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Organic Producer Profiles (Kentucky)

Elmwood Stock Farm: Georgetown, Kentucky

Cecil and Kay BellElmwood Stock Farm is located in the Bluegrass farmland of Scott County. It is a diversified operation that is owned and operated by a multi-generational family who have been farming in the region for more than six generations. The largest organic farm in Kentucky, 236 of the farm’s 375 acres will be certified organic by Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) in 2005.

Farm owners Cecil and Kay Bell reside and farm full-time at Elmwood. Cecil oversees the cattle herd, makes hay, and maintains pastures, barns, and on-farm construction projects. John and Melissa Bell, Cecil’s son and daughter-in-law, are another leg of the farm stool. John oversees all of the vegetable and burley tobacco production, partners in the cattle herd, makes compost, and manages the on-farm labor. John’s sister and her husband, Ann and Mac Stone, are more visible at farmers’ markets. They see to the organic poultry, sheep flock, farmers’ markets, and CSA pickups of Elmwood products. Mac is employed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as the Division Director of Value Added Plant Production, which includes the organic program.

This farm has always rotated crops, used cover crops in the off season, “rested” the fields, and maintained livestock as part of the mix, in an effort to help build on the high quality land of central Kentucky. Production on Elmwood Stock Farm now embraces the experiences of earlier generations within new technologies offered today. Electric fencing helps keep pastured poultry safe from predators; trickle irrigation conserves water and reduces conditions favorable for disease; and lab testing identifies microbial life in the compost. They do not produce all of their crops organically. “Each year we learn more production skills that enable us to produce more organic vegetables in Kentucky’s humidity. But we cannot successfully grow everything organically . . . yet.”

Long a producer of Black Angus cattle breeding stock, Elmwood still sells breeding bulls. Complementing Elmwood’s cattle herd, a flock of Dorset-Suffolk cross sheep are grazed in a carefully planned rotation to produce spring lambs.

The owners of Elmwood Stock Farm are proud of their traditional approach to sustainable agriculture:

Some say that many of the organic practices we employ today are old fashioned. Our view is that our “old fashioned” practices of diversifying crops and livestock in seasonal rotation, building good soil with compost and cover crops, letting poultry out of the houses onto the pastures, and producing vegetables and fruits in season with the sun and rains are successful.

Elmwood Stock Farm sells through Kentucky farmers’ markets in Lexington and Georgetown, and through a Community Supported Agriculture venture (CSA), started in 2005. The CSA served 38 members in 2005, but plans are to increase this number to 150 members in 2006. Organic tobacco in Kentucky, including theirs, is marketed to American Spirit. Although the farm is not open to the public on a regular basis, CSA subscribers are annually hosted at a special farm tour and open house.

Elmwood Stock Farm received a Master Conservationist award from the National Resource and Conservation District of Scott County in October 2004.

Contact: Mac Stone 3520 Paris Road Georgetown, KY 40324 Organic Meat and Produce 859.621.0755 502-867-2046 FAX www.elmwoodstockfarm.com

Peacemeal Organic Gardens: St. Catharine, Kentucky

A Project of Saint Catharine Farm and Dominican Earth Education Center

Peacemeal Organic Gardens photoThe Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine was founded in 1822. The Sisters were given 100 acres of land that they worked from the beginning. In the early 1980s, a Kentucky State Forester helped to initiate the Timberland Stand Improvement program at St. Catharine Farm, with a grant from the U.S. Forestry Department. In 1998-99 earth retreat cabins were built using ecological design, including composting toilets, solar energy, and wood stoves. In 1999 a new recycling center, a resource library, and an Earth Center office were added to the farm. The staff has been running a children’s garden project since the summer of 2001, and an expanded organic garden project was launched in October 2002. Most recently, the project’s gardener, Chad Jubela, took a course in permaculture. A grant received in July 2003 from The Kentucky Division of Forestry will enable the Earth Center to implement permaculture principles in the garden. The Earth Center is also weighing possibilities for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project and new earth cabins in the near future. The process of application to Kentucky Department of Agriculture for organic certification of the gardens is underway.

