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Interview with Tommy Beutell, May 10, 2000

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  • In this interview, conducted as part of the "Agriculture (Past, Present, Future)" project by the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University, Tommy Beutell of Tuckasegee discusses his work as a Christmas tree farmer. He talks about guest workers from outside the United States and their importance to his industry; Beutell also reflects on how the popular perception of physical labor has changed. He also talks about the labor patterns of the Christmas tree industry and how they affect his needs and his ability to find workers. Beutell then discusses the impact of the weather and how it affects his planting, maintenance, and harvesting cycles, and he also recalls some specific seasons where the weather impacted the timing or quantity of his harvest. He tells about his family's involvement in the work and how his children have functioned in the business, as well as the different kinds of work done by men and women. Beutell also addresses his land use and growing patterns before explaining his relationships with other local farmers and his involvement in professional organizations at the state and national level. He then talks about how technology and agricultural research have affected his work and the problems faced in the industry as a whole. The interview closes with Beutell addressing his concerns about the availability of land and labor and government regulations and his thoughts on the environmental movement and clearcutting.