Agriculture has long been the foundation of Owen County, Kentucky. Since the conception of “Sweet Owen”, crops like tobacco were cornerstones in the financial development of agricultural infrastructure and community. Recently, thanks to the Leadership Owen County program, eager community leaders were able to become exposed and educated on the vitality of our county’s agricultural progression. These experiences opened our eyes and generated the reality and vision of what’s in store for the future of this agricultural oasis in the “Golden Triangle.”
Tobacco has long survived as a financial crutch of central Kentucky. Until the late 1920’s, Kentucky. Until the late 1920’s, Kentucky produced more tobacco than any other state. Burley and dark tobacco production still remain Kentucky’s specialty with the Commonwealth ranking second in total pounds annually. While we’re running in close second for total tobacco production, Kentucky does maintain more tobacco farms than any other state. Every corner of our Commonwealth is well represented by our many tobacco growers.
Since the early farming settlers called this area home, little has changed over the years regarding the importance of agriculture. Kentuckians still take pride in reaping high quality yield from the land, often in a very labor intensive manner requiring an abundance of pride, dedication and hard work. This also seems to apply in the growth and development of our beloved “Sweet Owen” today. All across our county one can find a plethora of agricultural varieties being utilized for profit and pleasure. During the recent agriculture outing for Leadership Owen County, the diversification of our current agricultural portfolio was thriving and quite impressive. Orchards, vegetable and flower gardens, vineyards, tobacco fields, sheep farms, cattle farms and dairies connect the rolling hills and confluences of creeks and rivers that make up Owen County.
Our day began with Lydia Boutwell explaining her business and her passion for landscaping. We also heard from David Chappell of Chappell Farms and Dan Miller, manager of Eden Shale Farm under the Kentucky Beef Network. Clark Roberts, owner and operator of Four Seasons Landscaping, helped kick off our busy afternoon. Richard Sparrow explained the operations of his dairy farm and Teresa Biagi later showed us around Hazelfield Farms in Wheatley. Our last stop was the Ayres Orchard in Monterey where Larry Ayres was kind enough to teach us about his business. We’d also like to offer a special ‘thank you’ to the Owen County Homemakers who served us both breakfast and dinner using local Kentucky Proud products. Those meals were simply phenomenal.
Many of us learned more about businesses and farms that we’ve patronized for years while others of us got to tour operations we never even knew existed. What we did know was that agriculture has played a significant role in our county from the beginning. However, many of us learned for the first time about the diversity of Owen County’s agricultural portfolio. Most folds understand the important role tobacco has played in our communities but our rich soil allows for additional growth other than the common green leaf.
With a gorgeous day and immeasurable hospitality from our hosts it can easily be felt that Owen County is agriculturally thriving. The knowledge and integrity of these men and women in the community that obtain generations of “way of life” experience will weather the storms of ever changing social culinary flavors and fads. We are now in the generation of farm to table, high quality, and small batch produce fueled by free range desiring taste buds. Tobacco seems to be growing on every farm and gardens are plentiful in most back yards. The only thing constant in this world is change and Owen County’s agriculture performers are center stage. Our beautiful county has a rich agricultural heritage thanks to our hard working gardeners, landscape architects and farmers. The future of Owen county agriculture is in safe and calloused hands for generations to come.
Submitted by Wesley Petzinger and Mike Stafford