FROM LAURA'S LEAN BEEF TO LOCAL LAURA
By golly, I think we’ve got it!
Got what? you ask.
A farming model which could become a solution to many problems in our food system.
Here at Mt. Folly, we practice regenerative farming, and have coupled this with a local, shortened supply chain, creating a food system we can watch closely and manage safely.
My story has 38 years of twists and turns, with several major challenges. Corona virus… is the latest and most serious in the short term, though carbon pollution looms large behind it.
Before the outbreak, my husband drew this diagram, which is meant to be funny. We don’t think we are hillbillies, and we don’t farm with mules. We do have a still (three of them, actually), so he’s got the right idea. The crops we raise go right to our distillery and farm kitchen, or out in the mail to our national customers.
Here is the timeline which brought me here:
I started running a mid-sized family farm in 1982. There was trouble right from the beginning. The farm community was reeling from a drought and the government dairy buy-out, which caused cattle prices to plunge. In 1985, I founded the Laura's Lean Beef Company. We raised antibiotic and hormone-free natural beef. Three decades ago, I might have been ahead of the times, but the market caught up, and Laura's became a prosperous national company.
This time around (I had a serious horseback riding accident and sold the company in 2008), our purpose is to address climate change while staying in business. We have gone local, with a market garden, fertile grain fields, pastured beef, chickens and pork. We sell our farm production at Wildcat Willy’s Distillery and farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Winchester, Kentucky.
Laura’s Homestead Alternatives Hemp products are sold by mail nationally, and regionally in brick and mortar shops.
With the coronavirus outbreak, our national Homestead Alternatives customers started requesting a more extensive Mt. Folly food selection. Thus, we’ve added to the Laura’s Mercantile website more grits, cornmeal and heritage wheat for baking. We’ve got several more varieties of rye and wheat we’ll be harvesting in June.
At Mt. Folly, we have one of the largest organic grain farms in the state. We participate in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s hemp program. The health benefits of hemp led us to make Laura’s Hemp Chocolates, Laura's Homestead Alternatives CBD hemp products, and Laura's Canine Alternatives CBD for dogs. Mt. Folly’s heritage grains have their own fan club -- so much so that we built our own granary, where we mill cornmeal, grits, and other special grains, grown right here.
The mill has a second life – milling grains for distilling. Since the local economy is central to our plan, we’ve renovated an historical building in downtown Winchester with a distillery, a farm-to-table restaurant and a bakery. This we call Wildcat Willy's.
At Mt. Folly, we’ve restored a 1790’s pioneer log house, now with all the modern conveniences. The Homestead is the focal point of opening the farm to the public, which we do seasonally, in addition to events at planting, high summer and harvest. To make sure you are on the invitation list, join our email group.
As you can tell, we are always busy. But I don’t let a day go by without getting away. Often, I just hike to the back. There is barely cell phone coverage. It’s great.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
In the 1920's, her guests seated for a dinner party in the dining room of her
“Delco House,” Rachel Ware Bush watched the lights dim as she served the soup. She nodded to her husband to go outside and pour more kerosene in the generator to charge the battery bank in the basement.
She laughed, rapped her fork on her glass, raised a toast and christened the home place “Mt. Folly.” So goes the story my grandmother told me, and thus it stays: Mt. Folly Farm, cobbled together from pioneer holdings, Civil War exigencies, and Fortuna. When I was young, my friends told me that calling the farm Mt. Folly made light of the effort it took to farm organically.
Years later, I don’t take myself so seriously, though I still work like the devil.
And I’ve kept the name!