharmacist.
And then I asked the guy, Archie Parish, who operated this business here that I wanted a job, and he gave me the job.
This has not been done alone.
I've had wonderful staff.
[light upbeat music] - 30 years, all right.
- 30 years.
- Going on 33.
- My sister Louise Smith, worked here 35 years, retired.
- The 34 years I was here I never saw nobody mistreated.
And it didn't matter if you had the money or if you didn't have the money, if you were sick, you got the medicine.
[upbeat music] - [Heather] When did Joey become interested in pharmacy?
- Well, Joey grew up in the pharmacy here.
- Only thing I've ever known is working with daddy but he and I have always gotten along and taught me everything I know.
- He said, "I want to do what you're doing."
I said, "Well, if you do be the very best that you can be."
- I would have a hard time if I ever walked in this place and did not see my dad.
And so that's what brought me back home and that's where I'm at today.
- What is it about this that has made it special for you to continue to come here even though you don't, you don't live right here anymore?
- Not now, no.
It's the people, I mean they are family, really.
- Yes our basketball team is in the second round of state playoffs and the community's gonna give 'em a sendoff as they go around the traffic circle.
[people cheering] [people cheering continues] - I still love coming to my job every day and doing the very best.
And when I leave, I am satisfied with having provided the very best that I can for every customer that we serve.
[upbeat music fades] [insects chirping] [soft music] [soft music continues] - [Lindsay] It's really neat in the store in the morning, I mean it's so quiet and you're by yourself.
We're out there on the streets before anybody else and it's just us on the sidewalks.
And I feel my dad the most when I'm out there.
- [Winnie] We definitely feel his presence.
- [Lindsay] What he was known for in being on the sidewalk.
- [Winnie] We're there because of our dad and because of his passing.
But Lindsay and I both love Mitchell's so much, and there's no place else we'd rather be.
[upbeat music] - [Lindsay] I think growing up, Mitchell's was a second home for us.
- Good morning!
- Good morning!
Have a good day.
- [Lindsay] My name is Lindsay Sims.
- [Winnie] Sit.
My name is Winnie Smith and our home is New Bern, North Carolina.
We are both co-managers and co-owners of Mitchell's.
It's a family business.
It's always been a family business.
It started as a livery stable, actually.
- Today I wanted to share this wonderful photograph that we have in our collection at the Historical Society.
To my knowledge it's the second location of Mitchell's Hardware.
- The Mitchell family started it in 1898.
Our father, Greg Smith, purchased it from his uncle Harold Talton about 11 years ago.
He cared about downtown and the success of downtown.
- You see the pictures and the emphasis on family.
And so you guys have not moved those I bet?
- Oh no.
- What intrigued dad about the store mostly was helping people.
He thrived off of that.
Like it wasn't just a hardware store it was a community hub.
- Everywhere we go in New Bern people talk about your dad.
Is that, and you guys- - Everyone in New Bern has their own story about how he affected them.
And even though it's hard for us to hear those in a way, like we hear one every day.
So it is a beautiful thing 'cause every story is beautiful.
I don't think there was ever a question that we weren't going to come here and just continue building what he built.
[both chattering] - A lot of the customers and regulars, you know, they come in still to this day not only to give their condolences, but to thank us for being there and for keeping this store open.
[bell jingles] - [Greeter] Hi folks, welcome to Mitchell's.
- The people that knew dad really well said to our face "You're not your father, but in whatever you do, you'll do it because you know what's right and you know what works for you and you know what he would've wanted."
[lighthearted music] - Hi!
- Oh my gosh!
- This bowl is like speaking to this, it's an under piece that I, you can pick it up.
- [Lindsay] He really wanted to carry North Carolina made products or yeah, United States products at least.
- Now that the fall's coming, this is called Orange Streak, that's what I call it.
- [Winnie] And working with Joyce Facey, who does all of our pottery and all the other vendors.
- [Lindsay] I don't know, it just feels natural and kind of what we think we're supposed to do.
- We wanna hold the same values and stay true to what Mitchell's has always been known for.
- She loves my name tag.
This is hers now.
- We've had a lot of hard times but the community, our family, our friends, we wouldn't be where we were today without them.
- Winnie and I really didn't know what we wanted to do when dad passed as far as where he would be buried.
Christ's Episcopal Church is the center of downtown and it was just so beautiful.
The thought of dad staying here in some way.
And right now he's under these beautiful moss covered trees downtown where people, you know, can visit him, or you know, just knowing he's near in some sort of way is just kind of peaceful to us.
And a lot of people downtown.
My daughter's one and she's in there making people smile.
So it's just full circle, you know?
It really is.
[laughing] He was just the happiest man alive, you know?
He felt so fulfilled and because of that we do too.
You know, that's why we can go on living because we had such a wonderful dad, honestly, that it makes all this worth it.
[lighthearted music fades] [gentle upbeat music] - [Narrator] Next time on "My Home".
Meet North Carolinians who go beyond the glass ceiling to pave the way for future generations.
It's all on "My Home".
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