By Jessica Walker Boehm, farmflavor.com
For both Albert Peterson and Charlie Masters, the familiar saying “you can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy” proved true. Today, these Kentucky natives help operate their respective farms – Peterson Farms and Masters Acres – with their families, proudly continuing traditions that earlier generations set in motion.
Peterson is a 13th-generation farmer whose ancestors farmed Manhattan Island in 1640, so it’s easy to see why he has chosen to work on the farm his grandfather founded in 1946. Farming is practically in his blood.
“I love being outdoors and seeing a crop from start to finish,” Peterson says. “I’ve also enjoyed working with my family, and I had the unique experience of working side by side with my grandfather for about seven years.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biosystems and agricultural engineering from the University of Kentucky, Peterson worked as an engineer for John Deere Harvester Works in Moline, Ill. In 2011, he returned to Loretto-based Peterson Farms to manage the operation with his father, Bill Peterson, and his uncles, David and Bernard Peterson. His wife, Karen, is the farm’s human resources manager and accounting specialist, and his aunt, Sandy, has served as the farm’s office manager for more than 30 years. Daniel Peterson, Albert’s younger brother, also helps out on the farm.
Peterson Farms currently comprises more than 16,000 acres that stretch across seven counties in central Kentucky, and the operation’s main crops include corn, soybeans, wheat, and industrial hemp seeds. The majority of Peterson Farms’ corn is used for bourbon production, and the farm has been Maker’s Mark’s exclusive wheat provider for several years. In addition, the farm’s winter wheat is sold to area flour mills and used to create foods like crackers and biscuits, while the industrial hemp seeds are sold to a Colorado-based company that develops cannabis-based oil to help reduce seizures.
Charlie Masters grew up on the farm he now operates with his wife, Rose Ann, in Mays Lick. The couple purchased Masters Acres, formerly known as Masters Charolais Farm, from Charlie’s parents in 2006, and today it is a commercial beef operation that sells products directly to consumers. Charlie’s parents raised purebred Charolais cattle, but he and Rose Ann raise grass-fed Dexter cattle due to the breed’s smaller size, which he says their customers prefer.
Although most of the couple’s customers live in and around Mays Lick, they also have a substantial client base in the nearby Batavia, Ohio, area, where Charlie works as an aircraft salesman Monday through Friday. He says many of their customers “had never tasted fresh beef,” and now that they have, they’re hooked.
“People have said they never really knew what beef tasted like until they tried ours,” Masters says.
In addition to beef, Masters Acres sells honey and fresh produce, and Charlie and Rose Ann have worked to make their operation sustainable so they can continue serving their customers for years to come. For example, the couple has a rotational grazing system in place, as well as movable electric fencing, which helps protect plants and soil from overgrazing and enables the farm to accommodate more cattle.
“Our reputation is on the line every time we sell something,” Masters says. “Because we sell directly to consumers, we depend on repeat business, and we want to make sure what we’re putting out is high quality. To date, we’ve never had a customer ask for a refund.”