A Quick Stop In The Bluegrass State | Sharon Henry
The sight of cute gangly foals grazing on a haystack compels an impromptu stop along Kentucky Route 80 to jump out the car and take a photo. It’s too adorable a shot of rural America to pass by. We were driving on the western tip of Kentucky, soaking up the countryside and singing along to Blake Shelton, through a place the map calls Fancy Farm.
A few curious faces pop out from the nearby barn and before long we’re chatting to Stephanie Elliott, the farm manager. After hearing our story and although the horses have already been fed, she climbs into the paddock armed with feed to coax them near the camera.
Don’t Let Their Cuteness Fool Ya
The foals are under a week old, the youngest just four days. The mothers are very protective; Stephanie had a close call the previous day when a mare felt she was too close to her colt for comfort and made a run at her. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to die in a field!'” she laughs, “but she was just protecting her baby, it was pure instinct.”
Kentucky’s nickname is the ‘Bluegrass State’ based on the bluegrass found on many of its pastures due to the fertile soil. The state is renowned for farming and breeding horses.
Horse Breeding – A Labour Of Love
That’s what Stephanie’s farm does; breed Belgium cold-blooded draught horses, “like the Budweiser Clydesdale horses.” They’re sold sometimes for shows and to the Amish community who use them for traditional farming methods.
“It’s something we enjoy doing,” says Stephanie, “we’re not going to make a fortune, but we like having them around.”
The farm belongs to her parents and has been in the family for six generations. Stephanie loves the sense of community living in Kentucky and is a strong believer in family values having come from a large family.”It’s very family oriented here, it means a lot to us,” she says.
Texas To Kentucky for Hay
Back in the day the farm grew tobacco. “It was good money but the tobacco industry changed. Crops around here are now primarily corn, soya beans, wheat and tobacco.”
The family now rents out a large portion of land although they do grow hay. “We had a guy come all the way from Texas for our hay,” she says. “It’s something to feed the horses in the winter besides grain. When you’ve got a 1,800 lb animal, huh they eat a lot!”
First Telephone In Fancy Farm, Kentucky
The farm house on site is over 100 years old. “We don’t lock our doors. We don’t have a key even if we wanted to!” she says surprising us.
Their farm house was the first in the area to have had a telephone, “During the war my great grandparents had all the neighbours coming here waiting for phone calls. My great grandmother was a typical person who wanted to feed you, make sure you were well. She was well known with the hobos for feeding and helping them out. Life was a lot simpler then.
Making A Stand For Kentucky
“I think people from Kentucky get a bad rap sometimes for being a little backwards because we’re rural. People think we’re not we’re very well educated. I mean I have two degrees. Even the ones that don’t have education on paper, they’re still very intelligent people, and they’re caring people. That’s what I love the most about being in a rural area. I never want to leave.”
Fancy Farm is named for the “very well kept fancy farms” in the area. It’s known for its annual picnic started in 1880, hosted by St Jerome’s Catholic Church of which Stephanie is a devout member. “It’s a political gathering and a fund raiser,” Stephanie says. “Last year we made over $200,000 in a day through ticket sales for a Jeep!”
World’s Largest Picnic
In 1985 they were recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest one day picnic when a whopping 15,000lbs of mutton, pork and chicken was consumed at the 1982 event.
“Our church is going to Jamaica this year on a mission trip,” she tells us. “I can’t go, with all the responsibilities here, but I would love to go to Italy and the Vatican.”
Promising we’ll stop by St Jerome’s church we continue our journey along Kentucky Route 80, and rejoin Blake who’s on the radio again.