Farm to be focus at Kentucky Castle
One day not too far in the future, visitors to the Kentucky Castle will be able to take a gander at gardens, sheep, horses, chickens, bees – and a truffle-hunting dog.
Matthew Dawson, one of four co-owners of the 55-acre property purchased from Thomas Post for $8.7 million last July, said they’re about to step up farm-to-table and other agricultural efforts there.
“We’re from Central Kentucky. We’re proud of the farming that goes on here and what we do. Our main goal with the castle and this property is really to showcase what Central Kentucky does, and our goal all along has been to turn this 55 acres into a working farm to produce as much as we can for our restaurant …” Dawson said.
Part of that plan includes eventually incorporating Parker View Farm behind the castle that the group purchased three weeks ago, Dawson said. The former operator has leased the 55-acre property, which will remain a working horse farm and offer tours to castle guests. Dawson calls the purchase “a perfect extension of our farm efforts.”
Meanwhile, land between the castle and horse farm already features chicken coops, a collection of bee hives (called an apiary) and soon-to-be vegetable gardens.
“Our chef is working with our master gardener to come up with our full list of vegetables we’ll be placing in the ground next week,” Dawson said.
Crops grown there will be served at the castle restaurant, and guests and other visitors will have the opportunity to learn where they came from.
The message, Dawson said, is that “food doesn’t come from a grocery store, it comes from our farms, from our soil.”
There’s already a lavender field in front of the castle, and Dawson said sheep will arrive in the next month, with goats and cattle likely to come after more fencing is added.
Three weeks from now, with the help of Oregon truffle expert Dr. Charles Lefevre, oak and hazelnut “truffle trees” will be planted behind the castle.
“Kentucky’s a perfect climate for growing these European truffles that on open market cost $2,000 a pound, some of them. So we’re going to actually plant them here,” Dawson said.
Future plans include truffle dinners on March 5 and 6, Dawson said.
Overall, castle business is “going great,” according to Dawson.
“Anyone who’s farmed knows it’s a very capital-intensive thing. We’re investing quite a bit now, but that’s the goal. We’re committed to the long term and investing in this project (to) make it something that everybody around here’s proud of,” Dawson said.
The restaurant, which is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday, is usually full on weekends, Dawson said.
“You can usually still get tables ‘day of’ during the weekday, but on the weekend, it’s usually a few days out that you have to make a reservation,” Dawson said.
Some of the visitors may have read November’s issue of Architectural Digest, in which the Kentucky Castle was named the most beautiful hotel in Kentucky.
“What started as an opulent romantic gesture turned into an even more luxurious hotel. Built in 1969, the Kentucky Castle comes complete with the Master Bourbon Steward to teach each guest about the state’s specialty spirit,” the reviewer wrote.
“Right around that time I got an email from a guest who said she stayed at the hotel and the staff was incredibly kind and made her daughter feel like a true princess. That comment stood out to us because that’s our goal. We want to treat every guest who comes in like we want our family to be treated, and that’s our main mission here …” Dawson said.
Meanwhile, visitors continue to stop on Lexington Road to gawk at the landmark.
“It’s rare that I drive by and there’s not someone sitting out there, taking a picture or a video,” Dawson said.
While Dawson and his partners want to make a profit, he said their goals include another sort of green.
“We really do want the farm eventually to be the focus here. And so we’re trying to push out some kind of farm educational programs in the near future. So I’d love for people in this area who are interested in the truffle trees, in the sheep and the apiary, the beehives and things, to watch our website …” Dawson said.
A farm tour announcement is coming soon, he said, along with lectures on the truffle trees. When the truffles are ready to harvest, they won’t rely on pigs – notorious for their love of truffles – to snuff them out.
“The pigs can find them, but the problem with the pigs is they get excited and you basically have to fight the pigs for it, once they find them,” Dawson said, laughing.
Instead, they’ll bring in an Italian dog called a Lagotto Romagnolo that is bred to find them – and not eat them.
“We’re having a good time. This is definitely a fun project,” Dawson said.