Press release from WNC Communities:
Kenny Barnwell and Carol Coulter were inducted into the WNC Agricultural Hall of Fame, presented by WNC Communities at an Aug. 11 luncheon at the WNC Agricultural Center – Davis Event Center in Fletcher.
This annual event recognizes stewards of the Western North Carolina agribusiness sector and honors the visionaries and leaders of the agriculture industry. At a time when Western North Carolina is seeking new methods of sustainability, WNC Communities is proud to recognize those who have made significant contributions to one of our state’s most important sources of revenue.Born in Henderson County, sixth-generation farmer Kenny Barnwell graduated from Edneyville High School and attended Greensboro College. Kenny returned to Henderson County and started farming his first apple orchard in 1989. Today, he is one of North Carolina’s largest growers with over 160 acres of orchard in production. Kenny Barnwell Orchards sells wholesale to farmers’ markets and other local merchants, as well as supplying large companies such as Gerber and Peterson’s, the company that provides McDonald’s with their apple slices. In addition to being a successful commercial grower, packer and shipper, Kenny Barnwell is also recognized in North Carolina, the southeast region and nationally as a progressive grower and industry leader. Kenny has been a tireless advocate for agriculture, taking his activism on the road from Raleigh to Capitol Hill, to support issues important apple growers, such as farmland preservation, risk management and labor.“He routinely represents the interests of the agricultural community regarding public policy issues at the local, state, and federal level in areas such as comprehensive planning, ag funding, farm labor, crop insurance, environmental issues, food safety and chemical regulations.” says Mark Williams, Executive Director of Agribusiness Henderson County (AgHC). He serves on numerous agricultural boards and was recently recognized as the 2023 Apple Grower of the Year from American Fruit Grower.Originally from New York, Carol Coulter came to WNC as a teacher and director at NC Outward Bound School in 1993 and quickly fell in love with farming on her small goat dairy in Ashe County. She worked with other women growers to start a grassroots organization, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) in 2003. During this time Carol worked professionally with High Country Conservancy, serving as its Executive Director before it merged with Blue Ridge Conservancy, and helped protect hundreds of acres of at-risk farmland and natural resources from development. She was instrumental in creating the High Country Food Hub, an innovative online farmers’ market and shared storage facility that has generated $2.9M+ in revenue since 2017 for 115+ farmers. Carol and her husband Lon operate Heritage Homestead, a 17-acre goat dairy located in Ashe County, where they raise Saanens, Alpines and a few Nubians goats to make farmstead cheese. She currently teaches at Appalachian State University.“Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen this part of western North Carolina evolve into a burgeoning hub for today’s smaller-scale, direct market ‘mountain agriculture’ with our ever-growing number of farmers’ markets, community gardens, CSAs, and many more restaurants sourcing locally grown food and products—and Carol has been at the forefront of all of it.” says Jim Hamilton, PhD, Watauga County Extension Director, “Carol’s legacy and footprint on western North Carolina agriculture is indelibly planted.”
The WNC Ag Hall of Fame was started in 1991 by the Western North Carolina Community Development Association, which is now WNC Communities. The WNC Ag Hall of Fame moved to its new location at the WNC Agricultural Center in 2022. Annual nominations and the ceremony are coordinated by WNC Communities. Nominations are open to the public. For more information, visit www.wnccommuniies.org or call 828-252-4783.