Dr. Christof den Biggelaar, associate professor in the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development, was awarded the Charles Church food and farm stewardship award at the 61st Farm-City Banquet at the Boone United Methodist Church on Nov. 3. The award is presented annually to recognize significant contributions to agriculture in the region.
“The award is named after one of the county’s first farmers to convert from tobacco to organic production, and who did so with Christof’s help,” said Dr. Rick Rheingans, chair of the Department of Sustainable Development. “Christof does amazing and innovative work, and I’m really thrilled he received the award.”
den Biggelaar teaches and provides overall direction at the Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm at the Blackburn-Vannoy property in Fleetwood. The farm is also used to showcase sustainable agriculture techniques, including intercropping, permaculture design, crop rotation, sustainable livestock husbandry and more. Several sustainable development courses, such as applied farm operations and silviculture, meet regularly at the farm.
More than just a teaching tool, the farm is also engaged with the community, offering workshops, researching sustainable livestock production and forest management, and providing opportunities for community supported agriculture (CSA).
den Biggelaar, a native of the Netherlands, came to Appalachian State University in 2000 after completing his master’s and Ph.D. at Michigan State University and spending two years in Kenya as a consultant for the World Agroforestry Center and FAO's Forest, Trees and People Programme. He has coordinated the department’s Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture concentration since 2008.
“The award came as a surprise to me, but I feel especially honored as it is now called the Charles Church farm and food stewardship award,” remarked den Biggelaar. “Charles was the first recipient of the award in 2005, and he was a good friend, a mentor on how to farm in this area and a collaborator on the Teaching and Research Farm when it was based in Valle Crucis. That was his nature – he had done so for many farmers over the years, whether young starting idealists wanting to farm in the area or for established conventional tobacco farmers transitioning to organic vegetable production.”
About the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University prepares students to thoughtfully analyze human development while focusing on the applied practice of pursuing transformative, community-driven development and social change. It offers a Bachelor of Science degree in sustainable development with concentrations in agroecology and sustainable agriculture; community, regional and global development; and environmental studies; as well as a Bachelor of Arts and minor in sustainable development.