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First Annual Good Fields Festival Debuts to Sold Out Crowd in Vilas

By Kris Testori

Carolina blue skies and warm temperatures welcomed hundreds of attendees to the inaugural Good Fields Appalachian Food & Farms Festival.

Robert Gray Shipley, Jr. pictured with his wife Virginia, is the co-founder and host of the Good Fields Appalachian Food & Farms Festival.

Top chefs from across the state took part, preparing samples with Shipley Farms and other local farm products.  The chef lineup included 2019 NCRLA Chef of the Year Steven Goff from Asheville’s Tastee Diner, as well as several James Beard award nominees and Chef of the Year finalists.  

“The festival was planned to highlight the region’s rich agricultural heritage,” said Gray Shipley, a fifth-generation farmer at Shipley Farms and one of the festival organizers.  The festival theme, “Local Food Elevated,” was intended to bring attention to the decline in family farms and agricultural land in the High Country and North Carolina.  In addition to top chefs cooking up their specialties, numerous local breweries, wineries, coffee roasters, and fermentors participated.  In the next few years, organizers intend for the event to grow to a multi-day summer festival modeled after other events across the region, with dinners, music, tastings, demos, and other events occurring at farms and local restaurants across the high country each summer.

North Carolina ranks second in the country for farmland projected to be lost to development in the next two decades. To address this issue, some of the proceeds from the festival will be allocated to programs working on the ground to support local food and farms. A percentage of proceeds will go to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Piedmont Culinary Guild, the NC Choices initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and the Watauga High School chapter of Future Farmers of America.