BEREA — A new kind of Berea College business will open soon: the Berea College Farm Store, bursting with the bounty of the college's 400 acres of farmland.
Picture it: Organic fruits and vegetables, freshly baked bread, fish and humanely raised meat — harvested, prepared and sold by Berea students as part of their jobs with the college.
The store also will include other Berea College agricultural goods such as honey, and prepared foods including quiche, lasagna and soups. The store also will offer gift certificates.
Located at 311 North Main Street, directly across from Gold thwait Agriculture Building in the former broomery, the store will feature a retail area, two bread ovens and a cold room with a butchering area. All processed meats will be prepared on site.
The building is adapted from a brick building constructed by Berea students with clerestory windows and a vaulted, poplar ceiling made from wood harvested from Berea College forests. Behind the store is a building that will be used as a milling facility for processing small grains, beans and popcorn.
The opening date is uncertain because of some construction issues, but officials hope the store will be open by the end of the year.
Currently, Berea College Farm sells at the Berea Farmers Market, but the college wanted a space to market its products year-round.
Bethany Pratt, manager of the new store, grew up on a Madison County farm. Her father, Bruce Pratt, is an agriculture professor at Eastern Kentucky University.
Bethany Pratt called the store "a learning, living laboratory. ... This gives students another way to learn what you do after you raise these beautiful pigs. How can you use those skills?"
A store staffed by students yields some unexpected blessings, she said. One Berea student used to be a butcher back home in Italy.
Late last week, Pratt and Janet Meyer, horticulture farm manager, walked across a portion of the farm, which borders the campus, where the ground seems to be wiggling with a carpet of squealing piglets. Eventually they will be meat, but for the rest of their lives they will be pastured — not "finished" in cramped, indoor quarters.
Meyer showed how logs are injected with a sawdust mixture that contains spores to grow mushrooms. That is done in a former hog finishing house and on a separate site near the greenhouses. The shiitake mushrooms will fetch $10 a pound.
"What we do is just grow enough for the farmers' market," Meyer said. "If there is more demand, we can up production pretty easily."
In general, the Berea College farms can produce more than they now have ways to sell at the farmers market or provide to college food service.
Nearby are compost piles made from the college's food waste. This farm site also raises cosmos for the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, for which Berea College also raises tomatoes, peppers and beans.
Workers emerge from a late-morning raspberry picking session with clear plastic bins filled with glistening fruit. Move those raspberries a few blocks down the road to the store, and they would be as close to fresh-picked as you could hope for, literally still warm from the sun.
Student Emily Grace Sar ver-Wolf works on the farm and is excited about developing new farm products. In addition to having an interest in making sausage, she has been working on a new recipe for bratwurst.
"The goal is a lot of people walking to the store from campus," Sarver-Wolf said.
The Berea College Farm Store should open by year's end. Hours will be 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.