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From kindergarten to the garden

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Finchville farmer is recognized for her local food, commitment to the environment

By Ashley Wilkins

Chosen from among 1,800 Kentucky Proud Farmers, Brooke Eckmann of Ambrosia Farm in Finchville, has been selected as one of three honorees for the 2014 Local Food Hero.

In its second year, the award recognizes farmers whom not only grow delicious food, but also contribute to their communities by conserving water, soil and wildlife.

“It’s really unbelievable to me to be chosen from among the local farmers, let alone across the state, we have great farmers in the area,” Eckmann said.

Eckmann was joined in recognition on Aug. 14 by Jacob Sharpe of Georgetown and Russell Poore of Russellville. The winners were announced at the Kentucky State Fair in the Kentucky Proud tent.

"Our Local Food Heroes help meet an increasing demand for local food in Louisville and across Kentucky," Metro Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said.

During the event, locally produced foods were served and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Fischer, and Kentucky State Fair Board President Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe spoke.

“What better way to kick off the Kentucky State Fair than by showcasing our farmers and eating some great Kentucky Proud food,” Comer said.

The award was voted on for 18 days through the Seed Capital Kentucky website, and more than 3,100 votes were cast along with more than 250 comments from supporters of local farms.

Eckmann said Seed Capital Kentucky had informed her of the impending award beforehand, so her mother and a few close friends joined her at the event to watch her receive her award.

In addition to the recognition, the winners received a $500 cash prize and were honored at a Farm to Table Dinner Monday evening at Ramsi’s Caféon the World in Louisville. The $100 four-course dinner was created using Kentucky Proud products fresh from the 2013 winner’s farms.

Eckmann explained that while the majority of the food was prepared using products from the farms of last year’s winners, she did send in some of her famous tomatoes for the dinner, as well.

Eckmann is still relatively new to the farming game, but her produce has quickly gained a big following.

She spent four years as a kindergarten teacher at Kentucky Country Day School while gardening in her spare time. But in 2011 she gave up teaching, deciding to dedicate herself fulltime to farming.

“I was an avid community gardener and I loved gardening,” she said.

While Eckmann grows a variety of produce, it’s her tomatoes that have brought her the most recognition. With 82 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, she is well known among Louisville restaurant operators.

Her suppliers list reads like a best of Louisville list, and includes Seviche, Napa River Grill, Volare, Varanese, La Coop, 610 Magnolia, St. Charles Exchange and Papalinos Pizza.

But Eckmann said she’s no here, but instead described a food here as simply one that supplies the marketplace with locally grown food.

And if you’d like to try a Black Pineapple, or any of the other 81 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, just stop by her farm, 5123 Buck Creek Road in Finchville.

Her store is open from 4 p.m. to 8 pm. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays, when she offers a U-pick for tomatoes. In fact, she encourages people to come out to her farm to pick up produce first hand, explaining that she couldn’t take everything she has to the markets.

“I like for people to come out to the farm see all the different stuff. I love to grow food,” Eckmann said.  “And for people to appreciate it, just tickles me. I can still hardly believe it. I’m just flattered.”

But she doesn’t want all the focus. Eckmann quickly points out on her Facebook page that she’s just one of many that are working on the local food movement.

“All small farmers are Local Food Heroes. I am flattered to represent for all local farmers,” she wrote.