Child in the Peacemeal Organic GardensThe Sisters practice sustainable living, environmental education, and earth spirituality on their 700 acres of land, where there is also a college, health care facility, working farm, Dominican Earth Center, and the Congregation’s Motherhouse. Their ecological education center includes 150 acres of woodland, 170 acres of pasture, 10 acres of organic gardens, and a 7-acre model of sustainable living called Jonquil Ridge. In addition to making a walking trail with Earth stations through one of their three timberland preserves, the Sisters placed 15 acres of former cropland in the Conservation Reserve Program. At the present time, the 10- acre garden, called Peacemeal Organic Gardens, provides fresh organic produce to Sansbury Care Center, a state-licensed health care center, and to local residents through a farmers’ market. The gardens are used to educate local Hispanic children about Earth stewardship, gardening, and basic ecological principles. In cooperation with the University of Kentucky, more than 170 acres was devoted to demonstrate ecologicallysound intensive grazing techniques. Guided by the Congregation’s Vision Statement, which calls the Sisters to contemplate the interconnectedness of God’s creation, to live simply and sustainably, to oppose violence, and to transform oppressive structures, the Land Trust Committee is working to develop a land ethic that will help protect the ecological integrity of their land into the future. The Coordinator of the Earth Center also writes a monthly “Earth Alert” column for four local newspapers (Springfield, Lebanon, Bardstown, and Louisville).

Contact: Sr. Rose Marie Cummins, 859-336-7778 2645 Bardstown Rd. St. Catharine, KY 40061 rosieop@kyol.net

Partner Organizations: The Dominican Alliance Kentucky Care for the Earth Committee University of Kentucky Extension Service Kentucky Division of Forestry

Sheltowee Farm, Inc.: Lexington, Kentucky

The Webbs
The Webbs: Hyatt, age 6; Harrison, age 8; and Hunter, age 3; Billy and Becky

Bill and Rebecca Webb (Billy and Becky) grow specialty shiitake and oyster mushrooms at Sheltowee Farm in Bath County, Kentucky. They also take advantage of what Mother Nature has to offer seasonally, wildcrafting and marketing morels, chanterelles, hen of the woods, and chicken of the woods wild mushrooms. Sheltowee Farm, a 200-acre family-owned and -operated farm, is located in the heart of Daniel Boone National Forest and encompasses hardwood forests, bottomlands, and a 10-acre lake. Sheltowee Farm is certified organic by Indiana Certified Organic.

Billy’s father, Elmer Webb, purchased Sheltowee Farm to be near the family and is an untiring farm worker. Rebecca’s mother and father, Sharon and Jerry Phillips, spend so much time working at the farm that the Webb’s three young sons believe they live there. Billy says the farm could not function without the three elders who take part in everything from drilling mushroom logs to ongoing construction. Additionally, the Webbs say they found the perfect employee, Angelica Hernandez, after years of searching.

One problem Billy identified is a reliable supply of organic materials for production. Currently, there are more than 18,000 shiitake logs on the farm. Billy says that in addition to following loggers in the area himself, he pays $1.00 per log to locals and is proud of the farm’s contribution to the local economy. They use 600 bales of certified organic wheat straw and certified organic rye grain to produce the oyster mushrooms but can find no straw supply in Kentucky. To get the wheat straw, Bill and Becky travel 15 hours round trip to another state, five times a year. They would like to find an in-state supply and further contribute to Kentucky’s farming economy. Also on the wish list is a custom harvester to combine the wheat that could be grown on their own 50 acres of certified land. The Webbs would use the straw, and the harvester could have the wheat. This family is all about cooperation.

The family built an environmentally controlled mushroom house before they had any customers, recognizing that the ability to supply a quality product year-round would give them an advantage in the marketplace. Another marketing tool that the Webbs use to secure their market is to produce highest quality mushrooms. Their organic certification helps them to compete with lower priced imports from China.

"All marketing was self-taught; we feel it is common sense. Becky and I work as a team. We study each chef prior to meeting them, and we always go in together for meetings. We started two years ago with one restaurant, and now we sell to 44." The farm also does custom growing for restaurants.

Becky received a USDA Fellowship grant and is now an Entrepreneurial Coach. She accomplished this while farming, raising three little boys, and carrying the fourth. She will be updating their Web site in the near future. Becky’s Web site features farm photos, a chef’s survey, and recipes for their fabulous mushrooms.

