This article first appeared in the April, 2008 issue of Nougat Magazine. It is included, with modifications, in Snug Hollow Farm Cookbook: Hot Food and Warm Memories. My own environmental awakening is taking years, with lots of repeat taps on the snooze button. Barbara Napier, though, has been awake for decades. In honor of Earth Day (April 22, 2008), I want you to meet her.
Let's work backward. In 2007 Barbara's exquisite Snug Hollow Farm B&B became Kentucky's first recognized "Green Hotel" and the only eco-friendly Kentucky lodging listed at bnbscape.com at press time. Recognizing Barbara's inn-keeping achievements, in September 2007 three prestigious regional develop groups jointly named her the small business "Entrepreneur of the Year for Southeastern Kentucky"
The Summer 2007 issue of Taste of the South magazine features a nine-page full color spread on Snug Hollow, describing Barbara as "an artist in the truest sense of the word, a person whose imagination changes the way we see the world." Barbara says of herself, "I consider Snug Hollow my canvas. I love to set scenes that catch people's eye and heart."
What a canvas: a 300 acre working organic farm, circled by gentle mountains, at the end of a gravel road in Estill County, 53 miles from my downtown Lexington home. Add water features ' creeks and a small lake. Insert wildlife, wild flowers, a log cabin, a gracious new small inn built of salvaged materials.
Picture breezy porches, bright sunrooms, fireplaces, and tables dressed with brilliant organic food and flowers from the Snug Hollow gardens. In winter, cue utter, blissful quiet. The warmer season soundtracks feature birdsong, spring peepers, katydids, whippoorwills, cicadas, crickets. Honoring Barbara's artistry with these original materials, author Marybeth Bond included Snug Hollow in the 2007 edition of 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways in North America, published by National Geographic.
When I first met Barbara several years ago I learned some of her dramatic life story. She launched a successful organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture vegetable "subscription" program) in Estill County years before I heard of the concept. Sometime earlier, she ran a feed store in Irvine with her husband. When they divorced, Barbara lost her business and farm.
Barbara took a job away from the farm. With friends' help, she bought the farm back, built the three-story inn, and launched her B&B on New Year's Eve in 2000.
Each of Barbara's eco-businesses has seemed ahead of its time in Kentucky, and yet each has succeeded. I asked Barbara what led her to launch her CSA before organic was cool, and her answer surprised me.
"Well, actually organic was cool -- just not in the national news. I had no trouble getting more customers than I could attend to. My 25 customers really looked forward to the veggies and all of them loved my newsletters, too. After operating a Farm Service Center, selling feed, seed and fertilizer, I realized that organic would be so much easier, and it really seemed attractive after the chemical stuff."
Barbara's artistic imagination may have helped her succeed as an eco-friendly entrepreneur. Defying conventional views, Barbara envisioned people as eager to support earth-friendly ventures. I would have guessed we are too much in denial to care about supporting green businesses and lessening our negative impact on the earth. I would have been wrong.
Barbara's success comes from her prodigious joyous energy ' in a past life she must have been a verb ' and from capitalizing on our readiness to go green at the table, green at our hotels and retreats, green in our lives. At Snug Hollow, instead of longing to pull the covers over our head and leave it to someone else to save the earth, we visitors embrace a new possibility: maybe we can change how we relate to the earth and enjoy the change deeply.
Barbara makes eco-change taste, look, and feel good. She says, "Snug Hollow is a true wabi-sabi experience, with my help." I thought, "Wasabi... Well, that's green, isn't it?"
Yes, and a bit too much can wake up the dead. But I was wrong, again. Barbara meant something gentler, deeper, and even more delightful than the green-dyed horseradish paste we add to sushi.
Have fun googling "wabi-sabi." Here are hints to its meaning: beauty, imperfection, impermanence. Waking up to our responsibility for the earth just got a lot more appealing. Thank you, Barbara Napier!