FEATURES The Vinton Messenger

Vinton resident ahead of local food movement

VINTON–A revolution is sweeping the nation, encouraging people to eat locally harvested foods. Vinton resident Charlie Woods knows the importance of eating locally, because he has been doing it his entire life.

Woods has not just been eating local foods, however. He has been growing the food himself. Unlike most people, he knows what it feels like to eat vegetables and berries he grew with his own hands.

Vinton resident Charlie Woods lives off the land, eating only vegetables and berries he grows himself. Here, he stands with a vine of berries waiting for spring. Photo by Kristin Adams
Vinton resident Charlie Woods lives off the land, eating only vegetables and berries he grows himself. Here, he stands with a vine of berries waiting for spring. Photo by Kristin Adams

“My favorite part is just watching it grow,” Woods said.

Woods has been farming all his life.

“Since I was that tall,” Woods said, holding up his hand.

Growing up in the 1940s, he had no choice but to farm. His father had been laid off from his job, so the Woods family was forced to grow food, both to eat and to sell. When Woods grew up, growing his own food was as natural as breathing.

After marrying his wife, Carlie, the two lived in Roanoke City for a year before moving to the outskirts of Vinton.

“We’re country people. We had to get out,” Carlie Woods said about living in the city.

The two have lived in the same house for over 40 years, raising two children and a herd of animals. When their children were still small, the Woods had draft horses, cows, hens, pigs, sheep, and even geese on their 10 acres.

“But when we got older, we didn’t want to be tied down,” Woods said about the animals.

A retired plumbing contractor, Woods now spends his days growing a huge assortment of vegetables and berries. He cultivates sweet potatoes, corn, broccoli, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and pumpkins, just to name a few.

He also grows red and black raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.

“And all of that is just starting to come alive,” Woods said.

They use the berries to make jams and jellies, sometimes giving them as gifts. They use the vegetables even more creatively, even baking their home grown zucchini into bread. No matter how it is fixed, Woods enjoys all the fruits of his labor equally.

“He eats everything,” Carlie Woods said.

While she does not do any of the farming herself, she plays a big role in preparing the food.

“He’s the farmer. I just take care of it after he brings it in,” Carlie Woods said.

When all of the food is prepared, the Woods only eat a portion of the food themselves. They give a large part of their homegrown food to their neighbors, the needy, and their church.

“Don’t nothing go to waste,” Woods said. “Somebody eats it.”

They even invite the children of their church to pick out their Halloween pumpkins on their farm.

If there is still food left over, Woods will let his nephews sell it at the Vinton or Roanoke City markets.

Everywhere they look, Charlie and Carlie Woods see the effect the local food revolution has had on America.

“They are really pushing that now,” Woods said.

He participates in local food expo meetings, including the Taste of the Roanoke Valley Food Expo. His main focus, however, is on feeding himself and the needy. One hundred percent of the vegetables he eats are his own, and he only visits the grocery store for milk, juice, and meat, which he cannot grow himself.

Woods has no intention of inspiring anyone. He simply wants to feed his family, the way he was taught years ago. Yet he is playing his own part in America’s food revolution, whether he wants to or not.

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