Bill and Rebecca Webb
4793 Firebrook Blvd.
Lexington, KY 40513
859-219-3400; 859-230-0780(c)

Sylvanus Farm CSA: Burkesville, Kentucky

Todd Elliott and Sarah PaulsonSylvanus Farm CSA, in South-central Kentucky’s Cumberland County, is located on a curve of the Cumberland River called Salt Lick Bend. Certified by the Ohio Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), Todd Elliott and Sarah Paulson cultivate about 5 acres of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit on their 23-acre farm. They sell crops through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation, with delivery to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee. Boxed, mixed produce is delivered weekly for 28 weeks from late April through early November. Their members can eat fresh, organic, locally-grown produce usually less than 24 hours after harvest. Interns assist through the growing season, trading their labor for on-the-job education.

Sylvanus Farm specializes in growing European, Asian, traditional, and heirloom varieties. Todd and Sarah say, “Because we operate on a small scale, we can bring you gourmet and heirloom varieties that require too much handling for large grocery producers.” They have a small, mostly Black Angus beef herd and sell natural meat and eggs. They have too few acres to produce their own hay and cite a lack of local organic hay and grain as their main obstacle to certifying livestock. CSA members are welcome to the farm and receive a weekly e-mail newsletter that includes farm news and recipes. Members are encouraged to make requests for favorite varieties and give taste-test feedback. Sarah says the newsletter helps her maintain farm records, as it includes reports of the produce available and describes important farm activities.

Row covers extend the season in the springRow covers extend the season in the spring, by warming up soil for early planting, and in the fall to conserve warmth. Covers also make it possible to grow crops such as eggplant that would otherwise be consumed by pests such as Colorado potato beetles. High humidity in their river bottom location can create blight problems for tomatoes and melons. They use succession planting of many crops but will skip successions during peak pest periods.

Sylvanus Farm is 2.5 hours from Nashville and 1.5 hours from Bowling Green. They say proximity to urban centers is essential for a CSA to work, but they could not buy higher-priced land nearer the cities. Many CSA’s opt out of organic certification because they say they know their members personally and don’t need it, but Todd notes several reasons to certify. Even though they know their members well, Todd says that certi- fication is important to many of their customers, as it distinguishes them as the only certified CSA in the area. Some potential members contact them specifically because they are organic. Also, if they want to expand to other types of markets, certification will be required.

Challenges to certification? Todd says, “I don’t think it is that hard to certify.” Here are some tips from Sarah and Todd for growers considering the step to organic production:

For more information about the farm or a CSA membership, contact:
Todd Elliott and Sarah Paulson
6980 Salt Lick Rd
Burkesville, KY 42717

Buffalo Trace Distillery: Frankfort, Kentucky

A Kentucky Distillery with an Innovative Product

Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley educates a guest.
Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley educates a guest at "Whiskies of the World" in San Francisco.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, award-winning makers of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, is a family-owned operation based in Franklin County, Kentucky. The distillery’s rich tradition dates back to 1787, with the first modern distillery built on the site in 1857. Buffalo Trace is a fully operational distillery, producing bourbon and vodka on site, and was recently named to the National Historic Register. The distillery has been making Certified Organic Rain Vodka in Franklin County, Kentucky, since 2002.

Buffalo Trace Distillery has won more international awards since 1990 than any other North American distillery, earning more than 85 distinctions in national and international competitions. When the 2005 winners of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition were announced, several spirits from the Buffalo Trace family topped the list receiving Gold Medals, and Organic Rain Vodka took a Double Gold Medal.

Organic Rain Vodka is made from scratch at Buffalo Trace Distillery, using 100 percent white organic corn. “It is truly a unique vodka,” according to Elizabeth Cawood, Vodka Brand Manager. “The distillery is often commended for the high-quality bourbon we produce, but we’re also quite proud of our vodka, and to win the Double Gold medal is really a validation of all the effort that goes into every batch of Rain.” Organic Rain Vodka is distilled seven times under the direction of Master Distiller Harlan Wheatley.

Director Drew Mayville identified the short supply of organic grains for distillers as an opportunity for organic grain producers. There are no instate sources of organic white corn.

For more information about Organic Rain Vodka contact:
Angela H. Traver
1001 Wilkenson Blvd.
Frankfort, KY 40601
502-875-5553 FAX

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