I'm Chris Chamberlain, the owner and operator of Bluegrass Blessings Farms & Apiary. I am a husband, father of three, and a retired United States Air Force veteran. I spent the first twenty-four years of my adult life raising my children, supporting my family, and helping to defend our great nation. As my children began to reach adult ages and I neared retirement age from the military, I began to ponder how I wanted to write the second chapter of my adult life. I reflected on what I was passionate about, how I could make a lasting impact on my family and community, and if those two sentiments could be married into a single productive path. I was, and always have been, drawn to and passionate about our natural world. My wife and I were also quite dissatisfied with the quality and availability of food within our local grocery markets. We desired a variety of fresh, nutrient-dense, and sustainably produced meats, vegetables, and fruits but the supply of such food was intermittent at best. So with those two thoughts in mind, I set out to do something about our frustrations while beginning my second career, and Bluegrass Blessings Farms & Apiary was born.
My grandfather, Robert Y. Chamberlain, owned a dairy farm in Warren County Kentucky but I did not grow up on a farm. Other than a few summer visits to romp around as a young boy, I had no exposure to the agriculture community and culture. The Air Force provided many opportunities to improve and diversify my skillsets but farming was not one of them. Nonetheless my wife supported my new mission, we sold our suburban home in Louisville, KY, and moved to beautiful Central Kentucky just south of Lebanon, in Marion County. To say it was a change of pace is an understatement but I have relished every moment of it. I love working with the soil, nurturing the plants, tending to the honeybees, and constantly learning. Though my farm is small, I hope to make a significant impact on my community, our local food system, and the nutritive value of the foods we consume.
At Bluegrass Blessings Farms we are committed to producing all of our farm products in a manner that is healthy for human consumption, sustainable for the environment, and regenerative for the soil. We sum up the concept with the term naturally grown. For us, naturally grown means farmers apply stewardship principles in all farming decisions. We use no synthetic chemicals, never use genetically modified (GMO) seeds or plants, and use practices that leaves the soil in a better condition when the crops are harvested. Essentially we operate as if our goal is to prepare our soils for our grandchildren's use as opposed to focusing on this season's yield. We firmly believe this type of farming will be key to protecting our soils and preserving our way of life for the generations that come after us.
We are not Certified Organic nor do we intend to ever be. We know many organic farmers who are doing great work and raising wonderful crops. In no way do we intend to suggest anything else however we are not impressed with the Certified Organic program. First and foremost, the Certified Organic program is owned by the USDA and thereby is a government program. Government programs by their very nature produce far too much inefficiency, oversight, and expense. As with any enterprise, the burden of those attributes are borne by the farmer and/or passed on to you, the consumer, while the bulk of the benefit goes back to the government. I want to see our local communities being able to sustain themselves with a strong local food supply that is vibrant, healthy, and affordable. Furthermore, the regulations of Certified Organic program are not stringent enough as they do allow few or small amounts of chemicals and do not address sustainable and regenerative practices. I do think the Certified Organic program is better than nothing but I feel we as a society can and should do better.
If you want to know more about our agricultural practices, principles, or contribute to the conversation please check out our Practices page and subscribe to our newsletter. The Practices page is our blog we use to explain, explore, and discuss all things related to our farm and our newsletter keeps you up to date on farm happenings, local events we are involved in, and much more. We'd love to see you there!
As you may have surmised, we are quite passionate about our farm, the environment, and our community. We believe agriculture is one of the most foundational blocks for building, strengthening, and nurturing our community and society. After all, farming literally provides the fuel for our children to grow, our workforce to be productive, and the ability for our community to weather storms.
A storm our country has been dealing with for a long time is veterans returning from service and finding it difficult to integrate back into society. Agriculture can provide a fantastic fit for transitioning service members attempting to reimagine their purpose in life. Farming is multidisciplinary similar to the military, much of the work is outdoors in tough weather which military members are accustomed overcoming, but most importantly, caring for and nurturing plants and animals creates a healing and grounding effect that so many of our veterans need. There is an almost spiritual quality to taking responsibility for the well-being of other living things pouring your soil into helping them survive and thrive. I have personally experienced it and I have witnessed it with other veterans. A second career in agriculture may not be for everyone and it may not solve all of a person's problems but it can be a magical fit for many.
"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." ~ Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring
I have received many forms of support and encouragement from family, friends, and even strangers. Each interaction has provided traction for my new venture. A few organizations that have impacted me greatly in my journey from duty to farmer are:
- Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC)
- KY Proud's Homegrown By Heroes (HBH)
- Kentucky Center for Agricutural and Rural Development (KCARD)
- Kentucky Ag Vets
- Kentucky Horticulure Council