Local agriculture leaders honored

STATESVILLE — Carolina Farm Credit announced that five local leaders, including Boonville’s Neil Shore, are being recognized nationally through Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives, a search to identify and honor 100 leaders who are changing rural communities and agriculture for the better. The honorees were announced at a National Ag Day event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Shore is the proprietor of Sanders Ridge Winery, including Big Woods Zip Line, the Hearth Restaurant and a USDA certified organic farm. After a lifetime as a tobacco farmer, Shore recognized the tobacco industry was changing and proactively evolved and diversified his agricultural operation to not only support his family but also his community.

“My inspiration is my love of farming, of my family, and of the land,” said Shore. “Growing up on a farm and raising my own family as a full-time farmer has been a rich and wonderful experience. It is my life’s desire to keep the farmland — on which I and my ancestors have lived and earned our livelihoods for five generations — in our family and in sustainable agriculture.”

Shore began by planting a vineyard on farmland that had been in his family for more than 150 years. Using local businesses to build the associated winery, today Sanders Ridge employs more than 10 full-time staff and another 15 part-time staff, contributing significantly to the local economy. Shore also has mentored and helped launch the careers of many of the winemakers and chefs in the area.

Shore’s organic farm helps to support sustainability and promote locally sourced food. The organic farm’s many visitors come to learn about and have a hand in growing their own food in a sustainable way. Local meats and cheeses are often used in the cooking at the Hearth Restaurant at Sanders Ridge, another of Neil’s enterprises. A recreational zip line rounds out his operation.

“Farming has changed a lot since I was born into it 65 years ago. I see a lot of exciting innovations but also a lot of challenges ahead,” Shore said. “I believe that the future of agriculture can be bright and promising provided that we can attract a new breed of young farmers, and they and the innovators who support them with technology and science will need to find an equitable balance between sustainability and capitalism.”

Other Carolina Farm Credit honorees included

:Laos native Maykia Xiong, an IT professional and Carthage poultry farmer, who helps fellow Hmong producers with limited English skills access important USDA programs. Recognized in the Mentoring and Volunteerism category, Xiong said, “Through my struggles and hardship with financial institutions, integrators and government programs, I want to make resources available to assist Hmong-American farmers in all aspects of their farming needs.”

Iredell agriculture teacher and farmer Bill Walker has seen first-hand what involving youth in FFA can accomplish. He currently works with more than 425 agriculture students and FFA members who cultivate an appreciation for the agriculture industry and take that excitement into careers, college, and their community. “I have seen what FFA and agriculture education can provide for students if they take the opportunities presented. The “ah ha” moment that students have when everything clicks is priceless,” said Walker.

NC Choices Program Director Sarah Blacklin leads the Women Working in the Meat Business program. The program is designed to help women overcome real and perceived barriers in their meat business careers by offering educational, technical, and business planning assistance while also building a professional network. “I hope these seminars are one step in that process and that we continue to make more resources available to bolster successful female leaders,” said Blacklin.

Dr. Blake Brown oversees North Carolina State University’s Ag Leadership program. The program accepts 35 young agricultural leaders into a 50-day, two-year intensive executive development experience. This program continues to be nationally recognized and serves the need for leadership training in rural North Carolina communities. He has earned 62 grants worth more than $4.9 million to help improve agricultural communities in North Carolina. “I love working with and for farmers, especially those in North Carolina. I also love farming and consider it an honor to be considered a farmer, albeit a part-time one,” he said.

“Farm Credit has supported rural communities and agriculture for 100 years, and we appreciate the vision it takes to remain successful over time in agriculture and rapidly evolving, thriving rural industries,” said Vance C. Dalton Jr., CEO, Carolina Farm Credit. “We are proud to honor these area leaders who are helping to define the future of our community and the agriculture industry.”

Selected by a panel of experts on rural matters, including Farm Credit leaders and others from around the agriculture industry, honorees like those from our territory are among the best-of-the-best who are positively shaping what is next for rural communities and agriculture.

Carolina Farm Credit joins the nearly 80 Farm Credit organizations that are celebrating the dynamic future of rural communities and agriculture. A complete list of nominees can be found at farmcredit100.com.

Carolina Farm Credit is a stockholder-owned cooperative providing financing to full and part-time farmers and agricultural-related businesses and also provides financing for the construction and purchase of homes in 54 counties through 35 branch offices. Other financial services available are credit life insurance, appraisal services, leasing programs and financial planning.

For 100 years Farm Credit has been supporting rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services.

Carolina Farm Credit serves more than 9,200 members with loans outstanding totaling more than $1.4 billion. The association’s territory covers the western half of North Carolina, with branch offices located in Albemarle, Asheboro, Asheville, Boone, Browns Summit, Burnsville, Carthage, Concord, Conover, Ellerbe, Graham, Hendersonville, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lenoir, Lexington, Lincolnton, Monroe, Murphy, Pilot Mountain, Roxboro, Rural Hall, Salisbury, Shelby, Siler City, Sparta, Spindale, Statesville, Taylorsville, Wadesboro, Waynesville, Wilkesboro, Yadkinville, and Yanceyville.

Carolina Farm Credit was recognized as a 2015 Best Employer in North Carolina. The list of the Best Employers in North Carolina was created by Business North Carolina, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) – NC State Council and Best Companies Group.

Directors for Carolina Farm Credit are L. Kim Starnes, Chairman, Salisbury; W. Rex Bell, Vice-Chairman, Statesville; John M. Barnard, Statesville; E. Bernard Beck, Seagrove; Mark A. Bray, Lawsonville; David M. Coltrane, Pleasant Garden; Susie J. Gambill, Sparta; Joseph A. Lail, Shelby; Clark M. Newlin, Haw River; Thomas E. Porter, Jr., Concord; Tony L. Ragan, Sanford; D. Kaleb Rathbone, Waynesville; Lewis E. Smith, Lincolnton; Vickie N. Smitherman, East Bend; Dr. Alton Thompson, Summerfield.

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