Mike Brown, owner of Maverick Farms, planted a half-acre of tobacco more than 30 years ago to get his business started. According to Brown, later this year he will harvest 300 acres of tobacco.
Under the cover of one of the large barns, a stripped 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air sits on a trailer.
“I was driving it before I took it apart,” Brown said.
That was 20 years ago.
Brown said he also has a 1966 Fastback Mustang sitting in another barn.
“My plan was to take the ’55 and restore it, but we have been a little busy,” he said.
Another hobby for Brown is collecting other antiques, especially tobacco-related memorabilia.
Vintage signs decorate the outside of one of the barns on the sprawling farm.
He said his home in Chatata Valley is filled with signs and other collectible tobacco items.
“My family were sharecroppers. We always lived on farms but never owned the land,” he said.
Brown said he grew up in the business of farming, but his parents and grandparents always worked the land for other farmers in the Charleston area.
Brown purchased 200 acres on Council Road in Charleston. The acreage runs along a stretch of the Hiwassee River. The rich river bottomland yields fruits and vegetables which support Maverick Farms and 22-plus employees, as well as Brown’s family.
Though he owns 200 acres of farmland, Brown leases an additional 400 acres to grow an assortment of vegetables.
Sweet corn, greenbeans, soybeans, okra, tomatoes, strawberries melons and other vegetables are planted during the spring and summer season and crops are rotated throughout the year as harvesting and sales begin.
After October, the farming slows a little, but the work never ends as Maverick Farms begins to prepare for the next season and get the tobacco crop harvested.
Brown explained the tobacco is stripped and then hung in barns until February. He then sells the tobacco under a direct contract to R.J. Reynolds.
One of Brown’s major clients is the Walmart chain.
“We serve 18 area stores with farm-fresh, locally grown produce,” Brown said.
Maverick Farms was established in 1992 and continues to build a client base.
Wholesalers from across the Southeast come to buy Brown’s produce.
The farm has a produce store which sells to the public.
Brown also raises beef cattle.
“We have 300 head of cattle which we tend to year-round,” he said.
Keeping up the daily tasks couldn’t be done without his employees, who have been faithful over the years, he said.
On a daily basis, the farm and small produce store is a flurry of activity. From daylight to dark, the crews are working the fields nurturing the crops.
Harsh weather such as hard freezes or drought can wipe out all the hard work, so workers do everything in their power to keep that from happening — whether it be using the natural resources of the river to provide water in the summer, or to “pre-freeze” an incoming strawberry crop to protect it. Weather is, of course, a critical element in farm production and crop yield, Brown said.
Packaging for the public, stores, wholesale vendors and others is always in full swing.
Workers are continually gathering orders for the Walmart stores, then delivering the fresh-picked goods to the stores where the consumer then gets to taste locally grown produce.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” Brown said as he spoke of the 22 full-timers and several other part-time employees.
Brown said most of the people who keep the farm working year-round have been there more than 20 years.
“Farming has been good to all of us. They have been able to buy land and build homes,” he said.
Tucked away on the banks of the river is the little plot of land which helps generate income for Brown and his employees as well as providing plenty of produce to local grocers.