I was “born and raised” in western North Carolina. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know that these mountains were very important to me.
I have spent the last 25 years living in Hickory NC with my husband and 3 now grown children. Other than being a wife and mother, I have been involved in many volunteer activities with church and our community. My strongest interest has been gardening in my own yard as well as others.
In 1996, we were fortunate to purchase a 368 acre farm in the northwest corner of Ashe Co. We wanted it primarily as a place for our family and friends to be to enjoy the mountains. At the time we were buying the property, Sandy Schenck (then president of the board of The Conservation Trust of North Carolina) introduced me to the idea of conservation easements. In 2001, we purchased another 170 acre farm that adjoined us. At that time I began working with James Coman to draft an easement for our farm. After a lot of discussion with our family, we were able to establish that easement in 2003. It was a wonderful feeling to know that our 500 acres would be protected forever. We then made the decision to hold any tax savings we received from the easement and use it to purchase more property to put under easement. We are now up to 700 acres (and I think we are finished!) Most of this additional acreage was placed under conservation easement in 2006.
During these years, the focus of our property has changed. It is now a working livestock farm. We raise grass fed cattle, sheep and goats. We have worked with the NC Environmental Enhancement Program to protect our streams and wet areas. We have worked with our local NRCS, farm, forestry and wildlife extension to implement best management practices for our property. With all of this, my idea of conservation of lands has grown a bit. At first, I was most interested in the protection of view sheds and biological diversity. Now I include the importance of conservation easements to protect working farm and forest lands. I also see an important role of the Blue Ridge Conservancy in educating farmers to be good stewards of their working farms. I am very excited to be a part of this work.
As a joke, I tell people I’ve been in banking since I was 10 years old. Around that age I was licking stamps and counting pennies at my dad’s bank. Fresh out of college, I took a job at NCNB (now Bank of America) where I worked in Charlotte and Greensboro. I must say BOA was very good to me and after 15 plus years in the business, it allowed me to start a bank from nothing in 2001 and move back home. Unfortunately, a chronic health problem helped me decide to retire in 2007.
I have a wonderful wife and two great children. Hobbies include hunting, fishing, gardening and most recently grafting apple trees. I’ve served on many volunteer boards over the years including United Way, American Cancer Society, North Carolina Community Foundation (Catawba Chapter), NC Bankers Association and many more. However, today I am focusing my efforts on only two Boards -Blue Ridge Conservancy and a family’s endowment fund.
As simple as it may sound, my interest in land conservation began around the age of 12 or so. Many years ago, hunting at an early age just came naturally. My buddies and I hunted one of the best dove fields I have ever been on. September was a month we looked forward to year after year. We had to walk about 3 miles to get to the field and opening day one year we made our trip and found that the corn field we loved had transformed into a housing development. At that age, there was nothing I could do but attempt to find another field that was just as good. I never did. At a young age, the movie Jeremiah Johnson exposed me to how beautiful western US land was and made me wonder why my state wasn’t as beautiful. I asked why we had so many people and houses by comparison.
Being a banker, I felt personally conflicted when providing a loan for land development. I regret when people struggle, particularly during any recession but I am so thankful that the crazy land development and speculation has all but ceased and it appears it will be many years before anything remotely similar will return.
I first learned about Blue Ridge Conservancy through James Coman, founder of Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust. For many years before James’ passing I leased his farm for hunting (and continue to do so) and nearly all of our countless conversations included discussions of land conservation. If there has been one thing that compelled me to do something tangible for land conservation it was witnessing James Coman and the love and effort he devoted to the land trust. Both James Coman and Walter Clark are responsible for allowing me to serve Blue Ridge Conservancy. The only non-profit organization that I truly have ever had a sincere interest and concern for is Blue Ridge Conservancy. It’s an organization where I feel I can truly make a difference in the future and enjoy every minute of my service. While raising funds to operate is a must, being able to witness the process of protecting land is very satisfying
John Turner is President and Shareholder of Turner Law Office, PA in Boone. John is married to Patti M. Turner (a real estate broker, personal trainer, and co-founder of Appalachian Women’s Fund), with whom he has one child, Ryan. Ryan is a high school senior and has committed to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, where he will play baseball as an infielder. John’s hobbies include singing, playing guitar, hiking, and following the Tar Heels during basketball season. Patti and John are longtime supporters of OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information, and Shelter), Inc.
John’s interest in land protection developed through his law practice, which includes a heavy concentration of real estate work and where he handled some conservation transactions. He loved the concept and wanted to help support it. John learned about BRC from his friend Richard Stevens, former board member for Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust. John asked Richard if he could attend a meeting to learn more about the organization.
