BOONE — Despite not being able to host an in-person event for the 66th Farm City Banquet, local farmers were still "celebrated from a distance," according to Watauga County Extension Director Jim Hamilton.

Hamilton stated that this was the first year since 1955 that the community event is taking a hiatus from the traditional meal, awards banquet, music and fellowship that normally takes place each year during the first Thursday of November. Local agriculture officials still recognized the winners in the following categories: the L.E. Tuckwiller Award, the Charles Church Stewardship and Sustainability Award, Youth in Agriculture, Woman in Agriculture, Healthy Food System Award, Conservation Farm Family of the Year, Beekeeper of the Year Award, Cattleman of the Year and Christmas Tree Farmer of the Year.

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. The 2020 award winner is Watauga Butchery.

As a response to a need for the 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.

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 has awarded the 2020 Charles Church award for Stewardship and Sustainability to Rebecca Brown. 

Brown is from High Point, and is a sustainable development major with a concentration in sustainable agriculture and agroecology. She exemplifies the department’s focus on ecology, environmental justice and equity. Brown interned from 2018-19 with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, helping with the King Street 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 N.C. Cooperative Extension in Watauga County and developed strong leadership skills. 

Brown 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.

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.

Hicks has been very involved in many career development events (competitions) throughout her time in FFA and has earned as high as second 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 five state delegates at the 93rd National FFA Convention.

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

Woman in Agriculture

• Awardee: Julia McIntyre

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture recognized Julia McIntyre from Trebuchet Hill Farm as the recipient of the 2020 Woman in Agriculture Award.

McIntyre 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, McIntyre 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.

McIntyre worked to expand the diversity of the Watauga County Farmers Market offerings through value-added products in which Trebuchet Hill is a vendor. She also previously managed the Blowing Rock Farmers Market and operated an engaging mobile farm stand throughout Watauga County.

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.

Windelspecht has been a dedicated Master Gardener since 2015, having logged more than 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: A Simple Gesture, Plant a Row for the Hungry, W.A.M.Y. Community Garden and W.A.M.Y "Grow Your Own Food" summer camp projects.

Additionally, Windelspecht 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 multimedia educational company — Ricochet Science — Windelspecht has produced videos for the Master Gardener Program and the Hospitality House.

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

• Awardees: The Miller Family Farm (Coy, Shelby, Aaron, Shaun and Lilliana Miller)

The Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District presents the 2020 Watauga Farm Family of the Year award to the Millers of Miller Family Farm in the Aho community.

Coy Miller and his family currently manage more than 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 Miller 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 Miller 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 Miller and his wife, Shelby, are thrilled to see that next generations of the family are committed to continue the cattle farming legacy.

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. Sanders is a certified beekeeper and has been keeping bees for the past five years. 

Sanders is the newly re-elected president of the association, having served in that capacity for two previous terms. He has served with enthusiasm and commitment while volunteering many hours of his time, contributing equipment, conducting demonstrations, presenting lectures and mentoring many new beekeepers.

Cattleman of the Year Award

• Awardee: Clay Presnell

The Watauga County Cattlemen’s Association announced 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 four years.

Presnell started helping feed and care for cows when he was 7 years old and is now expanding his herd. Presnell, 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. He has been active with the local food movement while helping his family with farmers markets, the local food hub and selling direct to consumer. Presnell plans to continue his education in agriculture and to pursue a career in the field.

Christmas Tree Farmer of the Year

• Awardee: Stone Mountain Farm, Scott and Tracy Taylor

The Watauga County Christmas Tree Association announced Tracy and Scott Taylor of Stone Mountain Farm as the 2020 recipients of Tree Farmer of the Year. The Taylors have been growing Fraser fir Christmas trees in the High Country since 1988. With around 12 different farms in production, the Taylors' trees are sold up and down the East Coast and as far west as Colorado.

Scott and Tracy Taylor 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 Taylor also served on the board of the Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District, and was recently featured in an article by East Carolina University highlighting the efforts that Stone Mountain Farm made to address farmworker safety during COVID-19.

Stone Mountain Farm will be open for choose and cut. Their farm is located at 301 Sherry Reece Lane, just across the Tennessee border off Bulldog Road.

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