Press and articles

Spring 2016

Conversations Aroud the Kitchen Table

The Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Key Ingredients:
America by Food, sponsored by the Kentucky Humanities
Council several years ago, got my husband and
me thinking about the connections between conversation
and the food we produce, prepare, and present at our table.
is exhibit was a provocative and thoughtful look at the
historic, regional, and social traditions that merge in everyday
meals and celebrations. It examined the evolution of the American
kitchen, table manners and eating habits, as well as emerging
controversial technological innovations of the food industry.
e sheer sensory experience of the Key Ingredients exhibit
helped the viewer beer understand ourselves and humanity by
encouraging us to stop and think how and why we break bread
and quench our thirst together.
Many people can close their eyes and picture the family dining
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March 2016

One With Mother Nature

Acquiring a green thumb doesn’t happen overnight. Learning how to care for the Earth is a process that can begin in childhood. Tallgrass Farm Foundation, a Blue Grass Energy member and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agricultural and environmental education resource model based in Mercer County, believes in helping little ones grow up to be good stewards of the Earth.
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July 6, 2015

Seeds Blossom at Tallgrass Farm

“May I have more?” “Me, too!” That’s how 11 young Lexington students responded when their field trip hosts offered homegrown vegetables for lunch on a hot summer day. The trip formed part of the learning agenda for an intensive summer youth training program called SEEDS: Service, Education and Entrepreneurship in Downtown Spaces.

After an hour-long trip from Lexington to Tallgrass Farm in Mercer County, the students bounced off the bus to meet farm owners Lois Mateus and Tim Peters. Knowing young people’s habits well, Lois and Tim welcomed the students directly to lunch: a homegrown, seasonal, sustainable Kentucky feast of Hidden Zucchini Pizza Pie (see accompanying recipe), fresh green salad, chocolate chip cookies and icy drinks.

In the cool shade of a handsome 200-year-old barn that Lois and Tim rescued from an industrial park in Harrodsburg and rebuilt on the farm, the students cleaned up every bite of the home-cooked food. As they ate, Tim showed them the peg-style construction in the native limestone and timber building. Living sage plants lined the long, wooden lunch table. Lois told her guests she had grown a sage seedling for each of them to take home. “They will grow and be just right for seasoning the stuffing for your Thanksgiving dinners,”‎ she said, underscoring the main theme of the day: sharing sage wisdom with valued young people.
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August 16, 2013

Bourbon Women, Kentucky Distillers' Association Announce Inaugural Networking Award

FRANKFORT, Ky.—Lois Mateus, the first woman to serve on the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Board of Directors, was honored tonight by the KDA and the Bourbon Women organization with a namesake award for her networking and professional prowess.

Eric Gregory - President of Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Lois Mateus, Peggy Noe Stevens - President of Bourbon Women Association
Ms. Mateus, retired Senior Vice President of Brown-Forman, Inc., accepted the first-ever “Lois Mateus Networking Award” at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion, where more than 125 members of the Bourbon Women group held an educational event with KDA craft distilleries.

“Networking is close kin to teamwork,” Ms. Mateus said. “The Kentucky Bourbon industry has long realized ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ Together as an industry, through KDA and enthusiasts like Bourbon Women, we help each other, advancing the great American spirit while building our individual brands.”

Ms. Mateus was appointed to the KDA Board as the Director from Brown-Forman in the spring of 1992 and served a two-year term, said KDA President Eric Gregory. Since then, numerous women have served on the KDA Board as Directors, Officers and Chairwoman.

“Our Association and our Board didn’t recognize this pioneering achievement at the time, but it certainly made a difference in our industry and that oversight is proudly being corrected tonight with this deserving award,” Gregory said.

“Today, the KDA is honored that women are in high-ranking roles as Bourbon Ambassador, Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Secretary/Treasurer of our Board. Their leadership and expertise have transformed our industry. We owe them, and Lois, our thanks.”

Ms. Mateus was given an etched copper and crackle glass platter at tonight’s ceremony to symbolize the breakthrough role. Peggy Noe Stevens, founder of Bourbon Women, said the award will be given annually in cooperation with KDA.

“So much of what we know and love about Bourbon has been influenced by remarkable women,” said Stevens, a nationally acclaimed author and consultant with more than 20 years’ experience in hospitality, tourism and experiential marketing.

