Here comes the bride—and her entourage of Kentucky Proud members: winery reception site, caterer, florist. The bridal party was there too, of course, but for this Kentucky-proud bride and groom, showing their love for Kentucky Proud-certified products and producers was a key part of their wedding planning.
When Justin Conley, a deputy with the Fleming County Sheriff’s Department, popped the question to Christa Corbin in December 2017, both said “I do” to showcasing Kentucky Proud members at their wedding, which took place 10 months later, on October 6, 2018.
“We’re both from a small town and we always knew we wanted to get married in our hometown,” says Christa Conley, a third-grade teacher at Mason County Intermediate School, who lives in Ewing and is a consumer-member of Fleming-Mason Energy. “The products and vendors we chose were all local, all people we knew.”
As it turned out, all also were members of Kentucky Proud, the official state marketing program for agricultural products. Echo Valley Winery near Flemingsburg was the site of the reception. Cowan Station Honey Farm provided the catering. Grimes Greenhouse Nursery and Florist handled the flowers. All are served by Fleming-Mason Energy.
“As part-time beef cattle farmers, we understand the idea of giving back to the community,” Conley adds. “It was really important for us to give back and support local agriculture.”
The couple’s commitment to incorporating Kentucky Proud into their big day resulted in them winning the Kentucky Proud Weddings Contest, a way to recognize couples that make Kentucky Proud members a priority in their wedding planning. The prize? $5,000.
Kentucky Proud Weddings was established to give Kentucky’s farm families a way to earn a share of the $72 billion wedding industry and connect altar-bound couples to member businesses providing wedding services and provisions, says Sean Southard, director of communications at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
In February 2018, Kentucky Proud launched its weddings website, listing members offering everything from farm venues for weddings and receptions to local foods and beverages to flowers, gifts and other goods and services.
“Considering I’ve never won anything in my life, it was very shocking and also very humbling,” says Conley, a member of Kentucky Proud herself, as well as the Kentucky Farm Bureau. “Winning the contest meant the world to us on our special day and just put the icing on top of everything.”
It also will help them start their life as first-time homeowners, she adds.
“It was eye-opening to me just how much in your local community is Kentucky Proud and how much you can give back when you shop local,” she says. “Seek out the area for those Kentucky Proud vendors and think of ways to incorporate local products and vendors. It’s very important to give back.”
One of those vendors, Cowan Station Honey Farm in Ewing, has only recently stepped into the catering realm; in fact, the Conley wedding was just the second major event farm owners Regina and Bruce Barnes have catered. And it was quite a spread, with fried chicken and pulled pork entrées accompanied by all the sides.
“We are a mom-and pop-owned business and take pride in the job at hand, using as many local farm products as we can and not taking shortcuts,” says Regina Barnes.
The farm itself has been in business for 10 years, producing jams, jellies, pickles and, of course, lots of honey, thanks to 20 beehives. In addition to catering weddings, Cowan Station also makes wedding cakes.
The backdrop for the Conley wedding was a beautiful circa-1940s thoroughbred breeding barn, sitting amid 10 acres of grapes and warmed with strands of white lights and rustic “Watering Hole” bar.
The vineyard was established in 2005 by the Watson family—David and Sue and sons Stephen and Bradley—who added a winery in 2014, the same year Echo Valley Winery & Vineyard became a Kentucky Proud member.
Echo Valley hosts more than 20 weddings a year and also provides catering services.
More Proud examples
Kentucky Proud member Briar Rose Garden, served by Warren RECC, a cut flower and berry farm tucked near the banks of the Barren River, opened up its flower fields as a you-pick farm in the summer of 2017.
Wedding and event floral design services are offered year-round, with flowers from the garden in season and from a Bowling Green supplier out of season.
“In addition, we provide field-fresh flowers to brides-to-be wanting a DIY experience, floral and event designers looking for garden flowers to augment traditional florist selections and locals seeking an outing in the country to experience picking their own flowers in a natural setting,” says owner Rosemarie Wurth-Grice.
Evans Orchard, served by Blue Grass Energy, a Kentucky Proud member known for kid-pleasing attractions like Big Wheel and pedal cart tracks, swings and tire climbs, hay castle and corn bin play boxes, also hosts about 25 weddings each year. The fifth-generation farm, stretching over 175 acres near Georgetown, offers its Event Barn for weddings scheduled April through October.
“There are a ton of great event venues in central Kentucky,” says Jenn Abney, Evans Orchard event coordinator. “What sets Evans Orchard apart is that it is family owned and operated. We really want each couple that gets married here to create their own special memories. Sometimes, a couple may have gotten engaged here or maybe came apple picking at the orchard on their first date.”
Because of the farm’s agricultural theme park setting, many couples who get married at the barn return with their kids for playground fun or fall pumpkin picking.
“It’s fun for us to see their families grow,” says Abney. “And it’s really special to have this place be a part of their story.”
Kentucky Proud members say “I do” to that.