By Katherine (Katie) Ellis
It is a privilege to write to you today from The Berry Center. I am grateful to be a part of this important work in culture and agriculture and to be doing so alongside such wonderful people. The work of The Berry Center is deeply personal to me, as it is many of you.
When Mary discusses the importance of protecting the farmer in the marketplace she often tells the story of her great-grandfather returning home without a dime to show for his 1906 tobacco crop. She reflects on the impact that this experience had on her grandfather, John Berry, Sr., and his commitment to advocate for small farmers. This is not a pain that I have known in my lifetime thanks to the protections offered by the Tobacco Program. However, I have experienced the trails of a boom and bust agricultural economy firsthand.
My family has raised purebred breeding stock in Boyle County for nearly sixty years. I recall the collapse of the market in 1998 and the impact that it had on my family and countless others around us. Prices dropped to $17 per hundredweight and hit levels that hadn’t been seen since the Depression. This return doesn’t come close to offsetting the costs of production. We were fortunate continue farming amid extreme fluctuations in the market while many around us did not.
I am proud to say that three generations of my family continues to farm together today. When my brother returned to our farm upon graduation from college, he began working to create his niche. He now raises club pigs and works with youth interested in raising and showing hogs. Next weekend marks a milestone for our family and this endeavor – we are hosting our first Kentucky Proud pig sale. While this may seem like a small event to many, it speaks to the hope that we hold and the ever-changing nature of our family’s farm.
I am eager to see what lies ahead for the work of The Berry Center, just as I am for my family.