“Everything from mash bills to packaging has been shaped in part by the careful consideration of Southern ladies like Catherine Carpenter and Marge Samuels. This award celebrates women who have impacted their industry and achieved exceptional influence in their field.”

Stevens said the award will be based on the following criteria for a woman who has:

Excelled in her profession by continuously building key relationships to contribute to the growth in her respective industry
Broken through barriers to grow her career
Contributed to the community through service and philanthropy
Increased exposure for other women to grow their networking and career opportunities
Developed creative partnerships and strategic alliances to further the growth of her respective industry
Become a role model for female professionalism
Bourbon Women was founded in 2011 to promote the history, heritage, culture and lifestyle of Bourbon. The group has grown to 500 members in 20 states and three countries, Stevens said. Learn more at

The KDA, a non-profit trade group founded in 1880, is the state’s leading voice on spirits issues. Its members produce 90 percent of the world’s Bourbon and have invested nearly $300 million in new facilities, equipment and visitor centers in the last two years alone.

Heritage members include Beam, Inc. (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark); Brown-Forman Corp.; Diageo North America; Four Roses Distillery; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; and Wild Turkey Distillery.

Craft distillery members include Alltech; Barrel House Distilling Co.; Corsair Artisan Distillery; Limestone Branch Distillery; MB Roland Distillery; The Old Pogue Distillery; Silver Trail Distillery; and Willett Distillery.

The Distilled Spirits Epicenter in Louisville is an educational distillery member.

Go to for more information. Also, explore the KDA’s famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventure and the new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® at


For more information, contact Brittany Allison, Office: (502) 875-9351; Mobile: (502) 817-1622 or Mary Stone, (502) 259-8872.
KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, BOURBON TRAIL™ and KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR® are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Please drink responsibly.


May 2013

Mercer Countians Honored with Environmental Award

From left to right: Tim Peters,  Augusta Brown Holland
and Lois Mateus were recently honored with the
2013 Sutherland Enviornmental Preservation Award


May 2012

34th Annual Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Preservation Awards

November 2008

The Proof is in the (Bourbon Red) (Kentucky) Turkey!

It’s thrilling when excellence, delight, wonder, fun, flavor and Kentucky-ness all meet on one historic street corner in the Commonwealth, as they do at 700 West Main in Louisville. That’s the location for 21c Museum Hotel and Proof on Main restaurant.


All this has something to do with the photo above, too. Lois Mateus, right, generously shared the photo and a Turkey Tale with me. On the left, Proof on Main’s chef Michael Paley holds a prized Bourbon Red heritage turkey Lois reared at Tallgrass Farm in Mayo, Mercer County.

Lois and Tim Peters, her husband, also raise grass-fed goats and Angus cattle sustainably, and use their farm — which is protected by an Agricultural Conservation Easement — as a living laboratory intended “to preserve farmland from random development through conservation easements and to demonstrate that it is possible to produce food of the highest quality, working in harmony with the environment and nature.”

Sadly for the turkey, though - and for Lois, who is spending a day this week “processing” her birds — happy turkey days on the farm must end so Chef Paley can serve a Kentucky breed of turkey, grown sustainably on a Kentucky farm, at his Kentucky-centric restaurant this Thanksgiving. We know from Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Barbara Kingsolver and others that growing poultry sustainably on pasture can be good for the birds, the pasture, other livestock, and certainly for the humans who eat the delicious, life-sustaining results. We trust the diners will offer real gratitude for this food.

So much happens at 21c and Proof to expand the usual notions of Kentucky. In the hotel, a stately space, owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson display witty, engaging art from their private collection. The result, for me at least, was wonder. Wonder of the “I am so glad to be alive and be here taking this all in” sort, not an everyday experience once one passes the age of five - not even if one IS a Kentuckian surrounded by wonders every day.

Brown and Wilson’s building, contents, and guest satisfaction just landed 21c the number 16 spot on Condé Nast’s 2008 Readers’ Choice list of the Top 100 Hotels in the United States. This follows a spot on Condé Nast’s 2007 “hot list.” I find the 2008 honor particularly compelling, because visitors to a 90-room hotel in a midsized lower midwest/upper south city ranked the experience so positively that 21c keeps company on the list with a slew of Four Seasons and Ritz-Carltons in Chicago, New York City, and other likelier “hotel cities.”

