Madison County 'Hideaway' Gets Timely Boost from Farm Bureau Award
Jessa and Nathan Turner Plan to Add Certified Kitchen and Classroom to Agritourism Destination
By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Agricultural News
BEREA, Ky. — A certified kitchen and classroom to be built at an agritourism farm in southeastern Madison County was chosen Best Agritourism Startup in the 2018 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge and will be awarded $10,000 in startup funds.
HomeGrown HideAways, a 100-acre Kentucky Proud enterprise located at 500 Floyd Branch Road near the Jackson County line, provides agritourism activities, including agricultural workshops, festivals, and farm-to-table dinners featuring eggs, fruit, mushrooms, and herbs harvested on the farm. The farm also hosts weddings, retreats, reunions, and fundraisers.
“The $10,000 provides seed money to get the ball rolling to design and build a certified kitchen and classroom,” said Jessa Turner, who owns and operates HomeGrown HideAways with her husband, Nathan. “My husband is a chef, and we grow food here on the farm, so it would allow us to do some value-added processing and provide meals when people come to visit.”
Jessa envisions the new 3,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility will look like a barn on the outside, but inside will be divided between a commercial kitchen and a large room with tables seating about 50. She hopes it will be completed by the fall of 2020.
“It’s probably going to be a $250,000 project,” Jessa said. “This is just the start of that process. We’re going to apply for as many grants as possible – Kentucky State [University] offers equipment grants. We’ll also do a crowdfunding campaign, use some of our own money, and if we still need a little, we’ll stretch out into the loan world.”
Jessa said the farm is transitioning away from music festivals – it hosted both Holler in the Holler and the Moonshiners Ball last summer – into more of an educational venue.
“Music festivals are hard on the land … because people come out here just to party and trash the place,” she said. “We want to do more smaller workshop-type events out here, more on-farm type things.”
Nathan used to host a workshop on growing mushrooms. The couple would like to bring instructors in to teach other classes and, when nothing is scheduled, open the facility up to the community for folks to rent.
“We’ve dipped our toes in the water but not had a nice facility to do everything we want to do,” Jessa said. “We need a climate-controlled space where we can teach. Right now, we have an open-air pavilion, so we’re at the mercy of the weather.”
The one festival that will remain at HomeGrown HideAways is the family-friendly PlayThink Movement & Arts Festival. The seventh annual event is scheduled June 13-17.
“I have a friend who’s a big hula hooper and does acrobatic-type stuff,” Jessa said. “She took our idea and ran with it.”
In 2012, the first PlayThink festival drew 115; Five years later, the crowd swelled to 1,300.
“We had more instructors last year than attendees our first year,” Jessa said. “It’s really grown. It’s a really good event.
“We’ve got some families with three generations who make it their family vacation for the year. We call it circus camp. You can learn juggling, hula hooping, yoga, dance – we offer 250 different workshops.”
After attending a festival or workshop at HomeGrown HideAways, guests are invited to stay the night or multiple nights. Primitive camp sites with tents and RV (recreational vehicle) hook-ups are available.
If you like your accommodations a little more permanent, a huge treehouse is currently under construction that will sleep eight to 10 people.
A massive 24-foot-high Grand Tipi – “great for family camping and Scout troops,” Jessa said – was recently added. There’s also a treehouse yurt, or round tent, and “Yome Away from Home,” another yurt-like structure.
Guests who stay have access to a courtesy kitchen with a telephone (the farm has no cell service), coffee maker, refrigerator, microwave, stove, sink, and a few dishes.
“It’s nothing glamorous, but it can beat trying to cook on a fire in the rain!” states HomeGrown HideAways’ website, www.homegrownhideaways.org, where you can find more information about the farm or book a getaway.
“It’s just an outbuilding with appliances,” Jessa said. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have something a little more usable.’”
The partially-wooded farm lies in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a picturesque part of Madison County known as Red Lick Valley.
“It’s a little slice of heaven out here,” Nathan says in a video on the farm’s website. “Red Lick Valley is such a beautiful area. People come out here, and they’re just like, ‘Wow,’ especially in the fall.”
Jessa said the best way to enjoy that beauty is to put on a pair of comfortable boots or hop in a canoe.
“One of our favorite hobbies around here is hiking,” Jessa says in the video. “We have a hiking trail here on the farm. We also rent out our canoes for guests.”
The farm is the realization of a dream for the Turners, who bought the farm in 2009, signing the papers on their seventh wedding anniversary.
“Nathan and I used to work at Good Foods Co-op in Lexington and lived in a tiny studio apartment,” Jessa said. “Even way back then, we told our friends, ‘We’re gonna have a farm and put on workshops.’”
When Jessa attended Berea College, she wrote a business plan for her future farm.
“The farm dream came true; now we’re hoping this [kitchen/classroom building] will, too,” she said. “We’re the kind of stubborn people that will see this through. It’ll happen, dang it!”