[soliloquy id=”9392″] Acquiring a green thumb doesn’t happen overnight. Learning how to care for the Earth is a process that can begin in childhood. Tallgrass Farm Foundation, a Blue Grass Energy member and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agricultural and environmental education resource model based in Mercer County, believes in helping little ones grow up to be good stewards of the Earth.
According to its Web site, Tallgrass practices “rural land use that is environmentally and culturally sustainable.” Key words are reclaim, preserve, and adapt. The landscape is rural and is marked with creeks, a stone root cellar, stone solstice sanctuary, and lots of barns, including what may well be the state’s oldest bank-style barn, a highly functional, two-level structure often built into the side of a hill. The Foundation is preserved in perpetuity through an agricultural conservation easement.
The property near Harrodsburg is owned by Lois Mateus and her husband, Tim Peters. Mateus grew up on a tobacco and dairy farm in Mercer County.
“In the 1950s, my father let Fox Creek RECC build a substation on his farm because he so wanted to bring more electric power to rural areas,” she notes. The family farm is not far from Tallgrass.
Although Mateus never intended to return to the farm, it is exactly where she wound up after retiring from a 26-year career at Brown-Forman in Louisville.
“We starting buying the land in 1993 and slowly have reclaimed it from trash trees, overgrown cedars, and junk left scattered about. Everything in the closely connected farm compound has been built since then,” she says.
This 1,000-acre “back yard,” with its rolling farmland, nature trails, native forests, wildflower fields, vegetable and herb gardens, and ponds, is the perfect setting for schoolchildren to learn about Kentucky’s agricultural heritage and sustainable agricultural methods. Gardening and cooking classes, conservation workshops, farm tours, lectures, and nature walks are among the educational offerings.
Tallgrass is not open to the public; however, the organization has relationships with several schools and has custom programming. Tallgrass outings are generally limited to small school groups of up to 24 (the perfect size for hay wagon rides) and are typically geared to grades four to six, although high school groups have come to the farm as well. Workshops and food and garden classes must be scheduled well in advance.
“Basically, we are recycling the Earth’s resources and respecting the rural landscape,” Mateus says.
This, along with an understanding of their connection to the Earth and sustainable agricultural practices, are the lessons Tallgrass is trying to teach children.
For more information on creating your own backyard retreat, read Surrender to Backyard Retreats.
Kathy Witt from March 2016 Issue
[x_icon_list_item type=”camera”] Lois Mateus[/x_icon_list_item]