award goes to the awarders
or 48 years, Watauga Countians have recognized the interdependency of farm and city dwellers through their annual Farm-City Banquet each November.
During the banquet, a range of rural and urban community achievers receive a cornucopia of about 70 awards. Everybody from cattlemen to beekeepers, from women and youth and families in agriculture to those involved in community development, beautification and recycling receives an award.
This year, the banquet itself won an award.
Bill Cummings, past Boone Area Chamber of Commerce chair, presented the 28th High Country Quality of Life Award to the group behind the banquet, represented by Sue Counts, N.C. Cooperative Extension director for Watauga County.
The group was honored for “promoting the blending of business and agriculture since 1955,” Cummings said.
“The Farm-City Banquet is the centerpiece that is held up time and again, all year-round as the model for relationship building,” he said. “Here the attitude is all about working together, while recognizing and appreciating our diverse backgrounds. It’s about celebrating our unity.
“The event symbolizes the very best characteristics of collaboration and cooperation that may well be a model for the community, state and nation,” Cummings said.
For instance, a banquet favorite is videotape of the farmer-business exchange, in which a rural community member switches jobs with a business community member for a day. This year a dairy farmer traded jobs with a banker, a cattle farmer with a Backyard Burger owner and an orchard owner/agritourism farmer with a Farm Bureau insurance agent.
The Farm-City Banquet trades heavily in such traditions.
Almost a half-century ago, community members used all local foods from area farmers to provide homegrown dining for the banquet. Recalling those days, the 2003 banquet featured local ingredients, such as coleslaw from locally grown cabbage, as well as potatoes, apples and chickens.
“That local flavor is one of the things that’s really special about this banquet,” Counts said.
One of the banquet’s coveted awards, named for former Cooperative Extension director L.E. Tuckwiller, goes to those who perform an outstanding community accomplishment. This year it was the Town of Beech Mountain for its hiking trail program and neighborhood parks system.
“I think this was one of the best banquets ever,” Counts said. “We had more applications for awards and more excitement for the farm-business exchange. It’s just got an air of getting bigger and better.”