Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is a landmark destination that shares 3,000 acres (1214 hectares) of discovery in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers. With 34 original Shaker structures, the site is home to the country’s largest private collection of original 19th-century buildings. Shaker Village fosters a model that balances the site’s heritage with contemporary principles to bridge the past to the future. Demonstrating a commitment to community, sustainability and ingenuity, the model embraces three pillars rooted in time-honored Shaker legacies, including balanced preservation and conservation; engaged learning and exploration; and warm, spirited hospitality.
The Shakers wasted nothing, and today Shaker Village seeks to follow in their footsteps by establishing sound, environmentally friendly organizational practices. Shaker Village is committed to sustainable agricultural practices, sound ecological land management and public environmental education.
The plot intended for the wheat cultivation has historically been used as a farming area for the past 220 years. The Shakers themselves used this area as their “East Family Farm” which during their time was about 5 acres in total, with our wheat plot being the furthest north-eastern corner of that historical area. From the period of 1923 to 1968, after the Shakers had left, the area was used as a large-scale tobacco farm which was very common in that area of Kentucky. Starting in 1968 the area started being used as a demonstration farm area for guest of Shaker Village growing everything from sorghum, flowers, tomatoes and other nightshades, garlic, and had periodically had livestock grazing on it to terminate cover crop. Up until 2015 the plot was tilled every year without much nutrient application besides the occasional agricultural lime. Starting in 2015, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill started to make the transition to an organic farming operation focusing on ideas such as No-Till agriculture, crop rotation, and fallow years to improve organic matter. On recent soil testing, Gabriel Franceso, Draft Animal Coordinator at Shaker Village, stated: the small 1/8-acre plot that we have set aside for our wheat project was determined to be the best quality of soil in our entire garden area with an Organic Soil Matter of 9.6%.
Disking the wheat plot
Post plowing with a horse drawn John Deere Syracuse #210 sulky plow, the seed bed was prepared by using an ´International Harvester´ disk harrow on November 4th 2021. The day after, the team of Shaker Village planted Japhet and Red Fife Wheat: one 53' x 3’ row of Japhet and two 53’ x 3’ rows of Red Fife - done via hand broadcasting. Two 53’ x 3’ rows of Winter Rye were also planted in separate rows but in same overall plot.
The seeds weren´t worked in with a harrow but “walked in” by basically dancing/walking on the broadcasted wheat to push it into the soil. The sowing process nevertheless had to be repeated as chicken and turkey jumped the fences of their enclosures. At the second attempt, everything worked out fine and the wheat field is now thriving.