John’s interest in land conservation came from many years of observation; watching nearly every farm and undeveloped tract near Boone succumb to subdivision and other development pressures. Protecting the beauty and rural culture of northwestern North Carolina in a manner that also benefits the landowners was his primary motivation, and it has been deeply gratifying to contribute to Blue Ridge Conservancy’s successful efforts.
Ann Baker, of Crossnore, NC, has deeply-rooted connections to the land in northwest North Carolina. Ann spent many summers in the home her Great Grandfather built in Blowing Rock overlooking the Globe Valley and has vivid memories of enjoying the smells of the moss in the Rhododendron woods and the purity of the air instilling in her a respect for clean air and water.
Ann and her husband, Charlie, have three children. Ann enjoys being outside, hiking, swimming, boating, and gardening. When she’s not enjoying her time outdoors, Ann manages a Christmas tree farm and teaches fine arts students at The Crossnore School, Mayland Community College, and Penland School of Crafts. Ann has her own art studio and has managed the Fine Arts Gallery at The Crossnore School. Ann also devotes her time to improving her community through Crossnore’s non-profit organization and serves on advisory boards at Warren Wilson’s Environmental Leadership Center and The Avery Partnership for People at the End of Life.
Born in White Plains, NC, Mille graduated from Guilford College with a degree in History and a minor in Economics and began her career teaching History in the Guilford County School System.
Millie became involved in historic preservation and restoration by helping found the Historic Burke Foundation in 1982. Millie also served as Executive Director of the North Carolina High Country Host, a six county regional tourism marketing organization, for six years before retiring until recently in 2009 when she resumed that role again. Millie continued this commitment for preservation and restoration by serving as Executive Director of the Beaufort Historical Association and oversaw restoration of the thirteen building historic site.
Millie has had a life time commitment to history and preservation and the conservation of our beautiful mountain land and natural recourses. Through her commitment to preservation and restoration, Millie has been awarded several honors and accolades in her career and life. A devout steward and active member of the BRC board, Millie has an awareness of the state’s rich cultural heritage that is so important to the conservation of the beautiful rural landscape of Western NC.
A resident of Boone, NC, Bob Cherry is originally from Chicago where he graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in forestry. Following his move to Boone in 1992, Bob received his master’s of science in biology from Appalachian in 2001. Bob Cherry is married to his wife, Jamie Leigh, and together they have two children, Michael and Kelly.
Having worked for the National Park Service since 1979 and on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as wildlife biologist, since 1992, Bob understands the importance of conserving our natural landscape here in the high country. An avid hiker, backpacker and birder, Bob was tired of seeing the out-of-control development in Watauga County and began working with conservation as a board member of the Watauga Land Trust in 1987, which was then changed to the High Country Conservancy, now the Blue Ridge Conservancy.
Sonny lives in his native community of Wilkesboro, North Carolina where he owns and operates Brushy Mountain Water Company and Creative Reclamation. While growing up in Wilkes County, Sonny was drawn to the woods and streams near his home and learned at an early age to appreciate the adaptability and diversity of nature. Sonny earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Appalachian State University and considers himself a life-long learner. Sonny enjoys the opportunities his life offers him to meet new people and gain new experiences.
Sonny is also very active in his community. He volunteers his time with the Yadkin Valley Greenway Council, the Wilkes County Heritage Museum, and participates in the “Lunch Buddy” program at the Wilkes County Schools. Sonny believes that efforts such as Wilkes County’s greenway development and BRC’s land and water protection have permanent and positive impacts from which future generations can benefit. Land protection, including greenways, can be an important tool as we strive to find balance between land and resource conservation and the commercial and residential development that comes with a community’s growth.
Born and raised in the Aho community of Watauga County, Kelly Coffey graduated from Appalachian and taught history at Caldwell Community College for six years. He has been a regional planner with the High Country Council of Governments, which serves as staff extensions for 26 local governments helping them with tasks such as ordinance revisions, planning documents, annexation studies, and salary studies, since 1998.
Kelly finds that the need to preserve land is obvious, all one has to do is look around. “When a landscape is ruined it negatively affects people in terms of identity, spirituality and community cohesion. Saving land is much more than an environmental issue,” says Kelly who understands, holistically, the consequences of land degradation. In his free time, Kelly operates an income-producing farm consisting of 100 heritage apples trees, vegetables and cattle. Having been in his family for over 130 years, his farm is designated by the NC Department of Agriculture as a North Carolina Century Farm.
