BOONE — Farm City’s 64th annual banquet highlighted the importance and sustainability of farming in the mountains of North Carolina.
Hosted at the Boone United Methodist Church in Boone and a collaboration of the farming community, the banquet was catered by Lost Province and “at least 15 local farmers,” according to Jim Hamilton, the Watauga County Cooperative Extension director.
The theme of this year’s banquet was “Who’s Your Farmer?” to encourage community members to interact with local farmers and know where food in the High Country comes from.
The welcoming address was provided by Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President David Jackson, who called members of the Watauga High School Future Farmers of America Club to recite the official FFA Creed. Then, Jackson introduced Commissioner Perry Yates to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Jennifer Whittington to say a prayer over the meal.
Sheri Castle, Watauga County native, writer and cookbook author, spoke at the banquet, encouraging attendees to find a dish or ingredient that “tastes like home.”
Castle recalled a time in her life when she was traveling often and repeatedly questioned herself about her place in the world — until she came across a cabbage sack.
“In all of my moving, I came across a cabbage sack,” she said. “And I folded it up and put it on the car seat next to me because I was moving around a lot, and there were a lot of questions about where’s my home and where I’m going. It just felt good to have that cabbage sack in the front seat to pat every once in a while.
“And what I have done ever since then, including in the home that I’m living in now is when I move in, the very, very first thing I do is take some thumbtacks and put that cabbage sack up next to my front door so that every time I go out and every time I come home, I’m reminded of where I am and the hopes and the dreams that you can put in a cabbage sack,” Castle said.
Following Castle’s keynote address was the first round of awards for the evening.
Christmas Tree Grower of the Year was awarded to Wayne Phillips and his team for being pioneers in the booming industry of Watauga County.
Cattleman of the Year was awarded to farmer Jerry Haas, and Beekeeper of the Year was awarded to Pamela Anderson.
The Charles Church Sustainability and Stewardship Award was presented to Kate Bradley.
The Agriculture in Arts award went to Will Willis, who also performed three songs with his wife, Sabine Mader, at the banquet to an enthusiastic crowd.
Holly Whitesides of Against the Grain was awarded the Woman in Agriculture Award, and Lynne Mason was presented with the Community Volunteer Award.
The last two awards of the evening were presented to Christina Bailey for the Healthy Food System Award and to Emma Klein for the Youth in Agriculture Award.
Door prizes were raffled off throughout the evening, comprising of donated items from local businesses, such as socks from Apple Hill Farm’s alpacas, honey from the Watauga Beekeepers and gift certificates from the Mast General Store.
To learn more about agriculture in Watauga County, visit the Watauga County N.C. Cooperative Extension online at www.watauga.ces.ncsu.edu.