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Farm-City Banquet Brings Community Together for 64th Year of Celebrating Agriculture in the High Country

By Nathan Ham

A large crowd filled Boone United Methodist Church on Thursday for the 64th Annual Farm-City Banquet with an evening of music, door prizes, awards and an overall celebration of the impact of farming and agriculture in the High Country.

The theme for this year’s banquet was continued over from last year, honoring all of the “High Country Grown” products that impact our lives in these mountains almost every day.

“We decided to continue the theme of High Country Grown this year because it fits every single thing about this banquet. From the food to the music to the awards we present, to the entertainment, to the items in those baskets that we’re going to be giving away as door prizes, everything about Farm-City Banquet here in Watauga is High Country Grown,” said Jim Hamilton, the Cooperative Extension Director for Watauga County. “The High Country Grown initiative is helping local farmers while promoting restaurants and businesses that use locally sourced products.

To show just how important the High Country Grown initiative has become, the catered meal by Lost Province was put together using ingredients from at least 15 local farmers and in collaboration with the High Country Food Hub.

Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO David Jackson welcomed everyone to the banquet and echoed its importance in the High Country.

“This banquet, its theme, and the tradition here in Watauga has a history behind it that we’re proud to continue, and we’re proud of the many organizations and businesses in the community that support this banquet and what it represents,” said Jackson.

The guest speaker for the event was Sheri Castle, a Zionville native who grew up on a farm that she remembers fondly, including the house being in North Carolina and much of the cattle and pasture land being across the state line into Tennessee.

Castle is a writer, recipe creator and cooking teacher that shared some of her favorite stories of her and her family growing up on a farm and also her enjoyment of experiencing the tight community bond that people in this area have with their land and resources.

“We’re getting good about trying to save our land and we’re getting good at communicating with people. We love this place so much and that is the thing that will keep us together, that deep loyalty to these gorgeous mountains unlike any other place in this world,” Castle said.

She also encouraged everyone to remember their own life stories and share them with people around the community.

Singer and songwriter Will Willis was the special guest musical performance this year. Willis is a Boone resident and native of Lenoir and has released three full-length albums. Willis performed with Sabine Mader and gave the crowd a brief taste of his musical talents.

This year, 11 awards were handed out to members in the community for their support of farming, food and agriculture. A list of award winners as well as door prize sponsors and banquet sponsors are below.

Award Winners

Christmas Tree Grower of the Year: Wayne Phillips

Cattleman of the Year: Jerry Haas

Beekeeper of the Year: Pamela Anderson

Charles Church Sustainability and Stewardship Award: Kate Bradley

Agriculture in Arts Award: Will Willis

Woman in Agriculture Award: Holly Whitesides (Against the Grain Farm)

Community Volunteer Award: Lynne Mason

Healthy Food System Award: Christina Bailey

Youth in Agriculture Award: Emma Klein (presented to a young man or woman who has made significant contributions to local agriculture)

L.E. Tuckwiller Award: Hollar and Greene Produce (sponsored by Boone Area Chamber of Commerce in recognition of outstanding efforts in community development.)

Farm Family of the Year Award: Victor Fortune and Family


Platinum Sponsor: Watauga Farm Bureau

Gold Sponsors: New River Building Supply, Southern Ag, Mast General Store

Silver Sponsors: Hollar and Greene Produce, Carolina Farm Credit, BREMCO

Bronze Sponsors: Todd Combs, Inc. Construction, Watauga Christmas Tree & Cattlemen’s Associations, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, PHARMN, Shipley Farms Beef, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development

Door Prizes provided by: Apple Hill Farm, Bettie Bond, Critcher Brothers Produce, Four Prongs Ginseng, Goodnight Brothers, High Country Food Hub, Moretz Mountain Orchard, Richard Tumbleston, Stick Boy Bread Co., Watauga County Beekeeper’s Association,, Working Title Farm

Music: Ian and Kelly Sheets Snider, Will Willis and Sabine Mader

David Jackson (Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO)
Jim Hamilton (Cooperative Extension Director for Watauga County)
Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz
Ian and Kelly Sheets Snider
Perry Yates (Watauga County Commissioner)
Sheri Castle was the keynote speaker for the evening.
Will Willis was the guest musical performer.
Watauga High School FFA members in attendance.
Will Willis was honored with the Agriculture in Arts Award, pictured here with presenter Shari Smith of Working Title Farm
Beekeeper of the Year Award was Pamela Anderson, pictured here with presenter James Wilkes.
Cattleman of the Year Award winner Jerry Haas (right) with presenter JW Miller.
Charles Church Sustainability and Stewardship Award winner was presented to Kate Bradley, senior Agroecology major(left) by Anne Fanatico, Appalachian State professor of Sustainable Development.
Wayne Phillips (right) won the award for Christmas Tree Grower of the Year.
Lynne Mason (right) was presented the Community Volunteer Award by Bettie Bond.
The Farm Family of the Year Award went to Victor Fortune and Family by presenter Denny Norris (left).
Margie Mansure (left) presenting the Healthy Food System Award to winner Christina Bailey.
Holly Whitesides of Against the Grain Farm was presented the Woman in Agriculture Award by Dave Walker.
The Youth in Agriculture Award was presented by Olivia Haigler (left) to Emma Klein.