■ Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp. has announced the first six recipients of loans from the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund, which helps small producers grow healthy, nutritional foods they can move into commercial production.
Recipients of loans of $7,500 each are:
J&J Farm Produce Market: Founded in 2010 by Julian Turpin as a roadside fruit stand near Somerset, J&J Farm Produce Market & Deli sells Kentucky Proud organic vegetables, fruit and other produce grown by the owner on his 55-acre farm in Lincoln County and by the neighboring Amish community. J&J Farm Produce also supplies produce to supermarkets in Pulaski County. The SOAR Production Loan provided J&J Farm Produce with financing to buy coolers and a cargo trailer to transport produce.
Maggie and Will Bowling: The couple grow organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers on their 55-acre farm near Oneida in Clay County. Products are sold in markets in Manchester and Hazard to food services, including Manchester Memorial Hospital, and area restaurants including Thersey's in Manchester. Produce may be ordered directly through the Old Homeplace Farm website, Oldhomeplacefarm.com. In addition, Maggie Bowling previously was Grow Appalachia site coordinator at Pine Mountain Settlement in Bell County. The SOAR Production Loan Fund allowed the Bowlings to purchase a new 30-foot by 96-foot-high tunnel greenhouse to help extend their growing season to 10 months.
Melanie Gross: Gross and her husband have been involved with organic farming and Grow Appalachia for several years. With the SOAR Production Farm Loan, the Grosses will buy several beehives and bees to expand their honey operation in southern Laurel County and construct a high tunnel greenhouse to extend the growing season for various vegetables.
John Stanley and Heather Lundy: Moving to the Bybee area of rural Madison County from Nova Scotia in early 2014, Stanley and Lundy continued the organic farming efforts they had begun seven years earlier. They've started a Community Supported Agriculture program and began to sell their products at the farmers market in Berea. Their 11-acre farm includes 11 2,500-square-foot plots growing a variety of produce, two high tunnels constructed by Grow Appalachia, free-range chickens for eggs, and a number of herbs. With the working capital loan from the SOAR Production Farm Loan Fund, the two will extend their farm practices that conserve and build soil health, expand produce operation, add more laying hens and grow their CSA for next year.
Terry and Mildred Simpson: Lifelong residents of Wayne County, the Simpsons took over operation of the family farm on which Terry grew up in the early 1980s. Included in their diverse farm operations, the couple have operated a certified Kentucky Proud roadside market near their home for 15 years to sell produce and flowers. The SOAR Production Farm Loan will be used to buy a "cool room" to maintain fresher product during the floral and vegetable season and to buy a mulch film lifter to remove and conserve the plastic mulch film from the ground at the end of each growing season.
Fox Brothers Farms: Retired teachers Donnie and Daniel Fox have been growing three to four acres of produce in the Canadatown community of rural Whitley County for more than 10 years. The brothers focus on corn, watermelons, beans and tomatoes. Their products are sold through the two Whitley County farmers markets, at their roadside produce stand and by direct sales. With the SOAR Production Farm Loan, Fox Brothers Farms will clear land for added production, buy additional equipment and fence the area around their gardens to prevent loss from deer and raccoons.
Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Grow Appalachia created the low-interest loan fund this summer for small farmers in the 54-county SOAR region of Eastern and southern Kentucky. The fund was established with support from a $200,000 grant through the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy.
For more information on the loan program, go to Soarfarmloans.org.
■ Nancy Swigert, director of speech-language pathology and respiratory care at Baptist Health Lexington, will receive Honors of the Association, the highest award given by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, at the organization's fall meeting in November.
Swigert has served the association in many roles, including president and vice president of government and social policies. She has been in her current role at Baptist Health Lexington since 2007 and has represented speech-language professionals on a Medicare advisory panel to guide how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recognizes and reimburses speech services.
■ Jacqueline Smith, epidemiology section chief for the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, has received an honorary diploma from the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society.
According to Craig Carter, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and executive director and president-elect of the epidemiology society, Smith has revolutionized the way the lab uses large volumes of diagnostic testing data to delineate current animal health trends.
"Jacqueline has played a key role in our ability to provide early detection of animal disease outbreaks via a custom-developed mathematical disease cluster detection system," he said.
Smith received a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Berea College before moving to Madison, Wis., to complete a master's in dairy science in 2001. She joined the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory's epidemiology group as a research analyst in 2006 while earning a doctorate in animal science from UK with a strong focus on epidemiology, graduating in 2012. She has served as the epidemiology section chief since 2008.
■ Sidney Ratliff of Danville, Kathy Sink and Cindy Nabar of Lexington, and Nathan Truesdell of Lawrenceburg have been named 2015 Local Food Heroes.
"These Local Food Heroes were selected by their fellow Kentuckians for their hard work and their dedication to the mission of producing fresh, nutritious foods for their customers to enjoy," state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said.
Sink and Nabar produce tomato plants. Truesdell is a produce grower who operates Circle T Farms. Ratliff owns Mozybeau Farms, a producer of heirloom seeds and vegetables.
The Local Food Heroes awards are a partnership of the state Department of Agriculture, Seed Capital KY and Louisville Metro. The awards are sponsored by Farm Credit Mid-America.
Compiled by Dorothea Wingo