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Watauga County Cooperative Extension Announces 2020 Farm City Award Winners

By Nathan Ham

For the first time in event history, the 65th Farm-City Banquet had to be canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, farming in the community must go on, and with that continued the tradition of honoring the annual award winners for their work in the community promoting and honoring the long-time farming traditions of the High Country. 

“It was disappointing that we weren’t able to hold the event in person, Farm-City has been a great way to annually bring the rural and urban community together for a meal, but we felt like we needed to continue the tradition after 64 years. Hopefully, the situation improves and we’ll be able to come back with a bang in 2021 for banquet number 66,” said Jim Hamilton, Watauga County Extension Director. “Our Farm-City committee which is made up of extension agents, extension staff, and volunteers, we decided that the one thing we could do was recognize the award recipients we had even if we’re doing it from a distance.”

Hamilton said that some of the major donors and sponsors offered to help fund what the extension was planning on doing because of how much they support the Farm-City celebration. 

As a reminder, Farm-City events are a nationwide event that each extension agency celebrates in their own special way. 

Watauga Butchery was named this year’s recipient of the L.E. Tuckwiller Award.

L.E. Tuckwiller Award  •  Awardee: Watauga Butchery

The L.E. Tuckwiller Award is sponsored by Boone Area Chamber of Commerce in recognition of outstanding efforts in community development. We congratulate Watauga Butchery for being this year’s award recipient. With their response to a need for our local farm community to bring meat to market in an efficient and timely manner, Bob Shipley and his team worked quickly to help provide access to local meat products at a time where supplies were deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This facility ensured local farmers would not fall victim to delays and could get products to consumers at a time where capacity was limited.

Julia McIntyre from Trebuchet Hill Farm was the recipient of the 2020 Woman in Agriculture Award.

Woman in Agriculture  •  Awardee: Julia McIntyre  

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture would like to recognize Julia McIntyre from Trebuchet Hill Farm as the recipient of the 2020 Woman in Agriculture Award.

Julia has made significant and important contributions to agricultural production and local food access in Watauga County. As owner/operator of Trebuchet Hill Farm, she has demonstrated that flexibility, innovation, and adaptation can lead to success for small farm start-ups in the High Country. She has modeled opportunities for value-added production, season extension, and agritourism as methods of generating farm income and growing a successful farm business.

In addition to her efforts as a farmer, she has contributed in significant ways to the promotion of farmers’ markets and local food outlets. Trebuchet Hill actively sells through and promotes the High Country Food Hub. Facing challenges entering local markets, she worked with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and other growers to start the King Street Farmers’ Market, a weekday market in downtown Boone. Julia worked to expand the diversity of the Watauga County Farmers Market offerings through delicious value-added products, where Trebuchet Hill is a vendor. She also previously managed the Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market. And, she’s operated an engaging mobile farm stand throughout Watauga County.

Please join us in congratulating Julia for this well-deserved honor and thanking her for her many contributions!

The 2020 Charles Church Award for Stewardship and Sustainability was awarded to Rebecca Brown.

Charles Church Stewardship and Sustainability Award  •  Awardee: Rebecca Brown

Charles Church was integral in the High Country farming community for many years, moving it towards sustainability. The Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Department at Appalachian State University is pleased to make the 2020 Charles Church award for Stewardship and Sustainability to Rebecca Brown. 

Rebecca is from High Point, NC and a Sustainable Development major with a concentration in sustainable agriculture and agroecology. She exemplifies the department’s focus on ecology, environmental justice, and equity. Rebecca interned from 2018-2019 with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, helping with the King St. Farmers Market and distributing local food at the Food Hub.  She has also volunteered with the F.A.R.M. Cafe (Feed All Regardless of Means), serving local food. She interned with NC Cooperative Extension in Watauga County and developed strong leadership skills.  She is currently working on a professional basis with the new Watauga Butchery, as the Assistant Business and Marketing Manager, which will provide much needed infrastructure for cattle and swine producers in the High Country. Rebecca plans to graduate in May 2021 and continue on to graduate school.

Rebecca is one of the most talented students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. Her critical thinking, thoughtfulness, and dynamic engagement with food systems work inspired me on a daily basis.  Most importantly, I’ve always been impressed with how Rebecca recognizes the community-building capacities of food and agriculture.  Onward!” —Dr. Cody Miller (SD2400 Principles of Sustainable Development course)

Watauga County High School senior Bethany Hicks won the 2020 Youth in Agriculture Award.

Youth in Agriculture  •  Awardee: Bethany Hicks

Bethany Hicks is a senior at Watauga High School and has been an active member in the Watauga FFA chapter since her freshman year. She has served as a chapter officer since her sophomore year and has been the chapter president both in 2019-20 and 2020-21. She was also elected as the Northwest Region Vice President in 2019-20 and is serving this year as the 2020-21 region President. Bethany has been very involved in many Career Development Events (competitions) throughout her time in FFA and has earned as high as 2nd place in the state in Extemporaneous Public Speaking where she is given 30 minutes to prepare a speech about an agricultural related topic. Most recently, Bethany was chosen to represent North Carolina FFA as one of our 5 state delegates at the 93rd National FFA Convention.

