Writing a story on Hemp, CBD, regenerative farming, circular economies or women in business? Get the unique perspective of Laura Freeman, owner of Mt. Folly Farm and founder of Laura’s Lean Beef, Laura’s Mercantile, Wildcat Willy’s Distillery and Barred Owl LLC, an opportunity zone company.
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About Laura Freeman
Founder of Laura’s Lean Beef Company and Mt. Folly Enterprises, Laura Freeman is part of the regenerative agriculture movement, wedded to the local food, local economy movement.
“Starting in 1985, I was one of the first to raise and market beef raised without antibiotics or growth hormones,” Freeman says.
“Yet I realized that farming better, and then plugging sustainable farming into the industrial food system, with its vast distribution channels, excessive food miles, and global production model, doesn’t achieve the environmental goals I seek.”
By the mid 2000’s, agriculturalist Freeman developed a systems-based approach to the climate crisis, turning to regenerative agriculture methods to sequester carbon. “Agricultural land is the last great carbon sink.
Rather than keeping carbon in the ground, where it belongs and where it benefits plant growth, industrial agriculture has depleted the soil’s carbon stocks,” she says. “Not only can we reverse this, but we can add and sequester carbon fairly rapidly, with different management strategies.”
Hitching improved farming on to the global food system doesn’t achieve the aim of a reduced carbon footprint, however.
“At Laura’s Lean Beef Company, we were running refrigerated trucks all over the United States and into Canada,” she says. “This won’t work if your goal is to mitigate climate change.”
And now the company which in 2008 purchased Laura’s Lean Beef has introduced a meatless “hamburger” patty, made primarily from organic soybeans.
“I don’t have the facts on this right now, but around 80% of the organic soybeans used in the United States are imported, and in general manufactured food has a problematic carbon footprint.”
Freeman is assembling the facts on cattle raised and marketed locally. She and her colleagues think that well-managed pasture-raised cattle contribute more to building soil organic matter, and thus sequester more carbon, than their enteric system produces.
Freeman has learned much from the past. For this reason, she recently has opened a farm-to-table restaurant, bakery and distillery in near-by Winchester, Kentucky, and is in the process of restoring a second downtown building for staff offices and apartments.
“The whole idea here is to localize the economy, which in part means revitalizing our downtown and strengthening our community,” she says.
The new venture brings people downtown to work and live. Freeman is passionate about the garden space she carved out of an old parking lot behind the distillery, too.
“I never thought I’d garden with a jackhammer, but that is what it took to get a little green space in this neglected part of town,” she says.
She hopes members of the community will gather there, “just to hang out and get to know each other.”
An accomplished equestrian, in 2005 Freeman took a horseback fall that changed her life. It took her years to recover, and she considers this her greatest personal accomplishment. CBD hemp was central to her comeback. Happily married and now a grandmother, she is concerned about the future and is proud that her daughter, granddaughter and grandson are climate activists.
Freeman was a founding member of the Community Farm Alliance, and traveled to Europe, countries of the former Soviet Union, and Central and South American through agricultural programs funded by the Kellogg Foundation. In 2008 she was elected to the Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame.
She has served on the administrative council (the governing body) of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, is a fellow of the Donella Meadows Institute, and a member of the Policy Committee of the Organic Farmer’s Association.
To request an interview with Laura, members of the press should contact us here.