On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Berea College Farm Store In Berea Kentucky

Berea College Farm Store

It’s a 700 mile drive from New Orleans to the Berea College Farm Store but it’s one I make at least twice a year to lay in provisions that I can’t find in Louisiana.

Under the direction of farm director Sean Clark, Berea College has one of the finest hog farms in the eastern United States, and I’ve had good success curing bellies and jowls off the pig meat that I’ve purchased there over the years.

“A splendid opportunity for the right man to do distinct service in management of students learning the broom trade. Only Christian men of experience need apply.” Dean of Labor, Berea College, Berea Kentucky.

So reads an ad in the 1918 edition of Brooms, Brushes, and Handles, a journal devoted to the broom trade. A scant two years later the college had found their man, Joel R. Arnold, and the broomery launched on July 6th, 1920.

311 N Main St, Berea, KY 40403

During those idyllic days, students at the college were employed at campus furniture shops, laundries, bakeries, and print shops. By 1925 the broomery was cranking out 8,600 brooms per year and employing 150 students. By 1929 production had grown to 150,000 brooms per annum.

Such was the success of the broom program that in August of 1939, a new, dedicated broom factory was opened on the north end of campus.

Idle time for students in those golden days was spent fox, coon or possum hunting. Nowadays when the young learners at the school have downtime they’re snapchatting or contenting themselves with swiping left or right on Tinder as the case may be.

Telephone Berea College Farm Store at (859) 985-3685

The Berea College Farm Store is situated in the school’s former broomery building. Broom making now takes place in the Mueller Building under the watchful eye of master broom maker Chris Robbins. He helms the tradition knowing that Berea’s is the longest, continually running broomery in the U.S

When I travel to Berea I’m not in the market for brooms. I bought a broom at a roadside flea market in London, Kentucky back in the 90s, and I’m certain it’s going to outlast me.

Instead, I head straight to the Farm Store and prepare to load up on stone ground grits, corn meal, beans of all sorts, popcorn, regional salt, and of course plenty meat.

Berea College Farm Store carries kitchen staples of every sort and stripe

With the hog farm just a few blocks up the road you’re not going to buy proteins that are more local in the entire state.

Berea College Farm Store could open up in Portland, Austin or San Francisco and fit seamlessly into whatever neo-Bohemian neighborhood it was placed. The staff are appropriately tattooed, disheveled and wearing the sort of thrift store chic you expect in big city coffee shops and cafes.

I expect Dan Deacon bootlegs are played on the hi fi from time to time.

Berea College Farm Store carries produce from regional farms

Of course none of that matters when you’re an old-timey hog breed loving man. I’d still happily travel to Berea if I was buying meat bootlegger-style out of a single-wide trailer jammed into the side of Indian Fort Mountain. That’s how you learn to live again.

Berea College Farm Store
311 N Main St
Berea, Kentucky
40403

Telephone
(859) 985-3685

The hog farm at Berea College is one of the finest in the eastern U.S

If you have a few hundred hours to kill, Berea College hosts an excellent radio archive from days of yore. It’s here

If you get hungry on a visit to Berea one of the best restaurants in the state of Kentucky is just a few minutes away. more

A worker with task at hand at Berea College Farm Store

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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