From farm to city

Louisville’s Glassworks
gives farmers a new market

Produce sellers from Oldham,
Trimble, Henry participating

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE (June 2003) – With alternative farming methods eagerly sought after, overproduction without a viable market has been a concern of area vegetable farmers. A solution has been found within a co-op program, where urban and rural tastes can complement one another.
Steve Smith is a Trimble County, Ky., farmer who was instrumental in beginning a 10-family farm group known as the Family Farm Coop. Smith recognized the need for regional farmers to band together to establish a co-op with members from Oldham, Trimble and Henry counties.

Glassworks farmer

Trimble, Henry County farmers
are selling their crops at
Louisville Glassworks.

The co-op has set up shop for the 2003 growing season, May 7 to Nov. 5, in the Glassworks neighborhood along the western edge of downtown Louisville. After a successful 2002 market year, the co-op has entered its second year of providing farm fresh produce to subscribers, who generally live or work along Eighth and Market streets.
The Tobacco Settlement Program initiated Smith’s participation in this project. Almost immediately after the program began, Smith said, “I was asked to be on a local county Phase I board.”
By doing his homework, Smith realized there were model agricultural programs for beef and forage, but none for horticulture. With Trimble County being one of the largest vegetable growers in the state, Smith decide to meet with veteran vegetable growers to discuss what he termed “a huge problem, a real dilemma.”
The major problem these farmers faced was diversification. Tobacco growers were trying to assimilate into the vegetable market, which at the time was a poor market. On top of this, it was not uncommon to have one good crop year in every five, said Smith.
With no new market on the horizon, Smith said the co-op was created out of the need to provide an option for these farmers. Their goal is to stress produce grown from local family farms, not factory-grown or produce shipped in from out of state. Smith termed this endeavor, “Earth friendly, and farmer friendly.”
To turn this venture into a profit, the group needed marketing skills. Overcoming production problems, they experienced an excess of vegetables with no place to sell them. They discussed the option of holding produce auctions, going so far with this popular idea as to have experts come in to talk to them about it.
About this time, Smith ran in to an old friend, Lynn Winters, owner of Lynn’s Paradise Café on Barrett Avenue in Louisville. Winters told Smith about the Glassworks development, and Smith quickly visualized it as a viable outlet for the co-op.
Smith met with Glassworks developer, architect Bill Weyland, because “what (Weyland) was doing made sense.” Smith agreed with Weyland’s concept of “bringing people downtown to prevent urban sprawl.”
Weyland had completed renovation of the former Snead Manufacturing Building at Ninth and Market streets in fall 2001. Known as the Glassworks, the building contains 36 apartments, 50,000 square feet of office space and 30,000 square feet of art studios and retail space. He has also renovated the former Goodwill Industry building at 214 S. Eighth St., a project containing 15,000 square feet of office space rented to four small firms.
Weyland said he is currently in the third phase of his renovation plans, focusing his attention on the South side of Market Street. His long-term goal is to provide 400 loft residences in the form of apartments and condos, in the Glassworks neighborhood. He views the Glassworks area as a focal point for such nearby tourist attractions as the Louisville Slugger Bat Museum.
The Glassworks building itself houses an unusual glass studio complex. Glass art can be seen from conception to finishing touch. The first two floors contain the studios of several artists who work in all forms of glass art, and two retail galleries.
Glassworks offers classes and workshops. Tours of the studios are available, where visitors can even view the ancient art of glassblowing. The Marta Hewitt Gallery, which moved to its present location from Cincinnati, exhibits the work of national and internationally recognized contemporary glass artists.
Weyland said he wants to “create an area that’s unique.” He said that a market presence was needed to provide healthy produce for residents and employees in the area. The addition of the co-op and its services are “a really great thing,” he said.
The co-op sells their produce every Wednesday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Subscribers can sign up for the whole year or by the week. The cost for the season is $450, breaking down to $17 a week.
“You subscribe to a service and get a box of vegetables,” said Henry County agricultural marketer Doug Bates. “It’s a nice concept.”
Smith said the co-op’s long-term goal is to establish a year-round retail store, stocked with a complete supply of farm products. He said there is a demand for canned and fresh food. Plans for a winter greenhouse are also in the works to provide fresh salad greens throughout the year.
The latter two ideas would rectify another problem the farmers had faced – they were producing crops at the wrong time of the year. “We need to change the way we produce, our crops, volume and market,” said Smith.
“We’ve discovered that the citizens of Kentucky do care,” said Smith. “They can’t support (the co-op project) if the option is not there.” In preserving the family farm through their co-op, the group is preserving “a valuable tradition that is being lost in a hurry.”

For more information, contact Smith at (502) 255-7519, Weyland at (502) 584-5523, or visit the Glassworks website at: www.louisvilleglassworks.com.

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