The Berry Center

Our Staff

Mary Berry

Founder & Executive Director

Mary Berry - Executive DirectorThe Berry Center Executive Director Mary Berry and her brother, Den Berry, were raised by their parents, Wendell and Tanya Berry, at Lanes Landing Farm in Henry County, Kentucky from the time she was six years old. She attended Henry County public schools and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1981. She farmed for a living in Henry County starting out in dairy farming, growing Burley tobacco, and later diversifying to organic vegetables, pastured poultry and grass fed beef.

Mary is married to Trimble County, Kentucky farmer, Steve Smith, who started the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming endeavor in the state of Kentucky. If daughters Katie Johnson, Virginia Aguilar and Tanya Smith choose to stay in Henry County, they will be the ninth generation of their family to live and farm there.

Mary currently serves on the Board of Directors of United Citizens Bank, in New Castle, Kentucky, and is on the board of directors of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She speaks all over the country as a proponent of agriculture of the middle, in defense of small farmers, and in the hope of restoring a culture and an economy that has been lost in rural America. Recently she has written a letter for inclusion in the book, “Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future” (Princeton Agricultural Press, 2016), and the introduction for a new edition of essays, “Our Sustainable Table”, Robert Clark, ed. (Counterpoint, 2017).

Virginia Aguilar

Director, Agrarian Cultural Center and Bookstore

Virginia AguilarVirginia Aguilar was born and raised in Henry County, Kentucky. After graduating from Bellarmine University in 2007 with a degree in history, she became a founding faculty member at Louisville Classical Academy where she taught history, ancient languages, art, and served as middle school principal. After eight years of teaching, Virginia moved to The Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky where she currently serves as director of the Agrarian Cultural Center and Bookstore at The Berry Center. Virginia and her husband Ben currently live in Louisville but intend to move back to their home place of Henry County.

Dr. Leah Bayens

Dean, Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College

Leah Bayens

As a member of the Sterling College faculty and Leadership Council, Leah works with colleagues and community partners to translate Wendell Berry’s visions for thriving farming communities into hands-on, interdisciplinary education. She teaches in and leads the Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College, calling on her research in agrarian literature, history, and culture as well as her service to a number of central Kentucky nonprofits: Plowshares Farm Center, New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and the Boyle County Farmers’ Market.

In 2011, Leah earned her doctorate in English from the University of Kentucky, where she studied 19thcentury American literature, ecocriticism, and cultural studies theory. In 2012, she joined The Berry Center’s work by founding and coordinating the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program at St. Catharine College, where she also served as Chair of the Department of Earth Studies. Through The Berry Center’s partnership with Sterling College, Leah continues to fine-tune this new agrarian education. Her research has been published in Working for Social Justice: Inside and Outside the Classroom, Appalachian Heritage, The Whole Horse Project, The Notebook: A Journal for Rural Women and Girls, and What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? (forthcoming).

Leah grew up in Louisville but has called rural Kentucky home since she graduated high school. She lives on family land near Danville, Kentucky, with her partner, Bruce Bryant, a cabinetmaker and part-time teacher, and their son, Burley.

Michele Guthrie

Archivist, Archive at the Berry Center

Michele GuthrieMichele Guthrie grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, went to the University of Kentucky and graduated with a degree in Special Education in 1973. She moved to Louisville after graduation and taught in the Louisville City School System, later the Jefferson County Public Schools. She married Jim Guthrie in 1975 and soon afterwards they purchased the farm in Henry County near the Kentucky River where they have lived now for thirty-eight years. They have three children, Joe, Rosalie and Paige.

In 1994 she received her master’s degree from Spalding University in Louisville as a school library media specialist. She worked for the Carroll County Pubic Schools as a library media specialist, the Kentucky Department of Education as the Kentucky Education Technology System coordinator/consultant for Region 8, then for the Oldham County Public Schools as library media specialist at La Grange Elementary School until her retirement in 2011.

In the summer of 2011 she was hired by The Berry Center as an archivist and librarian to curate an agrarian collection of books and materials and to organize, catalog and preserve the records of the Berry Family particularly as pertains to their work in public service, culture and agriculture, and advocacy for farmers and land-conserving communities in our state and the country.

Darra Smith

Office Manager, The Berry Center

Dara SmithDarra Smith joined The Berry Center’s work in 2015 as the office manager. Darra has over 20 years’ managerial and administrative experience. She spent 18 years serving as District Manager in the drinking water industry and has a strong water quality and customer service record. She and her husband, Tim Smith, live on their farm on the Little Kentucky River in Trimble County, Kentucky. They have two children, Casey and Kelly. Darra handles bookkeeping, invoicing and customer service.

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