By Jesse Wood
March 5, 2013. Bill Moretz of Moretz Mountain Orchard and Farms near Todd will become the 2013 North Carolina A&T State University Small Farmer of the Year, announced Watauga County Cooperative Extension Director Jim Hamilton at his organization’s annual “Report to the People” luncheon on Tuesday.
“It’s a really big honor. It’s awesome to have someone from Watauga County receive that award,” Hamilton said, adding that Moretz is the second Wataugan to receive the award in the 27 years of the award being given. (The Marams – Nathaniel and Kirby – of What Fir! Tree Farm won in 2005.)
Richard Boylan, area specialized agriculture agent with the extension, said he nominated Moretz for the award for a variety of reasons after the luncheon.
He cited the fact that Moretz is “extraordinarily” diversified with a wide array of fruits, vegetables and animals. Moretz has bees, chickens, an impressive variety of apples with some varieties dating back to the 1500s, other fruits and much more.
He mentioned the sustainability of Moretz’s orchard on Big Hill Road and cited Moretz being a full-time farmer, which is a challenge these days.
“There’s only two orchards left in Watauga County – him and his cousin Nancy Coffey Moretz’s orchard. It used to be an apple region, but is now only down to these two folks,” Boylan said.
“Also, his willingness to mentor other farmers,” Boylan said, adding that Moretz isn’t soley concerned about his own production and is willing to lend a hand on the Watauga County Farmers’ Market board or teach other fruit growers.
The award will be handed out at the Small Farmer of the Year Award Luncheon on March 27 in Greensboro on the campus of NC A&T University while the Small Farms Week kick-off will be held on March 25 in Bladen County,home to the Small Farmer of the Year for 2012.
Because Moretz won the award for 2013, Watauga County will host the Small Farms Tour and kick-off the festivities for next year’s Small Farms Week.
Speaking after the luncheon, Moretz said he was excited and humbled at winning an award that encompassed hundreds of small farmers from 100 counties.
“It’s a great honor. You think about our whole state and its just overwhelming to think about being nominated first and then chosen,” Moretz said.
Hamilton said that he would like to see a number of Wataugans travel to Bladen County for Small Farms Week and show support for Moretz and other small farmers in Watauga County.
For more information, click to http://www.ncat.edu/academics/schools-colleges1/saes/cooperative-extension/sfw-registration.html.
For more information about the Watauga County Cooperative Extension, click to http://wataugaces.blogspot.com/.