Oldham County’s Rootbound Farm was recently featured in the St. Matthews Farmers Market Newsletter and is one of 13 Oldham Farm Tours. This was a great article about one of our awesome foodie farm tours!
Rootbound Farm is a Certified Organic farm in Oldham County, Kentucky and is owned by husband-and-wife team Ben Abell and Bree Pearsall. They farm on 150 acres in Oldham County with their children, Hazel Grace and Henry Sage, and team. Their focus is on the health of the community, land, and water. Like many Kentucky farms, the land is comprised of flat land, rolling hills, and woods. This diversity creates opportunities for a diversified farming operation. Their flat tillable land is ideal for vegetable crop production and each year they grow over 50 varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. The rolling hills covered with healthy grasses provide a luscious home to their Katahdin sheep flock, and chickens. They run 150 ewes and their lambs on 100 acres of Kentucky bluegrass. They also offer lamb, high quality hormone free chicken and free-range eggs. At Rootbound Farm, they strive to grow high quality certified-organic produce, grass-fed lamb, and free-range chickens for our local community in a manner that is environmentally and economically sustainable. They work to incorporate the newest understanding of balanced soils, organic pest and disease control, management intensive grazing, and modern farm equipment alongside the patience and humbled listening that has informed sustainable farmers for generations. Their ultimate goal is to create a regenerative and resilient farming system that supports and builds biodiversity, positively influences soil, air, and water quality, has a net-negative carbon ouput, and produces phenomenally healthy and delicious food. You can learn more about their practices by watching their short film on Vimeo.
Ben got his start farming for Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown, KY and then he went on to work for and eventually manage the University of Kentucky Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington. During his time at UK he was a part of many of the organic and sustainable farming research projects done at the farm. Bree got her start farming picking tomatoes as a summer job in college. As Ben and Bree branched off to start their own farm, maintaining organic growing practices has remained one of their central values at Rootbound Farm. Being a Certified Organic farm means that they receive an annual audit from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to ensure that they are utilizing growing practices that meet the national organic standards. For example, the national organic standards do not allow the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizer, or GMO seeds. They focus on controlling pests and diseases by using natural methods and inputs and they put a lot of intention into building soil health that can sustain healthy plants. Bree and Ben are committed to the organic certification program because they believe that it allows for a high level of transparency with their customers about their growing practices. Bree says “The organic label has a lot of trust because there is a lot of work that goes into earning that label. I think our customers really appreciate that and it gives them some peace of mind.”
Bree and Ben were eager to bring grass-fed lamb to the market several years ago. Rootbound Farm’s lamb is 100% grass-fed which means that they do not feed any additives like corn, soy or other grains. Their sheep live their whole lives grazing certified organic grass pastures. In the winter the animals eat grass hay that is mowed from the farm earlier in the season. Meat from grass-fed animals yields a delicious flavor profile and also carries many health benefits like being high in Omega-3’s and low in saturated fats. Bree has taken the lead on the sheep enterprise, and she loves to talk to customer about their animal husbandry practices and how to cook delicious lamb.
Raising chickens was a natural evolution of the farming story and the reasons are both ecological and economic. They wanted to diversify and more fully contribute to shoppers weekly grocery needs by adding more proteins – chicken and eggs. Ecologically diversifying the type of livestock rotated through their pastures and cover crops brings different and additional nutrients to health the soil.
The chickens both the broilers (meat birds) and laying hens (for eggs) live their lives outdoors in mobile chicken coops where they graze and hunt for grubs, worms, beetles, and bugs. They roost and fly and run and dig holes in the ground and cover themselves in dirt. The chickens also eat organic grains. As organic farmers, what they feed their hens is as important as what they feed themselves! Their philosophy of animal husbandry can be described as walking along an animal and helping it thrive and reach its full potential.
Rootbound Farm offers a Community Supported Agriculture program where members buy a portion of the harvest at the beginning of the season and then receive a weekly share through a curated box of vegetables, meats, and grains each week from late May to October. Ben says it is the foundation of their farm. Because members join early in the season they help provide needed capital for start-up expenses like seed, water, and labor for planting. CSA members have a consistent, dedicated supply of produce each week for the full season. Their CSA pick-up at St. Matthews is one of their largest but pickups are available throughout Louisville, Lexington, Oldham County, and Frankfort. Sign-ups begin in January at their website.