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Farm Fun

Mountain Roots in Barbourville

Farm Fun

“Where the grass, gravel, and blacktop meet” is where you can put your feet up and escape from life’s cares at Herb Farm @ Strodes Run in Maysville.

The family farm has been open to the public for six years, owner Sharon Milward says. Whether you’re hungry for information about the area’s history, including an ancient Native American trail to Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, or for the home-cooked specialties served up fresh daily at Sweet Annie Café, Strodes Run has them both.

“You can eat on the front porch and you can watch chickens free range around you while you’re eating,” Milward suggests.

Other animal companions at the farm include a retired mule from the Grand Canyon and Molly the Scottish Highlander cow, as well as dogs, cats, donkeys, goats, and horses.

The Cherokee Stoneware Studio opened at the farm this year with pottery classes starting soon, and a regional farmer’s market is on-site with produce, crafts, jellies, jams, honey from the farm’s beekeeping operations, and fresh herbs.

In Shepherdsville, Anna Bleemel is the fourth generation in her family since 1816 to own Historic Slow Poke Farm, and she, her husband Hill, and their children, who’ve helped restore the property, don’t mind sharing the beauty of its 240 acres with visitors on a drop-in basis.

The working farm produces beef cattle, corn, tobacco, soybeans, alfalfa, fresh produce, eggs, and hay. The farm’s Antiques and Such store operates in a former smokehouse and now contains crafts and antiques, and an accompanying sweet shop offers a tempting assortment of cookies, candies, and pies. Catering is available for groups of up to 35 people by reservation—call for information about monthly home-cooked buffets and join them for their weekend fall festivals starting this month.

“Make some priceless memories at Slow Poke Farm this fall,” Anna adds.

At Lavender Hills of Kentucky in Brooksville, 14 varieties of lavender are grown, says co-owner Denise Scaringi, who with her mother, Judith Brothers, opened Kentucky’s first commercial lavender farm two years ago.

Lavender has long been used in perfumes and aromatherapy preparations, medicinally to promote relaxation and cure a variety of ailments, and in flavoring foods.

Guided tours are offered, along with a variety of workshops to teach guests how to make everything from lavender wands and wreaths to lavender-inspired recipes.

Scaringi says she decided to take the farm in a new direction from its history of growing tobacco and raising livestock after reading an article about a lavender farm in Washington state. With the support of her parents and siblings, she set about researching how to establish one herself.

A U-pick patch has been planted and will be blooming and ready for lavender gathering in mid-June 2008. As her family’s operation has grown, earlier this year Denise and her husband Gerry bought a farm a mile away from the original farm site and are working to renovate an old farmhouse for a future expanded gift shop, and to create a lavender labyrinth for people to navigate as a mental challenge or to simply “lose themselves” in the scent.

“The labyrinth is a meditative thing and the lavender just works so well with that,” she says.


Herb Farm @ Strodes Run
7155 Strodes Run Road
Maysville, KY 41056
(606) 742-2000
Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday–Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Sweet Annie Café is open the same days/hours. The farm offers herb barn, catered meeting space by reservation, pottery studio with classes starting soon, antique shop, farmer’s market, beekeeping operations, and animal tours with goats, mules, horses, and a Scottish Highlander cow. Equine lessons $12/each, with reservation required but no minimum class size. Fourth annual Honey Festival at Herb Farm @ Strodes Run is October 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Historic Slow Poke Farm
8910 Cedar Grove Road
Shepherdsville, KY 40165
(502) 921-9632
Slow Poke Farm is located in Bullitt County, nine miles east on Highway 480 off I-65, exit 116. Historic home, family graveyard, working farm, fresh produce and egg sales, craft/antique shop (call for hours), monthly buffets, and catering available for group events by reservation. Farm open to public on drop-in basis. Fall field trips for groups and school tours by reservation. Fall festivals start September 21 and every Friday-Sunday through October with hayrides, U-pick pumpkins, bonfires, music, fall decorations, and more. October 7 is the annual car show.

Lavender Hills of Kentucky
229 Conrad Ridge Road
Brooksville, KY 41004
(606) 735-3355
Open weekends only June-October, 12 noon to 6 p.m. Or call for an appointment for guided tours and to learn more about workshop schedules. Gift shop on-site. Free admission.

Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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Mountain Roots in Barbourville

Ask any Kentuckian to name the first man to explore the state, and the response is likely to be “Why, Daniel Boone, of course.” But in fact, the legendary Boone followed a path hewn 17 years earlier.

