A farm to know: Clover Hilltop is dedicated to ethical growing

Published 11:03 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Carrie Hudson

Intern Reporter

On the outskirts of Jessamine County, you will find a wooded area followed by a growing farm.

Email newsletter signup

Run by Tim and Diane Vetters, Clover Hilltop Farm grows an array of vegetables and herbs.

When they first began gardening on their farm 30 years ago, it was just a hobby. Tim worked as a model sculptor and Diane as a math teacher.

“We started with a little, tiny plot out front…Every year we expanded a little bit more. Now it is a pretty major source of income, where before it was just a hobby,” Diane Vetters said.

The process of growing effectively and thoughtfully is one that the Vetters have adjusted and made improvements to over the years.

Tim Vetters stated that when they began selling, ensuring their products were healthy for their customers and the environment was a top priority. “We really wanted to make sure we were selling good products to our customers but that we were also taking care of the land,” Tim said.

Part of their promise to the land is the absence of chemicals in their gardening.

A few changes to their gardening process through the years include moving away from tilling and creating grass pathways between rows.

Many hold the belief that tilling makes your soil lighter.

Tim revealed this is a myth and can make the soil more dense.

“Tilling can really compact the soil, especially clay soil. You think you are making it lighter and fluffier, but it actually makes it worse. For years we would till our gardens- it’s nice to plant in, but when it rains it packs it down…It also prevents erosion,” Tim said.

Instead of tilling, they use permanent beds.

“We don’t till anymore- we add compost on top as needed,” Tim said.

Another change the Vetters have implemented through the years is grass pathways.

“It creates a habitat for beneficial insects and spiders, like wolf spiders and ground beetles. They will eat slugs and slug eggs. Since we’ve had the natural pathways, we have less slugs…it creates a balance or equilibrium,” Tim said.

Even though maintaining the paths may be more work, the Vetters believe it is more beneficial to their garden.

Besides constantly looking for new ways to better their farm, farmers markets are also critical to the Vetters’ work. They are active at the Nicholasville and Wilmore farmers market throughout the summer. The farmers markets in Jessamine County are unique because they are growers-only.

“People think you go to a farmers market and it is people selling stuff they grew, but not all markets are like that. A lot of markets have people go and buy produce and sell it at the market,” Tim said.

With Jessamine County being growers-only, it is exclusive to vendors to grow or make their own products.

From a vendor’s perspective, Tim believes being growers-only is beneficial to community agriculture, “Jessamine County made that decision because it is what is best for local growers.”

With Jessamine County being their home, the Vetters enjoy being able to participate in markets here and fostering a relationship with the customers.

As their farm grew larger and they made more connections, the Vetters have had the opportunity to participate in numerous agriculture studies with the University of Kentucky.

Currently, the Vetters havee several small triangular boxes hanging in front of their rows of tomatoes. The boxes detect a particular type of invasive moth that is not known to have reached Kentucky.

“They put the insect traps all over the state, so we as a state can confidently say, ‘We do not have this particular type of insect’ so we can export our goods. It’s fun when they send out different research projects,” Diane said.

Part of the Vetters farm is to educate people on where their food comes from, which can be seen through their collaboration with the Asbury Mission Farm, specifically with their agriculture class.

“Every September they come out and take a tour, and we have a bonfire. We have been doing it ever since they started the class,” Tim said.

For more information Clover Hilltop Farm and the work of Tim and Diane Vetters, look for them at the local farmers markets or check out their website for more information: https://clover-hilltop-farm.business.site/.