By TODD ZEIGLER
Farming has traditionally been regarded as a family business. Family-owned, worked by parent and child side by side, meant to be passed into the next generationâ€™s hands.
Growing up in Saint Matthews, Maggie Keith had no intention of entering the family business â€“ following three generations of her family in the stewardship of Foxhollow Farm in Crestwood. But she was always the outdoors type, and her mother and grandmother instilled in her an appreciation of organic food early.
Keith went to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC to study entrepreneurship and business management. A local farmerâ€™s market kept her in touch with the organic side of farming and curious about the origins of the food we eat. She developed a business plan for a different approach to farming and returned to Foxhollow in 2006.
â€œI actually thought I was coming back to hire someone to start the business. And then I loved it so much, I decided to stayâ€ explains Keith.
Partnering with her mother, Janey Newton, Keith set about completely converting the 1,300-acre farm into a bio-dynamic grass-fed beef farm. Today, Foxhollow is home to 300 head of 100 percent grass-fed cattle.Â Keith instituted another practice: forgoing distributors and selling directly to restaurants and consumers.
â€œGrass-fed beef by no means is some new, innovative way of growing cattle,â€ Keith says. â€œThatâ€™s how a lot of Kentucky farmers do it. They just donâ€™t do the direct sales the way we do. They ship out to the market. So I think thatâ€™s where weâ€™ve branded ourselves as selling directly from the farm to the consumer rather than having that middleman.â€
Foxhollow started with the chefs at local restaurants. â€œGrass-fed beef was unheard of here,â€ says Keith. â€œNow, you see it all over menus.â€ Among the local menus featuring Foxhollow beef are Mayan CafÃ©, The Silver Dollar, Harvest Louisville, Wilshire on Market, Varanese, 610 Magnolia and Grind food truck. Their signature beef constitutes over 60 percent of sales at Foxhollowâ€™s store.
To prepare the fields for the cattle, Keith plantedÂ a variety of grasses such as clover, alfalfa, bluegrass, fescue and more. The cattle are moved about the acreage daily with mobile fencing. They eat the grass they need, gaining weight and health while contributing a secondary benefit to the fields: fertilizing and aerating the soil with their hooves. Composting coupled with the cattleâ€™s work has added two to three feet of fertile topsoil to fields in which traditional three-crop rotation farming had left none. The fields are also home to sheep and rams, hogs, chickens and a variety of produce.
Foxhollowâ€™s direct sales strategy has extended to the consumer as well. With the longtime support of Rainbow Blossom, Foxhollow delivers fresh beef and produce for consumer pickup on Thursdays and operates a Vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, delivering fresh produce to members. Keith, Newton and the staff of Foxhollow continue the tradition of optimizing the connection between the farmer and the land to produce the best beef, meet, eggs and produce the consumer can find.
For more information, go to www.foxhollowfarm.com.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune