MY WORD: Leadership Shelby looks beneath the roots of Shelby County

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By Mary Andriot Miller

On Oct. 10 the 2012-2013 Class of Leadership Shelby embarked on our first educational adventure together as a team. I don’t think it was any coincidence that our first day trip was planned as “Agriculture Day.” After all, our county began as a booming agricultural land, and even though most of us do not get to see it every day, our county still thrives on agriculture, which has taken many different shapes.

Before I go into what our day consisted of, I must thank John Wills and Kentucky Farm Bureau for our delicious “farm hand” breakfast that gave us the energy we needed for the first half of the day; and Sharon Lott and Farm Credit Services who treated us to juicy burgers from the Shelby County Cattlemen’s Association that afternoon.

Our first visit was to the Kalmey Dairy Farm, where we learned that our county used to have more than 600 dairy farms. That number since has dropped to 24. But despite the hard times associated with inflation, they have done a beautiful job keeping up with the strict regulations of purchasers and making sure their cows are kept healthy.

Next we stopped at the Langley farm, where we met Doug Langley, who was voted 2009 Kentucky Farmer of the Year; and rightfully so for his innovative ways of thinking and addressing problems. The Langley farm consists mostly of corn and tobacco, and all of their equipment is equipped with a GPS that allows them to monitor planting, spraying, problem areas in the field, etc., which allows their farm to be more efficient.

Walnut Way Farm was next on our list, a first time for this beautiful horse farm. This farm was bought in 1974 as an old dairy farm and was converted to a training and saddle-seat riding facility. Marilyn Macfarlane was very generous to allow us to watch the horses ride around the arena and to also show off their incredible carriages, some dating back to the 1800s.

Mulberry Orchard is one of a kind in Shelby County, not only for its unique operation but also because Matt and Amanda Gajdzik are such young farmers. They decided to have an orchard on their farm to bring some diversity into our county and also on their farm.

The Gajdziks have corn, pumpkins, soybeans, tobacco, hay, apples and peaches, all of which make for a fun day out with the family.

One of our purebred beef cattle operations in Shelby County is Rondal Dawson’s Misty Meadows Farm. This farm was bought in 1977 and has 157 acres with 16 pastures. While we were there, we learned that Kentucky is the eighth-largest beef producing state in the nation.

At Misty Meadows, 60 percent of their beef cattle are bred through artificial insemination, which in most cases produces better cattle. We also learned how most people in our county are several generations removed from the farm, and so what we hear in the media may not necessarily be true. It is always best to ask a farmer.

Last on our list, but definitely not the least, especially in my opinion, was the Vegh-Davis Vineyards, where they were gracious enough to let us taste some of their wine. Currently they have 12 acres of grapes planted – two varieties of white grapes – 80 percent of which they sell to different wineries around the region. Ferenc Vegh and Lisa Davis were inspired to have their own vineyard by Ferenc’s  family in Hungary, which has been growing grapes since 970 A.D. The Vegh-Davis Vineyards are absolutely beautiful and add another level of diversity to our county.

What a fun and educational day that our class had together. It was a perfect start to our year, and we hope that what we learned can be used to better our community. I also want to thank Pat Hargadon, Corinne Kephart and Josh Hurst, who planned the day and answered all of our questions with ease and helped to inform us about our community.

Also, a big thanks to Rosemary Riggs for helping coordinate such a nice day and for her never-ending supply of chocolates that kept us going! 

Things to remember from our day: Farming is very important and a necessary part of life. It is not easy, and sometimes it may not even be very profitable, but we should be very thankful to the men and women who work so hard and take care in producing quality products.

Ways that we can help: buy local when possible and always ask a farmer before assuming anything negative heard through the media.


Mary Andriot Miller is a member of Leadership Shelby Class of 2013. It is the first in a series of reports from class members on what the class is learning.