Growing Kentucky II

Kentucky pottery The first three people I saw at the Growing Kentucky II conference woke me up to the great time my man Steve and I were about to have. Susan Harkins, intrepid Bourbon County farmer and Kentucky's "Bubba Sue" shrimp pioneer, Susan Masterman, visionary potter and restaurauteur (Portofino, Serafini), and Barbara Napier, irrepressible owner of Snug Hollow Bed and Breakfast, the blissful Estill County retreat where Barbara grows and serves certified organic produce.

Plenty of giant names in food, drink, agriculture, food politics, environmentalism, and restaurants filled the conference hall. What excited me most, though, as I sat happily through an intriguing afternoon of speakers and panels, is how the conference feels different from Growing Kentucky I.

Two years ago, the idea of Kentucky as a place where we can grow our own fantastic food, increase our food security, and care for our land, air and water seemed like a huge leap. It took visionaries at the Gaines Center for the Humanities and the UK College of Agriculture to get us to take a look and think about the possibilities.

Today the conference seemed much more settled. It's not so much about what to do, or whether we should attempt it. The speakers and the participants this year are talking about how to move in the direction we know Kentucky is headed.

Farmers are playing a larger role in this conference. They are on panels. They are asking questions. They are distinguishing themselves as personalities and intriguing people, much as chefs have done in the past, and continue to do. It is such fun to be part of it all, the talk, ideas, great food, beautiful art, lively music, and the heart-filling stories Wendell Berry and Bobbie Ann Mason read to us tonight.