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Manager of historic Jersey herd named to Ag Hall of Fame

MILLS RIVER —Michael R. "Mike" Corn, who manages the historic Jersey dairy herd that Biltmore Estate owner George Vanderbilt brought to Asheville from New York in the late 19th century, was inducted into the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame during the WNC Communities' 28th annual ceremony at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research & Extension Center.


The annual event recognizes stewards of Western North Carolina's agribusiness sector and honors the visionaries and leaders of the agriculture industry.

A pioneer in the dairy industry in Western North Carolina, Corn has made significant impacts and has been a major influence in the dairy industry in Western North Carolina. Not only a successful dairy farmer who cares for the historic Biltmore Jersey herd, Mr. Corn has been instrumental in helping others throughout the region by generously providing information, advice and support to small farmers, rural communities, school groups, scout groups, local and out-of-state 4H clubs and FFA teams.

A native of Asheville, Corn attended T.C. Roberson High School and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Mike earned a bachelor's degree in Animal Science at N.C. State University and started his career as a herdsman.

Since 1984, Mike Corn has managed the historic Biltmore Jersey herd, one of the three longest operating herds in the United States. When the Biltmore dairy was closed and the Jersey herd was sold, a special arrangement was made to house some of the young heifers off the estate at a local dairy. That herd has grown to over 800 head and is now housed at Corn's Small Acres Farm in Mills River. This Biltmore herd is one of the largest Jersey herds in the state and has produced one of the top Jersey sires in the United States during the 1990s. Groups from across the state, nation and world have visited Corn’s farm bringing attention to WNC agriculture, and dairying in particular.

One of the more pioneering and unique parts of his present dairy operation is his feeding program. Mike has partnered with local vegetable growers to feed non-saleable fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and squash, to the herd. He also uses by-products of the local breweries and cider production as ration for the herd. This feeding program has drawn local and national notice as being forward thinking—and the animals love it!

Corn has also been active in working with youth. He has hosted numerous school groups, scout groups, and in 2017, a bus load of 4Hers from Ohio. FFA teams from high schools all throughout WNC come to his farm to practice their dairy judging skills. “He has supplied several of our students with dairy heifers to show at the local livestock fairs in order to gain experience in the show arena,” said Sarah Rhymer, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser in Transylvania County. She continued “he offers once in a lifetime learning opportunities to students and the community.”

Corn is active in WNC dairy shows for many years and has developed the “Mooternity Ward” at the WNC Mountain State Fair, which has become one of its biggest agricultural attractions. This display educates the public about dairy animals and allows visitors to witness the birth of calves.

In addition, Corn has been the recipient of many awards and accolades including the 1994 WNC Dairyman of the year, the 2008 Bill Martin Award for Service to Mountain State Fair and the 2018 Marvin E. Senger Distinguished Dairy Farmer Award. He was WNC’s first board member of the NC Dairy Producers Association, board member of the NC and United Dairy Herd Improvement Association, founder of the Little Mountaineer Scholarship Fund and Superintendent of Mountain State Fair Dairy Shows.

Also inducted this year was William Holbrook. WNC Communities is honored to award stellar leaders in agriculture with a plaque on the prestigious WNC Agricultural Hall of Fame Wall located in the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research & Extension Center in Mills River.