Barn-based agri-tourism business continues to grow

By Toni W. Riley

Keith and Sara Shepherd had no idea when they took over the Shepherd family farm, that someday they would have an agri-tourism business where brides and grooms would be toasted in the barn that once held prized Shorthorn cattle.

A wedding venture might not be what first comes to mind when thinking of an agri-tourism business, but Kelly Jackson, Christian County agent for horticulture who works with the Pennyrile Region Agri-tourism Committee, says agri-tourism is any activity that brings people to a farm or a farm-like setting.

Bash at the Burdoc, a fundraiser for the Imagination Library, raised over $10,000 for the reading program.

Bash at the Burdoc, a fundraiser for the Imagination Library, raised over $10,000 for the reading program.

Burdoc Farms, located on Pleasant Grove Road near Crofton, was the farm of beloved Hopkinsville doctor Norma Shepherd and her husband, Burwell Shepherd (hence the name Bur for Burwell and Doc for Dr. Shepherd).

When Dr. Shepherd passed away in 1993, Keith and Sara became the owners. The couple built a home and raised their three children at Burdoc Farms, which gradually ventured into an agri-tourism business that will hopefully provide a long-term viable income for the children because traditional farming was the wave of the future for the Shepherd family.

Burdoc Farm, which was purchased by Keith’s parents in the 1940s had always been a traditional livestock and tobacco farm; however, Keith and Sara’s vision for the farm was to concentrate on recreational and wildlife opportunities.

The farm boasts about 700 acres, on which Keith, who is a certified forester, has planted over 30,000 trees in the last 10 years. The Shepherds have worked to develop the farm into a conservation farm that has indigenous grasses, wildflowers and timber management, which will provide a habitat for wildlife.

In 2008, out-of-state hunters began contacting the Shepherds to hunt deer on the farm. The Shepherds opened the one-bedroom cabin next to their home as a sort of hunting lodge and their agri-tourism business began, but it was in 2013 that Burdoc Farms Weddings and Events really started.

The couple’s daughter, Jackie, wanted to get married on the farm and use one of the barns for her reception. Keith and Sara made her dream come true.

Jackie was married in a field next to the house, guests sat on hay bales and the reception was in a barn that once stored lumber.

With the number of guests who told Sara how beautiful the wedding was and that they should do weddings all the time, she along with their other daughter Jessica began developing the cattle barn into another event area with the support of Keith.

Currently 65 percent of their business is weddings 30 percent hunting and 5 percent other events, such as “Bash at the Burdoc,” which raised money for Imagination Library at the Hopkinsville Public Libray.

Future plans include daughter Jessica becoming more active in the family business, adding bison and another barn that could be used year round with wind and solar power to provide electricity and wood burning furnaces adding radiant heat.

The family hopes the add-on will be used for more corporate events and plans to start hosting “Farm to Fork” events with food from Christian County and have guests become more attuned to locally sourced food as well as non-traditional farming.

Sara summed of the philosophy of Burdoc Farms Wedding and Events by saying, “One of our goals is to educate our guests about what we are trying to achieve with the farm.”

For more information and to see photos of Burdoc Farms go to www.burdocfarms.com.

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