Shipley Farm to host Appalachian Food Festival in Vilas, NC

School is out and it’s time for a little summer getaway. Why not start with a day trip this weekend to Vilas, NC, home to Shipley Farm and the first ever Good Fields festival. Good Fields is a celebration of Appalachian food and farms. It’s a fun family festival with a mission.

Shipley Farms Good Fields Festival logo

Bob Shipley, 4th generation farmer and patriarch of Shipley Farms, and his son Gray Shipley, are the festival’s co-founders. Together they created and are hosting the festival on their family farm. It’s all a part of the celebration of the farm’s 150 anniversary.

Visit Shipley Farms on June 24

Shipley Farm is a 120+ acre NC cattle ranch, located in the pastoral mountain community of Vilas, NC. The family farm and homestead are nestled in a quiet valley, tucked away in the hills just a few miles West of Boone, and just south of the North Carolina-Tennessee border. About a 2-hour drive from Charlotte.

An over head photo of Shipley Farms red barns nestled in a NC Mountain valley

Good Fields will highlight the region’s rich agricultural heritage, and will bring together chefs, farmers and guests along with live bluegrass music, local craft beer and other local beverages, area vendors and more.

It all takes place the afternoon of Saturday June 24, from 4-7 pm and there will be lots to enjoy.

I can’t wait and hope to see all of you there, too!

Bob and Gray Shipley of Shipley Farms standing outside at the family farm
Bob and Gray Shipley of Shipley Farms

Here’s The Why…

The Good Fields festival was created to create an awareness of North Carolina’s family farmer, the symbiotic relationship between chefs and farmers, and the importance of lands used and preserved for local agriculture.

Bob says that the mission of the festival is centered around strengthening the local agricultural community so that the way of life – one of family farming – can stay around for several more generations.
“I grew up in this community and on this farm. My dad used to ride his horse to Mast General Store to get flour and salt and canning supplies for his mother. This was all normal to us – we didn’t call it hyper local or pasture raised, it was just food. I didn’t know it was great food, because I barely knew processed food existed.” Shipley said.

“It never occurred to us that our experience was a bit unique at the time – but it’s far more unique now. North Carolina has lost over 40,000 farms just since I went off to college. Fewer and fewer people are getting exposed to local farm experiences, and it’s getting harder and harder for local farms to compete, and to make it to the next generation.”

We think this festival can help bring some attention to that issue, and get some momentum to turn that trend back a little in the other direction.”

The Food and Chefs at Shipley Farm Festival

In an effort to highlight the region’s rich agricultural heritage, the Shipley’s have invited a dozen plus talented chefs from across North Carolina to participate. This talented crew will cook with local product, from Shipley Farms dry-aged beef to other local and artisan product. Prepare to be wowed as you move from tent to tent tasting each chef’s featured festival dishes.

Food Writer Heidi Billotto with friends Bob Shipley of Shipley Farm and Chef Steven Goff of Tastee Diner in Asheville, NC

The festival’s chef lineup includes, my good friend, Steven Goff from Asheville’s Tastee Diner. Steven is the 2019 NCRLA Chef of the Year, and a long-time spokesperson and friend of the Shipley family and farm.

Here’s Who Will Be Cooking at Shipley Farm for Good Fields

Joining Steven in the Good Field’s chef line up, the Shipley’s are happy to welcome a dozen more talented North Carolina chefs. These are all chefs I know, and most I have written about before. And, I can tell you that you’re going to love every locally sourced bite. The list of whos whos in the Good Fields’ cooking tents includes:

At the farm, representing the Queen City in the Good Fields Chef line-up, Shipley Farm visitors will also see these amazing Charlotte-based chefs in action:

The event will also feature a live music performances. And, in true Appalachian tradition, there will be storytelling from Evan Peter Smith, author of the popular nonfiction novel, Here By The Owl.

The Shipley History

Here By the Owl is the true story of a North Carolina farm boy, native to the Blue Ridge Mountains, named Robert Gray Shipley. 

In an Our State 2013 article, writer and former North Carolina Poet Laureate, Joseph Bathanti, noted the following.

“Robert and Agnes Shipley, hailed by High Country Press as “the first couple of agriculture in the High Country,” are the patriarch and matriarch of the valley, of all of Vilas — and beyond, for my money.”

Three generations of Shipley’s from left, Bob Shipley with his dad Robert Shipley; and son, Gray Shipley

Bob and Gray Shipley would tell you that is the truth. At 101 years of age, Bob’s dad, Gray’s granddad, decided he wanted to try his hand at cattle ranching. And, that’s the beginning of this generation’s Shipley Farm story.

The Shipley’s farming roots in North Carolina run deep.

At Shipley Farm Today

Today Shipley Farm raises the same cattle stock, W.E. Shipley originally raised on his family farm over 100 years ago. The Shipley family has a long tradition of raising English breeds of cattle. W.E. Shipley pioneered Hereford farming in North Carolina, bringing the first registered stock to the state.

And, Robert Shipley is in the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame. I snapped this photo of Gray and this plaque last September. We were appearing together onstage, at the 2022 Mountain State Fair for several cooking demos featuring local beef. Can’t wait to do it again this year.

Gray Shipley with his granddads plaque in the WNC Agricultural Hall of Fame

Now, Shipley Farms Signature Beef is the family’s unique Appalachian grown, dry-aged product. The cattle are raised the way they have always done it with no steroids, antibiotics, or feedlots. They simply do it with hard work and great care for the land, the livestock, and the community.

Where to find Shipley Beef

Shipley Beef is available in many fine restaurants across the state. Look for it on the menu. Home cooks can order Shipley Beef online here for direct shipment from farm to your door.

Order Shipley Farms beef online and it is delivered direct to your door

#TellThemHeidiSentYou when you order. And…

Stay tuned for a follow up post and video on how you can cook with Shipley Beef brats this summer.

The Shipley’s Goal: To Support the Concept of Local Family Farming

The Good Fields festival aims to bring attention and support to the issue of the decline in family farms and agricultural land in the High Country, in particular, and across North Carolina in general.

Sadly, North Carolina currently ranks second in the country for farmland projected to be lost to development in the next two decades.

To address this issue, Good Fields will support programs working on the ground to help support local food and farms. A percentage of 2023 festival proceeds will go to each of these NC organizations:

  • Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
  • Piedmont Culinary Guild
  • NC Choices initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems
  • Watauga High School chapter of Future Farmers of America

Want to Know How You Can Help?

Come and support the Good Feilds festival, these local chefs and the local farms and sponsors involved in making this year’s festival a reality.

Read more about the festival here. and then, get tickets here. I look forward to seeing you there!

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