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Cultivating a new generation of farmers on five Kentucky acres.
Photograph by Stacy Newgent
On a perfectly bright late-spring morning, Vicky Tewes walks through the dew-damp grass, absently adjusting the netting that covers three long rows of blueberry bushes. The berries are just beginning to blush, and the nylon cage protects them from greedy birds.
Tewes knows from berries—she cultivates blueberries, blackberries, and red and yellow raspberries, nearly 400 plants, on her picturesque Thistlehair Farm in Union, Kentucky. In late June and early July, the fruits seem to ripen all at once, so Tewes and a couple of helpers (she runs an informal farming apprenticeship) hustle to harvest. Once berry season ends, heirloom tomatoes follow, and fall brings vintage pumpkins and gourds to her farmers’ market stand; she sells eggs year-round and grows cool-season crops in a hoop house through winter.
Although Thistlehair doesn’t have an official organic certification, Tewes still adheres to organic principles. “A small farmer like me can’t afford organic certification; it’s not just the money, it’s the paperwork,” she says. Tewes has been growing for 27 years and selling at area farmers’ markets for 12; this season you can purchase Thistlehair produce at its Findlay Market stand near Dean’s Mediterranean Imports.
A lifelong gardener, Tewes loves the nurturing aspect of raising vegetables and chickens, and she plans to turn an outbuilding on the farm into a classroom so she can help train young farmers and home gardeners. “It’s in our blood, our passion,” she says. “There’s something beautiful about the whole process of food.”
Thistlehair Farm, Union, Kentucky, facebook.com/groups/125182864213717
Originally published in the August 2013 issue