He’s got the right touch for what he grows
Published 9:08 am Friday, September 5, 2014
by Merle Monahan/Contributing Writer
WINDSOR—Folks in Windsor and the surrounding community call Charles Griffin the cantaloupe man.
“Well, I suppose they’re right,” said Griffin with a smile. “Growing cantaloupes is what I do.”
The Windsor native does indeed grow the sumptuous fruit, which has become so popular it is hard to keep up with the demand.
Griffin grows the cantaloupes as a hobby. He also grows watermelons and sweet corn when the weather is right.
But cantaloupes are his main crop. He estimates that he has already sold 2,000 between late July and early September at the Windsor Pharmacy, his only outlet.
Griffin, 67, grew up on a farm just outside of Windsor. He graduated from Windsor High School, then started farming full-time with his dad. After his dad retired, Griffin and his brother continued operating the farm.
“But it just wasn’t profitable enough to support two families,” he said. So Griffin secured a job at Gwaltney’s Meat Packing Plant, and later, Smithfield Packing, where he was to stay for more than 30 years.
“I had been doing a little farming while I worked in Smithfield,” he continued, and like they say, it’s hard to get the dirt from under a farmer’s fingernails, so when I retired I just kept growing my melons as a hobby.”
He then placed the produce for sale in a few places in Windsor. When his largest outlet went out of business, however, he then approached Bob Parsons of Windsor Pharmacy and the rest is history.
He has supplied Windsor Pharmacy for about 10 years now, he said, and the demand grows every year. Aside from cantaloupes, Griffin has sold about 300 watermelons at the pharmacy as well.
“I have been very lucky,” Griffin said. “I have about two acres of very fertile soil and the weather has been good. Everything has to be just right to get a good melon, like enough water and sunshine.”
He says he does not use insecticides and does all weeding by hand or hoe.
“I have hoes in three sizes,” he laughed, “and people think this is funny. But the tiny one is just right for weeding around the stem of a plant.”
Farming, whether it is to make a living or just as a hobby, has to be something a person loves, Griffin said.
“I actually love what I do and I’m going to continue as long as the Lord lets me,” he said.
“One lady asked me once how I got my melons to taste so sweet,” he said with a smile. “I told her it was my touch. That happens when I pick them.
“We both had a good laugh.”
NAME: Charles Howard Griffin.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: I was born and raised here.
OCCUPATION: When I was a young man, I was a farmer, then I worked at two of the meat packing plants in Smithfield until I could retire. Now I raise cantaloupes, watermelons and sweet corn as a hobby.
MARITAL STATUS: Connie and I have been married for 40 years.
CHILDREN, AGES AND SCHOOLS: We have two girls, Anne Marie Camden, who lives in Virginia Beach, and Holly Lynette Griffin, who lives in Hampton. Then we have one grandson, Brian Camden, who is 9.
FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: I enjoy a good seafood dinner and a movie with my wife.
FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Steak and Diet Mountain Dew.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Red Lobster.
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: I really enjoy sleeping.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOU: I am always the same. What you see is what you get.
PETS: None at this time. We had two dogs left with us after our girls moved away, but the dogs have both passed away.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST HABIT: My wife says that when she talks, I keep breaking in.
FAVORITE HOBBY: Growing cantaloupes and watermelons.
PET PEEVE: I don’t like people who disobey driving signs.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As the guy who grew the best cantaloupe.
IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: I suppose I would talk about the thing that interests me most — how to grow a good cantaloupe. Honestly, people ask me all the time how I do it, what kind of seed I use, when to plant and how to nurture them while they’re growing. I tell them what I know, but it just doesn’t seem to work for them.