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Kentucky by Heart: Bluebird Hill Farm is providing Central KY with fresh food and plenty of smiles

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

There’s a whole lot more going on than birds chirping peacefully at Bluebird Hill Farm, in rural southeastern Anderson County. That’s where the energetic Bob and Cheryl Snow grow their small market produce and flowers, supplying a whole host of happy customers in five locations around the central Kentucky area.

Depending on the season, the couple offers a wide-ranging assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits such as those included at a recent Anderson County Farmers Market, in Lawrenceburg: both ripe and green tomatoes, blueberries, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and green beans. And that’s only a start on the good eats. For the visual and olfactory senses, Bluebird Hill has annual and perennial flowers, and they feature an amazing assortment of registered hybrid daylilies.

Bob Snow (Photo provided)

As I’ve lately gained interest in farming after a reluctance in my childhood, I wanted to learn more about the Snows’ endeavor after I became a customer of theirs at my local Woodford County Farmers Market.

So, I arranged to meet Bob Snow at the farm for a tour and discussion of he and Cheryl’s Bluebird Hill Farm operation, which has an interesting history. After Cheryl left her wildlife biologist position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998 to start their family, the move to Kentucky in 2001 saw her establish the market farm while Bob continued his career at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bob joined in the Bluebird endeavor full force when he retired in January, 2021.

On this late June day, it was sultry hot, but Bob met me with an infectious smile in front of the quaint framed house at the end of a long gravel road. He had an obvious willingness to have me feel the excitement of growing food and beauty in a special Kentucky way, then sharing the harvest with surrounding communities through local commerce.

The Snows moved here from the San Francisco Bay area some twenty years ago looking for some peaceful solitude—which they found on their 53 acres of both woods and cultivable land. “My wife said: ‘I want to be outside in my yard and if I hear a telephone ring, I know it’s mine,’” said Bob with a grin. Simple pleasures, indeed.

Bob showed me a small outbuilding with two attractive barn quilts displayed on the crop side, made by friends. One displayed a monarch butterfly likeness and the other an artistically painted stop sign. In the foreground were neatly curved rows of Bluebird’s trademark daylilies, which, he noted “all came from a neighbor.” One could see right away that butterflies of the monarch variety are treasured at this locale; common milkweed plants, of which monarchs feast on their foliage, stand ready for eating around the edge of the garden. Because of the long tap root making them hard to transplant, Bob noted that Bluebird does not sell the common milkweed but do “try to let them flourish.” They do, however, sell the butterfly milkweed, which has a shallower root system.

Outbuilding and garden at Bluebird Hill Farm (Photo provided)

Out in the daylily patch, Bob gave me a quick explanation of where the flower got its name. “This bloom will be here for a day,” then, pointing to a spent bloom, he said, “and tomorrow it will look like this.”

At another garden site, Bob showed me a different type of milkweed plant. “This is a ‘green antelope horn,’” he explained. “When it forms seed pods, we put organza bags around it to protect it from milkweed beetle so the seeds can be harvested later.” Then we looked at a large patch of “red deuce” tomatoes, where he took the opportunity to share their farm’s no spray policy on diseased plants. “These plants are not organic,” he said, “but we just don’t want fungicides and insecticides or herbicides on what we eat. If we have a diseased plant, we just cut it and get it out of there.”

One 40 horsepower tractor is sufficient for Bob and Cheryl’s farm needs, and much of the water put on the plantings comes from that “captured” off a barn roof and into a huge container sitting next to it, something Bob calls “a way to save a little money” on the plantings when there is a lack of rain, which quite frequently is an issue. “We can capture about 4,000 gallons, and it helps us with some of our irrigation,” he said. “We can’t spray it on our vegetable crops, but we can certainly use it on our flowers and other things.”

A look at the “high tunnel,” a structure set up and covered with plastic to focus the sun’s energy to raise temperatures, let me see how the Bluebird tomato crop ripens before others’ crops. “I’m selling every tomato I can put on my table right now because have a little jump on the crop,” said Bob. Some people don’t like the idea of tomato plants growing in a high tunnel– that it is somehow not “natural” — but Bob is quick to point out that the plants “are grown in the ground. We’re just getting an early start.”

Some of Bluebird Hill Farm’s plants and produce at a recent Franklin County Farmers Market (Photo provided)

He gave me a quick overview of the season’s harvesting process. “We start with strawberries around mid-May, a two-to-three-week harvest,” he said. “As soon as they quit ripening, then the blueberries come in and after that, the blackberries will be ready. There are the vegetables and the flowers . . . petunias, pansies, and other annuals and perennials come from mid-summer to late summer. There are different varieties of daylilies that bloom mid-season to late season. Then we move into irises. We have 25 varieties of those, which we bought from a farm in Mercer County that was going out of business.”

The fall time, explained Bob, brings harvests like “gem corn,” winter squash, and “pumpkin on a stick,” which is an Asian eggplant which looks like a baby pumpkin floral arrangement. “We have a little of everything,” he said, grinning.

Bluebird Hill Farm sets up at five small market sites around the area, and since some meet more than once per week, the couple make a total of nine appearances, with Bob and Cheryl dividing their locations.

Nearing the time I finished my visit, Bob remarked that he and Cheryl “were working too hard to be retired,” but then, with a twinkle in his eye, he seemed to say that Bluebird Hill Farm will likely be in business for a while. Seems like it’s hard to walk away from something that fulfills so much passion and makes so many people happy.

Contact Bluebird Hill Farm on their Facebook page.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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