John is the former president and founder of the Mast General Store, Inc. John and his wife, Faye, have one daughter, Lisa Martin. Lisa is the Vice President of Mast General Store Inc. John enjoys hiking and biking and volunteers his time extensively. He has served on numerous community, regional and statewide boards as member and officer. Currently, John is working with a group trying to save and restore the Appalachian Theatre in Boone and is a member of Boone Sunrise Rotary.
John’s history with Blue Ridge Conservancy goes back many years and includes the donation of conservation easements to protect the beautiful community of Valle Crucis. Through Mast General Store, Inc. John also established Land Trust Day on the first Saturday of June each year, which directly supports BRC. John is committed to land protection in the High Country.
Bob is a new member of the BRC board. A retired pediatrician, he lives with wife Roddy in Alleghany County. They have two children and six grandchildren and list their permanent address as “on the road between Sparta, Raleigh, and Greenwood, SC.” They lead life largely out-of-doors. Avid backpackers, scuba divers, and sailors, they “dig in the dirt” much of the remainder of the time. Roddy is a perennial person; Bob raises many differing kinds of fruits and berries in patches and plots on small acreage adjacent to their home at Parkway Milepost 234. They are easement donors on Bullhead Mountain.
Bob attributes an initial attraction to the outdoors to an enjoyable boyhood scouting experience. While not distinguished by grade advancement, his troop claims to have spent the most weekends in the woods of any group in the southeast. Stewardship was less than exemplary. The BSA hatchet was a prime means of touching nature, felling trees for shelters and firewood, building trails and bridges, and damming creeks and small rivers. He claims to have left no trash but much more than footprints, an individual experience similar to society’s joint record, creating scars with scant regard for preservation.
Fortunately that attitude changed with lifetime nature exposure and forty plus year’s membership in many of the national conservation groups. Fortunately also, some pristine areas still persist and others can be reclaimed. If we can successfully preserve what has not yet been altered and give nature a chance at restoring what has been compromised, the land can have a brighter future. Local land trusts are a prime facilitator of that endeavor. He would hope to actively engage in that process through BRC.
Susan lives in Blowing Rock and has a farm in Avery County that is in a conservation easement. She fell in love with the mountains when she lived in Idaho in the late 1970′s and has seen the need to protect our land ever since. Knowing that uncontrolled development would destroy our lands and natural habitat, she has been an advocate for saving our resources for future generations. It is her way of “paying it forward” to people yet to come. She is a CPA and has served on several non profit boards over the years, and is currently a guardian ad litem where she advocates for at risk children in court. Married to Bob for 36 years, they have 2 grown sons.
Fred Pfohl and his wife, Marjorie Pfohl, have operated Fred’s General Mercantile on Beech Mountain for 33 years. Fred and Marjorie have five children and ten grandchildren. Fred has lived and worked on Beech Mountain for 42 years. While attending and after graduating from ASU with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Fred worked on the ski slopes and was eventually offered full-time employment.
Fred gives generously of his time to efforts on Beech Mountain. Fred has served on the Volunteer Fire Department since 1972. He served as Mayor of the Town of Beech Mountain for four two-year terms and currently is Chairman of the Recreation Board of Beech Mountain.
Fred’s appreciation for the environment began in his youth- camping trips with his grandfather and memorable experiences with the Boy Scouts. Fred’s grandfather’s hobby, planting rare trees in Old Salem, NC taught Fred what one motivated person can do when they set their mind to it. Fred spent a lot of time with his grandfather, travelling to North Carolina’s mountains to hike and camp. As Fred got older, and watched so much land go from family farm to commercial and residential development, his interest in the environment evolved.
Chuck Smith grew up in the North Carolina Piedmont, in Greensboro and currently resides in the Pottertown community of Watauga/Ashe co, NC. His undergraduate degree is from Appalachian State University, BA History, concentrating in Intellectual and Environmental history. He received his MA also from Appalachian in Technology with a concentration in Renewable Energy Technology with a focus on Solar Energy Systems and Alternative Building Practice.
He later studied at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Science and Technology Studies, an Interdisciplinary Studies Doctorate program focusing on the philosophy and sociology of Nature, History of Environmentalism, and Sustainability Studies.
Chuck has taught numerous classes on myriad topics at Appalachian State and Virginia Tech. He is currently a faculty member of Sustainable Development Department at ASU and served as its director from 2002-2011.
He is a carpenter by trade and continues to practice that craft. He enjoys reading, backpacking, hiking, and working his small farm in Ashe Co. NC.
From his academic work as well as his passion for the outdoors Chuck was motivated to work for land protection and the conservation of working lands and enjoys helping the Blue Ridge Conservancy continue to engage their mission.