There are many ways to measure success depending on what you value. The production data is always important to measure if you want to measure progress. Profitability is a must if you consider your farm a business and not a hobby. Additionally at Eden Shale we measure another metric that most farms do not, visitors.
2023 has been another busy year with lots of interests in the workings of Eden Shale. We have hosted more tours and field days this year than we ever have since KBN took over the farm in 2013.
In the years leading up to COVID we were conducting roughly 30-35 tours a year. Each year we hosted an increasing number of people culminating with over 720 people coming through our gates in 2019. Since reopening after the pandemic our numbers have rebounded slowly at first, but have picked up speed the last two years. This year has been our greatest number of events putting our total at 40 tours with 525 visitors (and I’m sure I’ll book more after this goes to print). This is exactly the purpose we had for Eden Shale Farm ten years ago when we started it. We envisioned the farm to be a working classroom where students, producers, and industry professionals could gather and learn about different ways to tackle some of the varying production challenges that Kentucky has to offer.
However, producers are not the only folks who have come to the farm. We have had the opportunity to host regulatory and governmental agencies including KY Energy & Environmental Cabinet’s Division of Conservation, Division of Water Basin Coordinators, NRCS, and folks from the regional EPA office in Atlanta. Other non-producer groups have included a UK Health & Occupational Safety class, Farm Credit employee’s, high school FFA chapters, Auburn Vet Students, and college students from Eastern Kentucky University and University of Kentucky.
During the past year these different groups have had a wide variety of people including beef producers from 42 Kentucky Counties as well as visitors from the states of Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Oregon, North Carolina, and Alabama.
This year we have also had an international audience. Early in the year we had the opportunity to host a group of 15 Chinese nationalists that were touring the United States. This was the first time that I have ever presented with a real time interpreter standing next to me interpreting as I spoke. In addition to China, we had attendees from Canada, Mexico, Australia, Puerto Rico, and South Africa. We have now had the privilege of hosting foreign visitors from 16 different countries (6 of the 7 continents) since we have been operating the farm.
While it does take time out of production to host these tours, we do consider it a measure of success of the work that Eden Shale Farm has been able to accomplish. I want to thank everyone who has made this success possible and especially for the inquisitive folks who have taken time out of their busy schedule to come visit the farm. I do appreciate it.