October 25, 2006 | By: Aimee Nielson

Each year, the Laurel County Cooperative Extension office sponsors a tour of local farms to show the agricultural diversity of the county. This year, organizers thought it was important to show tour participants that agriculture is more than traditional farming by including some farm industry businesses.

“You know, everybody gets an idea from seeing other things, so I hope this will stimulate somebody to get involved in some other kind of industry,” said Glenn Williams, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Laurel County. “Or, perhaps, they’ll see something they might be interested in going into, but didn’t really have the know-how or know who to contact. By meeting all these new folks, you make new acquaintances and it opens up new doors.”

Riding on trolleys, participants started at the Laurel County Farmer’s Market before moving on to Ulrich Custom Cabinets and then to Burkhart’s Orchard and Robinson’s Stave Mill. Entrepreneur James Ulrich turns sawed logs into custom cabinets, crown molding and furniture. Participants viewed Ulrich’s workshop and a variety of self-engineered technology. Ulrich said he built most the equipment he uses in his trade.

At Burkhart’s Orchard, tour attendees tasted freshly picked apples from an abundant fall harvest and got a chance to try a value-added product – fried apple pies.

Robinson’s Stave Mill manufactures whiskey barrels and then ships them all over the world. Approximately 75 employees produce 350 to 400 barrels per day, all from white oak. Laurel County Judge-Executive Lawrence Kuhl, also a member of the county Extension council, said the county has experienced a lot of growth and he believes it’s important for the residents to know what kind of agricultural-related businesses exist.

“We got a cross-section of people here today that get the chance to see what goes on in the county, some have never been in some of these operations before,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to see what some of our people do for a living and where that reaches nationally. 

They get a cross-section of what is happening. Sometimes (on the tour) we take them strictly to farms, where they raise cattle, those types of things, but today was the industry aspect of it.”

Beef producer Bobby Anders went on the tour to experience parts of Laurel County that he knows little about. He raises more than 75 head of Limousin cattle on 200 acres, so he’s familiar with the production side of agriculture, but not so much the industry side.

“It was an eye-opening experience to see what kind of industry goes on in Laurel County,” Anders said. “It’s something a lot of people ought to do; they could see what’s going on and what’s being manufactured in Laurel County. I really enjoy seeing these manufacturers, like down there where they were making those whiskey barrels. I really enjoyed Mr. Robinson’s tour that he gave us, and Mr. Ulrich, I really enjoyed that.”

The tour concluded with a barbecue lunch and door prize giveaways at the Pittsburg Memorial Shelter in East Bernstadt. Kuhl commented on how great it was to work with the Extension staff while organizing the tour.

“This is a good group to work with, they are really interested in our county and the growth here and providing things for our farmers and our business people,” he said. “We are here to expand opportunities; that’s what it is all about.”


Glenn Williams, 606-864-4167