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.
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