Young Farmers: Jennings Hollow Farm

{This is the fifth farm in the Young Farmers series.}

It would be quite possible to spend your entire life in Kentucky and for Wayne County to never cross your intellectual radar. Growing up in neighboring Pulaski County, I sometimes found myself in Wayne County, but didn’t give it any credit that was due. It’s unfortunate, because the county has some great things to offer—including Conley Bottom Resort, Lake Cumberland Winery, and Mill Springs Mill.

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Now, Wayne County has something new going for it, too. On the outskirts of Monticello, a diverse sustainable farm is working to nourish its neighbors with produce, eggs, and meats raised naturally. Chase Campbell at Jennings Hollow Farm is taking on a seemingly impossible task—convincing rural Kentuckians that they need to make healthier food choices and that he can help them do so with food right from the 300-acre farm.

Like any new business venture, it’s tough to decide which direction to go. Right now, there’s a little bit of everything, but this year, Chase will be focusing on building up a base of CSA customers and maybe doing some wholesaling of pasture-raised poultry and pork. There are a lot of long-term dreams, too—perhaps events, maybe some rental cabins for vacationers who come to visit Lake Cumberland. It’s all a matter of choosing what to invest in with limited time, money, and manpower. (Though let’s not forget the horsepower, too—the farm’s work horses, Joel and Ann, definitely pull their share of the load.)

Chase, a Georgia native, spent the last ten years living in California. Passionate about protecting the environment, he never really settled on a career that would allow him to make a positive impact. As time went on, it seemed like the answer kept coming back around to one thing: a farm. He says, “For me, it’s like every problem that you approach… what’s the answer? Small farms. That’s what I’m here for. It seems to be the answer to so many of our problems. Not just the health factor, but the health of our communities, too.”

Freedom Ranger chickens, raised on pasture

Farmland in California would have been prohibitively expensive, so it only made sense to look elsewhere. Much like Geoff and Lindsey at Good Life Ranch, it was the pull of affordable land that kept pointing back to Kentucky after a country-wide search. Chase felt that the farm at Jennings Hollow beat out all the others for a lot of reasons. Plenty of room, a sturdy farmhouse, several working barns, great neighbors, and—the icing on the cake—it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

It’s been a bit of a culture shock, transitioning from the West Coast back to the Bible belt. But Chase hasn’t had much time for dwelling on the change because there is work to be done and lots of it. The farm’s physical infrastructure still needs plenty of attention. There’s building up the herds and flocks—currently chickens, pigs, lambs, and goats, with an eye on beef and turkey in the future. Then, there’s that pesky detail of finding markets and educating consumers about why sustainable, natural food choices are so important.

 

It’s definitely an uphill battle, especially in an agricultural community where your neighbors already know how to farm and don’t understand why you would want to try a different method. But Chase is committed to doing things the right way for the right reasons. As he puts it, “I’m an advocate for the environment and I know that the conventional way of raising animals is not only horrible for the animals and the people consuming them, but also for the environment and the ecology. So in a sense, I want to raise animals naturally and have them live a happy, healthy life and feed people an excellent product that’s good for them, but mainly it’s for the earth because the way that we raise this—chickens or pigs or whatever else—directly affects the surrounding environment.”

Last year, Jennings Hollow did some direct marketing of pasture-raised chickens and natural vegetables from the garden. It’s painfully slow, primarily selling at the Somerset Farmers Market and just working to make connections. Really, though, the farm is a blank slate, and over the coming months, there will be tough choices on which direction to take things to ensure the farm remains viable and profitable.

Chase is adamant, however, that there is no room for failure. He’s invested everything into the farm and now it will have to work. Not just from a financial standpoint, but from the perspective of making serious changes to how the community eats and spends their food dollars. “Connecting people with their food will change the world. When you reconnect with your food, you reconnect with the land. Once you are aware that you need healthy land and animals to support healthy humans, people will be more aware of the environment in general. Not only on the farm, but everywhere else. We need diverse ecology. We need healthy grasslands and healthy forests. Hopefully, people will start to realize that everyone has the right to have healthy food from healthy animals that were raised humanely but that comes from a healthy environment.”

Dolly the milk cow will hopefully provide customers with the option of buying milk shares in a few months.

Jennings Hollow Farm will be offering a CSA in 2013, with options for just veggies and eggs or mixed meats as well. Chase hopes to keep close to home, marketing in Wayne and Pulaski counties, but may be forced to go to larger markets like Lexington or Louisville if he can’t establish a large enough customer base. Locals should definitely call the farm and make plans to visit!

To keep up with Jennings Hollow Farm, visit the Jennings Hollow Farm website or  connect with them on Facebook.

 

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Other Young Farmers Posts:
The Young Farmers Movement in Kentucky
Young Farmers: Sweetgrass Granola
Young Farmers: Rough Draft Farmstead
Young Farmers: Good Life Ranch
Young Farmers: River Run Farm & Pottery
Coming Up Next: Clementine’s Bakery

{Photos Courtesy Jennings Hollow Farm}

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2 Responses to “Young Farmers: Jennings Hollow Farm”

  1. January 12, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Nice to know we have so many young people taking part in this movement. Farm looks gorgeous I can’t wait to visit and sign up for the CSA.

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  1. You’re Invited: Community Farm Alliance Field Day | Sustainable Kentucky - May 21, 2013

    [...] afternoon for a field day at Jennings Hollow Farm in Monticello and become a member then! I have featured Jennings Hollow in a past interview and am a huge fan of their diverse farm and proud customer, too. (Roasted pasture-raised chicken [...]

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