“When Dr. Thomas Walker and his surveying party came into Kentucky from Virginia in 1750 to find a place for settlement in the mountains, they built a small log cabin and stayed in it while they worked here,” says Betty Cole, director of Barbourville Tourism. “It was actually the first house built by a white man in Kentucky.”

Fortunately, Walker, a College of William and Mary-educated physician and friend of Thomas Jefferson’s dad and Meriwether Lewis’ granddad, left as proof a detailed journal describing his foray into the western wilderness of Kenta-Ke. According to one entry, during the four-month journey the six men killed 13 buffalo, eight elk, 53 bears, 20 deer, four wild geese, 150 or so wild turkeys, and additional small game for food, all with the help of his “Virginia hounds,” ancestors of the spunky Walker coonhound.

Today, a replica of the 8×12-foot, one-room home stands at the Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site near Barbourville, marking the original building site overlooking the river named by the explorer to honor the Duke of Cumberland.

Turns out this mountain town of 3,500 is big on firsts.

In September 1861, the first Civil War shot in the state was fired during the Battle of Barbourville. On September 15-16, this year’s annual re-enactment will draw some 400 re-enactors.

“It’s always like stepping back into the actual Civil War period,” Cole explains. “There’s a sutlers’ camp, period costumes, and authentic food. This year, for the first time, there’ll be a costumed period ball.”

In March, Barbourville was awarded a $50,000 Southeast Kentucky Tourism Development Association (SEKTDA) grant to develop its Civil War history.

“We were thrilled because this enables us to create a small Civil War interpretive park in town,” says Cole, who also serves as director of the local Renaissance on Main program.

That will add to the downtown’s ambience, which was spiffed up in the 1990s and is now certified with both the National Renaissance Program and the Kentucky Main Street Program. Mini pocket parks busting with Knockout roses greet visitors who attend its annual festivals.

Though he wasn’t the first, Daniel Boone did indeed explore the southeast Commonwealth. And since its 1948 beginnings on the campus of Union College, the Daniel Boone Festival has honored him each fall. At this year’s October 7-13 incarnation, members of North Carolina’s Cherokee Nation will participate in a Friday night feast and sign a “cane treaty” in which the citizens of Barbourville symbolically allow the tribe to continue harvesting local river cane to make baskets.

Now held downtown, the event features a quilt contest, long-rifle shootout, home-cooked food, a parade with old-fashioned floats, and townsfolk clad in period clothing in old carriages, wagons, and on horseback. Even the festival queen will dress in frontier attire.

And every April, when the Appalachians are decked out in colorful springtime attire, Union College hosts a Redbud Festival to celebrate quilts, with quilting classes, a crafters’ mall, storytelling, bluegrass music, dulcimer classes, and a barbecue. Mark your 2008 calendar for April 10-12.


Barbourville Tourism
(606) 545-9674

Battle of Barbourville Re-enactment
(606) 546-2616 or (606) 546-8949

Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site
(606) 546-4400

Home of two Kentucky governors and three United States congressmen, Barbourville has deep historic roots, and you can explore those and your own at the award-winning Knox County History Museum, which features Civil War memorabilia and is user-friendly for genealogical research.

Something for everyone
Not a history buff? No worries. Crafty shoppers can find Kentucky-made handcrafts at Kentucky Communities Craft Village, (800) 880-3152 or, a Community Action agency set in three old cabins filled with traditional mountain crafts. Watch weavers make rugs, while Theresa Polk creates gorgeous pottery gifts and you sate your sweet tooth with delicious homemade fudge.

Get out in the great outdoors on a Cumberland River canoe trip sponsored by Union College, the state’s first mountain college, and Canoe Kentucky, (888) Canoe-KY or Pump several miles of mountain bike trails at the college’s Turner Outdoor Center, (606) 546-1232 or Bob in the Lazy River at Brickyard Waves Waterpark, lower your putt-putt handicap, fish for that big one, or relax in a pedal boat, all in Barbourville City Park, where fireworks light Fourth of July skies and Santa ho-ho-hos amid twinkling lights each Christmas.

If buckin’ broncs move you, Dizney Mountain Rodeo, (606) 546-3210 or, features top-class bull riding from April through October and even a school to teach you how. Sate your wrangler’s appetite with home-cooked lunch downtown at Thelma’s. Then put up your dusty boots overnight at the Apple Tree Inn, (606) 546-5328 or

Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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