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Grand marshal 'surprised and honored' to be picked

Kenny Barnwell, shown at a forum on immigration reform in 2012, was named Grand Marshal of the King Apple Parade on Labor Day. Kenny Barnwell, shown at a forum on immigration reform in 2012, was named Grand Marshal of the King Apple Parade on Labor Day.

Kenny Barnwell, an Edneyville apple farmer, will represent the apple industry as the Grand Marshal of the King Apple Parade on Labor Day.

 

"I was very honored" to be recognized, Barnwell says. "I was surprised but I was truly honored by them recognizing me."
A fifth generation apple grower, Barnwell returned to farming after graduating from Greensboro College in 1980 with degrees in chemistry and biology.
"Growing apples was the last thing I thought I'd ever do," he says. "I had no intentions of being an apple grower but through college I saw that I missed the mountains, I really truly like the lifestyle and I like growing apples and I think I do a real good job at it."
The owner of Kenny Barnwell Orchards and co-owner of Ridgeview Apple Packers, Barnwell has been an active member of the North Carolina Apple Growers Association, Agribusiness Henderson County, the Henderson County Agriculture Advisory Committee and the Cooperative Extension Service Advisory Board.
Whenever the industry needs a spokesman — whether it's for disaster relief after a crop wipeout due to spring freeze, as in 2007 and 2012, or on labor issues — Barnwell has stepped up to speak for his fellow growers and his county.
Although he doesn't promote amnesty for illegal aliens, he says trained workers who are already in the agriculture business should be able to obtain citizen documentation so they can remain in the industry.
"We've got to import our food or we've got to import our workers," Barnwell says. "Personally I'd rather import my workers and know where my food's grown."
During his time in the industry, Barnwell has studied the effect of pesticides and helped work on state and federal reform on their use. Spraying only when insects are present on the crops, using target-specific pesticides and hanging mating disruption devices are just a few of the innovations Barnwell and others have advocated and practiced.
"It's not organic, what I do," he acknowledges, "but we call it a very reduced risk program. We put very limited pounds of active ingredients per acre that we spray."
Despite an early season freeze that cut the yield in some orchards, Barnwell promised a good crop of apples for the upcoming Apple Festival.
"From what I see we have got a really manageable sized crop and in places a real high quality fruit," he said. "There will be plenty of really good quality apples available for the festival."

Though each apple season brings trials and tribulations, there is nothing else Barnwell would rather be doing.
"We've been in the apple business a long time," he says, "and I enjoy doing what I'm doing."
Labor Day is a busy time of year on the apple farm as growers are ramping up toward the peak of the harvest. But Barnwell says he's looking forward to taking a day off for the King Apple Parade, not least because his grandchildren, ages 12, 11 and 8, can ride with him.