farm to city
gives farmers a new market
sellers from Oldham,
Trimble, Henry participating
Helen E. McKinney
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
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.
Henry County farmers
are selling their crops at
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 Smiths 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 Lynns 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 Weylands
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
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
Weyland said he wants to create an area thats 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. Its
a nice concept.
Smith said the co-ops 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,
Weve discovered that the citizens of Kentucky do care,
said Smith. They cant 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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