More than Just a Farm
More than Just a Farm
Sara Shepherd opens up about what makes Burdoc Farms so special.
It's Saturday, it's hot, and there are two weddings happening (just minutes apart) at two separate venues located within Burdoc Farms in Crofton, Kentucky. Sara Shepherd, the "leading lady" of Burdoc Farms, emerges from her front porch and greets us warmly, a casual grin on her face.
Sara's husband, Burwell, is steps behind her, ready to introduce himself. He's eating a peach, relishing in all that summer is. Sara checks her phone, keeping a close eye on the happenings of the day. Burwell makes easy conversation and talks about a somewhat recent storm that destroyed the original barn where ceremonies were held on the farm. It was rebuilt within days, something he's proud of. As any true gentleman would do, he offers us peaches. In their world, it's just another weekend, another Saturday, another day of weddings. There's a four-legged friend pounding the pavement beside us. His name is Austin and he wags his tail with friendly enthusiasm. He's not so subtly demanding to be the tagalong for the day.
Sara looks down at him and shakes her head, "I don't think you'll be going with me today, Austin," she says sympathetically. We insist that he join us for the ride (hey, we're dog people) and he rushes to the ATV that Sara drives around the farm. He claims his seat on the back bench, his comfort zone. Sara shrugs her shoulders and laughs. This is their routine, their afternoon, their Saturday. The July sun beats down, but Sara speeds through the property and the heat doesn't quite reach skin through the breeze. She is familiar with every turn and bend in the road.
"Did y'all see the signs for the different weddings?" Sara asks, appearing slightly concerned. We tell her that we definitely saw the signs and she seems relieved.
"Good," she responds, her mind still working.
Our first stop is at Keith Glen, the newest venue at Burdoc Farms. It's beautiful. A striking structure with tall glass windows that the sun bounces off of in all the right places. It's positioned in front of a large pond and the scenery is breathtaking. There's a fountain in the middle of the pond, the sound of water hitting water drowns out the bustle of stressed brides and rambunctious wedding parties. We stop just outside of the ceremony site and Sara surveys all the things that are going on around her.
She notices quickly that there's a traffic jam in the works outside of Keith Glen. Vendors are making last minute drop offs and she graciously lets them know that the ceremony will be starting soon. She doesn't miss an opportunity to ask a friend if he noticed the wedding signs at the entrance. She is still concerned, still curious. Overseeing a wedding day is a job not meant for the faint of heart. Sara is a calming presence to the flustered people around her and they are quick to accommodate her requests.
Once everything is clear, Sara drives toward the Old Tobacco Barn where the second ceremony is being held. The stretch of road from one venue to the next isn't long, but the lush landscape and greenery that surrounds the area makes it feel like a Sunday drive instead of a Saturday task.
The ATV comes to a sudden halt and Sara shuts off the engine. She shakes her head, maybe throws in an eye roll, and jumps off the vehicle. There's an empty water bottle in the middle of the road and she bends down to pick it up.
"I could spend all day, and sometimes I do, just picking up trash," she says as she throws the item in the bed of the ATV.
Until that point, we hadn't even noticed the trash. Her eyes had been searching for it the whole time. It doesn't seem laborious to her, but there are more trash stops along the way.
Austin is still situated comfortably in the back, smiling as dogs do, tongue slipping in and out of his mouth in excitement. He knows the roads, the stops, the familiar faces, and doesn't mind the strangers. His demeanor, like his owner's, doesn't change. He's just happy to be along for the ride. Sara makes another stop in a grassy parking area. Her employees, all of who beam when she drives up, are directing traffic and managing the hectic parking situation. Sara makes conversation with each of them. She knows each of them. It's obvious that she cares for each of them. One could easily assume that they are family.
"My employees are all people who need another job to make their ends meet. It's a lot of weekends and they're thankful for the busy seasons." Sarah explains, her tone soft.
Her employees are dressed in khakis and black branded polos. They ask each other if they've seen the decor for the two weddings. Burdoc Farms hosts double weddings often and there's no sign of stress or uneasiness in the air. It's a well oiled-machine and every individual on the grounds has a purpose in making it work. No matter the scale, the Shepherds play an important role in the small town of Crofton. Even if their only contribution to the community is providing twelve people with weekend work, it makes a difference. Sara doesn't take any credit. She pauses and looks out toward the reception barn.
It's quiet, the only exception being the cicadas playing their wedding songs in the background. Maybe she's thinking about her and Burwell's impact on Crofton, maybe she's thinking about any trash she might have missed during the short drive, or maybe she's still wondering if the wedding guests can spot the signs at the entrance. In any scenario, Sara is lost in her thoughts.
She breaks the silence, "My husband's mother and father established this farm in 1952. Norma and Burwell Sr. It's something they were proud of. Norma always said that she didn't know what its purpose would be, she only knew that she wanted it to be something more than just a farm."
Several Burdoc Farms employees are still walking purposefully around the parking area, directing traffic with intention. Austin is completely sprawled out in the back, sleepy eyes and calm spirit. In the distance, a bride is beginning her walk toward the aisle. Wedding days can be stressful and hectic, they can be tiresome and frantic. Sara has had her fair share of those experiences, but in this moment, she is content.
Those sixty something years ago, when her in-laws established Burdoc Farms, maybe they had a feeling that someone in the future would hold their land, their farm, close to the heart. Maybe they knew that their bloodlines would run as deep as the trails that Sara knows like the back of her hand. Maybe they already knew that it was more than just a farm.
This article was featured in Volume 9, Issue 2 of Kentucky Bride. To find out more information about Burdoc Farms, visit burdocfarms.com.