By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Shoppers browsed over a rainbow of vegetables, read labels in the rows of locally produced honey and sampled goodies from the on-site bakery Saturday at the newly opened Berea College Farm Store.
While the store also features products from local farms and other growers in the region, many items were grown, harvested and packaged on college property and by students gaining hands-on farming experience, said store manager Bethany Pratt.
Some classes will be open to the community, she said.
Berea College food service was the first beneficiary of the agriculture program’s farm-fresh products, but the amount became “more than they could handle,” Pratt said.
Many of the products were then sold at the Berea Farmer’s Market, she said, but even then, plenty was still leftover.
“We had outgrown our markets,” Pratt said.
While also a place to sell surplus produce, the main purpose of the store is to “serve as the college farm’s experiential learning laboratory in value-added agriculture and local food systems, said Jessa Turner, office and farm marketing manager.
The store features a full-service kitchen as well as a laboratory, in which agriculture professor Mike Panciera demonstrated sausage making on Saturday. Visitors could watch the process through a window while shopping in the store.
Berea junior Lindsey Harper, who was hired into one of the eight student-labor positions at the Farm Store, was stocking vegetables on Friday.
Originally from Louisville, Harper said she “really had no idea where my food came from. I didn’t know it was so easy to grow my own food.”
One of the best parts of her experience in the agriculture program, she said, is seeing the food she consumes “start out as seeds.”
The store’s produce and grain products are USDA-certified organic and its meats are certified by American Grassfed Association and Animal Welfare Approved, Pratt said.
Store prices are “very competitive” with places like the Good Foods Market or the organic section at Kroger, she said.
“We are always evolving, changing and expanding, so come in often,” added Pratt, who said customer input is welcome.
Coming soon, a large mural will cover an entire wall depicting Berea College Farm and southern Madison County’s farming history.
The store is at 311 N. Main St. in the renovated Broomcraft Building just below Seabury Athletic Complex. It is open from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The store will be closed Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 2.
The Berea Farmer’s Market will continue to operate through the winter in the Goldthwait Agriculture Building from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
For details or to sign up for the weekly newsletter, visit bereacollegefarmstore.com or the store’s Facebook page.