Bethany plans to attend a university after graduating and pursue a degree in English. She is the daughter of Chad and Angie Hicks of Sugar Grove, NC.

The 2020 recipient of the Healthy Food System Award was Sandy Windelspecht.

Healthy Food System Award  •  Awardee: Sandy Windelspecht

The purpose of the Watauga Food Council is to serve as an umbrella organization to coordinate and strengthen our local food system. The Watauga Food Council’s Healthy Food System Award is given to a person or organization who has shown a commitment to the work of the Food Council. This person or organization advances our local food system in a way that improves the health of our community by working to cultivate collaborations.

The 2020 recipient of the Healthy Food System Award is Sandy Windelspecht.

Sandy has been a dedicated Master Gardener since 2015, having logged over 200 hours of volunteer service. Her most recent project has been the development of Grow Watauga, a community garden and outreach program dedicated to supporting our local food banks with fresh, nutritious food. 

Grow Watauga has spear-headed many projects within our community that seek to address issues of poverty and food insecurity, including:

 Additionally, Sandy serves on the board of the Health and Hunger Coalition and volunteers with the Western Youth Network to involve adolescents in gardening projects. Through her multi-media educational company, Ricochet Science, Sandy has produced high-quality videos for the Master Gardener Program and the Hospitality House.

The 2020 Watauga Farm Family of the Year award to the Miller Family Farm in the Aho community.

Watauga Soil & Water Conservation District’s 2020 Farm Family of the Year

Awardees: Coy, Shelby, Aaron, Shaun and Lilliana Miller of Miller Family Farm

The Watauga County Soil & Water Conservation District is proud to present the 2020 Watauga Farm Family of the Year award to the Millers of Miller Family Farm in the Aho community. Coy and his family currently manage over 150 cattle on their farm. Keeping this many cows fed, hydrated, and healthy can present quite a logistical challenge. To increase water access and quality for his animals, Coy partnered with the Watauga Soil and Water Conservation District to install cattle drinker systems on his farm. These drinkers not only allow easier water access for the animals, they keep cattle from having to drink out of streams, greatly improving water quality in the area. Coy strives to be a conscious steward of his animals, as well as the land. He has raised cattle in Watauga County for over 50 years, a skill he learned from his father who was also a cattle farmer in the High Country. Coy and his wife Shelby are thrilled to see that next generations of Millers are committed to continue this cattle farming legacy

Joe Sanders was named the WCBA Beekeeper of the Year for 2020.

Beekeeper of the Year Award  •  Awardee: Joe Sanders

The Watauga County Beekeepers Association has awarded Joe Sanders the WCBA Beekeeper of the Year award for 2020.  Joe is a certified beekeeper and has been keeping bees for the past five years.  He is the newly elected president of the Association and has served in that capacity for two previous terms.  Joe has served with enthusiasm and commitment, volunteering many hours of his time, contributing equipment, conducting demonstrations, presenting lectures, and mentoring many new beekeepers. 

Clay Presnell is the recipient of the 2020 Watauga Cattleman of the Year Award.

Cattleman of the Year Award  •  Awardee: Clay Presnell

The Watauga County Cattlemen’s Association is proud to announce that Clay Presnell is the recipient of the 2020 Watauga Cattleman of the Year. He is the son of Tracie and Rodney Presnell and has been raising and managing his own cow herd for 4 years. He started helping feed and care for cows when he was 7 years old and is now expanding his herd. Clay, a junior at Watauga High School, started his herd developing a business plan and obtaining a youth loan from the Farm Service Agency. He has since doubled his herd. Clay has been very active with the local food movement helping his family with farmers markets, food hub, and selling direct to consumers. Clay plans to continue his education in agriculture and to pursue a career in Agriculture.

Stone Mountain Farm was named the 2020 recipient of Tree Farmer of the Year.

Christmas Tree Farmer of the Year  •  Awardee: Scott and Tracy Taylor, Stone Mountain Farm

The Watauga County Christmas Tree Association is proud to award Tracy and Scott Taylor of Stone Mountain Farm as the 2020 recipients of Tree Farmer of the Year. Scott and Tracy have been growing Fraser fir Christmas trees in the High Country since 1988. With around 12 different farms in production, the Taylor’s trees are sold up and down the east coast and as far west as Colorado. Scott and Tracy have been active members of several boards and associations over the years. Both have served on the board of the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association and the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association. Tracy also served on the board of the Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District. Tracy was recently featured in an article by East Carolina University highlighting the efforts that Stone Mountain Farm made to address farmworker safety during COVID. Tracy was quoted: “No matter what you do for a living, this has been a trying time for all of us,” she said.  “So I’m hopeful we’re able to put a smile a person’s face and for a family to come together to enjoy a Christmas tree. Because we all need something to be happy about right now.” Stone Mountain Farm will be open for choose and cut. Their farm is located at 301 Sherry Reece Lane, just across the TN border off Bulldog Road.