On a chilly day in late fall, in a scene typical of rural Kentucky, Danny Ray Spalding watches his angus-based cattle graze on the grassy hillsides of St. Catharine Farm in Washington County.

As the farm manager of the property, which is owned by the Roman Catholic order, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, it’s Spalding’s job to not only care for these cattle but to market the end product to a continually growing consumer base. Spalding, like many other Kentucky producers, raises beef cattle for local consumers. 

“We’ve been selling to the public for the last 15 to 18 years, and we really got big in the last seven to eight years,” Spalding said. “The reason is the demand for local beef. We sell to the neighboring motherhouse and St. Catharine College and families in Washington County and around Lexington, Louisville and Bardstown. I also have a small restaurant in Lebanon and a country club in Bardstown that I supply. The demand is getting better every day.”

While many people only associate the local food movement with local produce and farmers markets, Kentucky producers of beef, chicken and pork are also seeing the demand for local products increase.

“It’s really been interesting to watch over my career all the different fads that have come and gone, and I was kind of watching to see what local food would do, but it’s here, and it’s only going to get better,” said Rick Greenwell, Washington County agent for agriculture and natural resources with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “Extension needs to make a home for it, because we can help people zero in on some things, get rid of some obstacles and run down some contacts for them.”

Greenwell has worked with farmers like Spalding and Patrick Wimsatt as they have expanded their market to local foods. He said extension is uniquely positioned to help educate producers just getting into local foods and consumers as to what each can offer and what to expect out of local foods.