Since its inception, the Berea College Farm has provided agriculture students with hands-on experience in the field while supplying fresh produce and meat to the college community. In recent years, the primary venues for selling College Farm products have been the Berea Farmers Market and the Berea College Bookstore. But that’s about to change with the opening of the new Berea College Farm Store, located on North Main Street across from the Facilities Management Department and the Goldthwait Agriculture Building. Bethany Pratt recently joined the Berea staff as the Farm Store’s manager. Her responsibilities include training and supervising student workers, operating the store, and working with students to develop value-added, marketable products based on items grown at the College Farm. A graduate of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, Pratt has worked as a farm-to-table cooking instructor and completed her master’s degree in agricultural education in August of 2013. Having lived in Massachusetts and worked in Ecuador with the Peace Corps, Pratt decided to return to the state. She explained, “I tried to leave Kentucky, but this place just pulls you back in. The people, the food, the agriculture, and the culture are wonderful.” Especially thankful to be at Berea, Pratt said, “Berea College is a learning institution with a great idea of connection to people, place, and education.” The Farm Store project emerged from the 2009-10 scenario planning process, in which innovative ideas were considered to advance Berea College’s historic mission and educational quality. The Farm Store was conceived to provide the agriculture program with a new facility for teaching and learning, create opportunities for students to explore value-added production, and generate revenue for the agriculture program and the College. The commercial mission of the Farm Store is to bolster the local food market and provide an outlet for student-grown food and a commercial kitchen for creating and executing marketable products. The store can also serve as a resource for local farmers. The college currently hosts the Farmers Market at the Goldthwait Agriculture Building during the winter months, helping local farmers to advertise and sell their produce. Bethany Pratt is working with the Berea Farmers Market’s board of directors to form a partnership between local farmers and the Farm Store. “We’ve offered space to the Farmers Market in the grassy area next to the building in hopes that we’ll both benefit from each other’s presence at a shared location,” Pratt said. They will join us for the 2014 outdoor season. The building that the Farm Store will occupy was built in the 1930s. Constructed of brick, concrete, and steel, the building was designed to be fire-resistant so that it could house the student broomcraft operation. In more recent years, the building has been used for storage and even occasionally scheduled for demolition. The Farm Store will now restore this historic facility to prominence and full functionality, while creating a visually appealing welcome to visitors entering the north end of the campus. To plan a sustainable renovation, the college hired architect and U.S. Green Building Council member Dan Hellmuth. Speaking of the project, Hellmuth said, “Keeping the history of Berea College alive in the Farm Store and using the old Broomcraft Building were very important issues. One of our biggest challenges was to make an inviting space both as a beacon to the outside and a nice space to use on the inside. The pop-up on top of the building combines all of those things. At night, it will be like a lantern, and during the day the natural light will really highlight the products nicely.”
The Berea College Farm Store will thus strengthen the positive influence of both a historic campus building and one of the College’s oldest academic and student labor programs. Students, faculty, staff, community partners, and visitors will have ample opportunities to explore new ideas and products — and even new sights, smells, and tastes. Soon to open for business and already poised for success, the Farm Store will be a fresh addition to the Farm’s thriving operations and the College’s learning environment.