A tour guide has been accused of making a racist comment to school children during an excursion.
The Thomasboro Academy, based in North Carolina, went on a field trip to the Hall Family Farm on October 3.
Kathy Capps, one of the volunteers, told WSOC-TV the tour guide made the comment while instructing the children on what they’d be doing.
“Once the children were brought to the tour guide, she said, ‘You’re not here to pick cotton today’,” Ms Capps said.
“You’re not here to pick fruit. You’re here to pick pumpkins.’”
Ms Capps said a number of teachers took offence and she contacted the farm’s owner Kevin Hall.
After meeting with Ms Capps, Mr Hall told WSOC that he personally called school administrators to apologise and offered to come to the school to discuss the situation in person.
“It was an extremely poor choice of words, stupid, but there was no malice,” Mr Hall told WSOC, adding that nothing like that had ever happened at the farm in its 11-year history.
He said during that time, at least 15 tour guides had led children on tours without incident.
He addressed the matter on Monday in a lengthy post on Hall Family Farm’s Facebook, describing the events that took place.
“Most of the guides begin their presentation with some humorous back and forth to get the students’ attention,” he wrote.
“A typical start to the presentation would be as follows: Guide, ‘Students! Are you here to pick squash?’ Students, ‘No!’ Guide, ‘Are you here to pick cucumbers?’ Students, ‘No!’ Guide, ‘Are you here to pick strawberries?’ Students, ‘Yes!’
“In this incident, the guide started with: Guide, ‘Today I’m happy that you aren’t cotton pickers or nose pickers. You are pumpkin pickers!’ This is the basis of the allegation of racism.”
Mr Hall claims that a refund to the school was suggested, but he didn’t want any of his actions to be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
He added that some have called for the firing of the employee, but he said his kinship with her runs so deep that he would rather discontinue operations at Hall Family Farm than “punish her for a stupid choice of words, a comment made with absolutely no innuendo or ill will”.
Ms Capps later wrote in a comment on the Facebook page that she never asked for the employee to be fired.
“I told you that perhaps a refund would show your sincere remorse that these comments were made to this school group,” she wrote.
“The teachers did not feel it was appropriate to address it while the children were present.”
Ms Capps says she had hoped the matter would have been resolved privately.
Mr Hall concluded his note with a comment on the diversity he feels his farm represents.
“Our employees are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, Caucasian and African American and Asian American, I am Asian American, and we all work together to provide a wholesome, family-centric farm experience for all customers,” he wrote.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the school district, told Yahoo Lifestyle it was taking the matter seriously.
“We can confirm that a school trip took place and that concerns about events during the trip have been communicated,” the statement read.
“Again, we are looking into this matter for follow-up and will respond based on findings.”
Yahoo Lifestyle has contacted Ms Capps and Mr Hall for further comment.