May 20, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

The sloping land of Eden Shale Farm, 2004

In the early 1950s, former University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Dean Frank Welch charged a committee of northern Kentucky farmers to find a location suitable for a farm on which research could be conducted that would benefit the area. Led by O.D. Hawkins, the group found nearly 1,000 acres in the Eden Hills region. They purchased the land with donations from counties, organizations and individuals and then deeded Eden Shale Research Farm to the UK College of Agriculture in 1955. 

A celebration honoring 50 years of research and service at Eden Shale is set for June 16 at the farm in Owen County. Festivities will begin at 3 p.m. EDT.

“For 50 years, Eden Shale Farm has been a place for a variety of demonstrations and tests related to the region’s unique geography,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research at the UK College of Agriculture. “The soil type is one-of-a-kind and would be hard to duplicate anywhere else in Kentucky. That presents challenges to farmers and livestock producers, and that’s what Eden Shale Farm is all about – finding solutions for those challenges.”

In the farm’s early years, Eden Shale’s first farm manager O.D. Hawkins discovered that the region’s best use was for forages and livestock. Because of that, most research efforts have focused on pasture improvement and livestock management on the hills of the farm.

“Our main emphasis has been with forages and grazing and for the last 25 years we have been working on the endophyte problem in the fescue,” said Joe Wyles, current farm manager at Eden Shale. “Instead of trying to get rid of it, we have actually managed our pastures to keep it so we can study it.”

Celebration visitors will be able to take tours of farm areas focusing on beef, forage, grape and tobacco research at Eden Shale. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by a short program with speakers from the UK College of Agriculture, including current Dean M. Scott Smith, former Dean C. Oran Little, Committee Chair and College of Agriculture faculty member Don Ely and Director of Management Operations William O. Peterson. The College administration will make a presentation to Wyles recognizing his retirement and more than 35 years of service.

Guests will have a chance to reminisce about the past and look toward the future.

“Over the years, Eden Shale farm has been home to research in many areas of agriculture from grapes and Christmas trees to cattle and forages,” said Ely, celebration committee chair and ruminant nutrition specialist for the UK College of Agriculture. “We are celebrating that heritage and looking forward to the next 50 years of working to meet the unique needs of the farmers in the Eden Shale area.”

Eden Shale Research Farm is located in Owen County. From Interstate 75, take the Owenton/Corinth exit (No. 144). Travel west on Kentucky 330 approximately 12 miles. Turn right onto Kentucky 845 north and travel approximately 3 miles to Eden Shale Farm. For more information about Eden Shale’s 50th anniversary celebration, contact Ely at 859-257-2717 or Joe Wyles at 502-484-5531.


Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267