People like 21c. Perhaps because 21c so clearly likes people.

So how did Lois Mateus, who has her own multi-faceted and quite amazing life story, end up talking turkey with the people at Proof? In part, Lois says she and 21c co-owner Steve Wilson are “best old friends and farmers who are still honing their childhood 4-H skills and rural footings as 21st century champions of local food.” Steve and his wife, Laura Lee Brown, farm sustainably in Oldham County, raising bison and vegetables that show up on Chef Paley’s Proof menus. Steve took part in the 4-H International Youth Exchange program, IFYE, a program I “met” when I served in the U.S. Peace Corps in the Philippines.

I do hope 4-H and FFA programs in Kentucky are going to grow and improve, developing grounded, capable leaders in cities as well as small towns. We need lots more people like these “best old friends” to guide Kentucky to its full agricultural, environmental, and human potential. All moves in that direction call for heartfelt thanksgiving.

March 13, 2009

Integration of Wayside into Nulu continues despite slow economy

The recession has halted more than a few big projects in or near downtown.

But on East Market Street, the early stages of the multiblock transformation of the former Wayside Christian Mission properties into the Nulu arts and retail district remains on track.

In addition to the integration of the Wayside properties, a new restaurant is scheduled to open this month in The Green Building, at 732 E. Market.

That building is the headquarters for Gill Holland, the entrepreneur and impresario leading the Wayside project. And Holland is planning to build yet another building next to The Green Building.

August 30, 2008

Couple Work to perserve our farm heritage

By Susan Smith-Durisek
The Lexington Herald-Leader

Tallgrass Farm's thousand acres lie in Mercer County, where the western edges of rolling Bluegrass pastures curl up to meet the push of steeper, rocky Eden shale hills.

At first glance, the hills, pastures and a couple of tobacco barns appear to be all there is to the farm. But descending the curve of the gravel drive, you can see terraces tucked into the slope holding what looks like an Italian villa, nestled in the hillside. The home faces a sweeping view of verdant farmland.

Owners Lois Mateus and Tim Peters have slightly different perspectives on why they chose this site to build a house. Mateus' exquisite poetic expression is that "it bows to the landscape of the farm."

Peters has a more practical view as designer and builder.

"Settled below the ridge, there is protection from the elements and the added benefit of having the garden terraces nearby," he said.

Either way, the couple is actively dedicated to preserving Kentucky's agricultural heritage and in advocating an interest in local foods. And their combined wisdom has created a home and farm that celebrates comfort with the earth and a creative spirit.

Peters used his experience as a contractor to incorporate elements of "green" ideas into the building plans for his home. A long south-facing wall absorbs the sun's rays in winter, while in summer, a cover of green leaves provides protection from the heat. Geothermal wells in the yard tie into the home's furnace, and a fan exhausts warmer air collected in the open cathedral ceiling under the steeply-pitched roof through louvers, keeping energy consumption low.

The house's many windows maximize the view while bringing ambient light and solar heat to the interior spaces. The open floor plan allows ample space for entertaining, which Mateus said comes naturally to them.

Just outside, the house is encircled by a wide, covered veranda, a style inspired by traditional Australian Queensland ranches. Air currents are channeled through the porches, forming natural, cooling breezeways. The transition from inside to out is seamless. Inside, reminders of nature are everywhere.

A skylight illuminates the potting room, which is filled with shelves of bell jars and clay vessels, and a row of bells hanging on the porch rings in the breeze, while arbors overgrown with wisteria become the roof for an outdoor dining room.

An art-filled walkway provides gallery space for a plaque showing birds flocking to St. Francis, and a hollow-headed bust planted with greenery is tucked into a rock wall niche. The scent of rosemary and thyme from the herb-lined walkway follows a stone path past an apple- espaliered guest house, and pots of lavender guard the doorway to a root cellar. Beyond that lie barns and gardens.

This is a working farm, producing grass-fed beef, a rare breed of Bourbon Red turkeys and an extensive organic vegetable and herb garden.

"I think everyone should have a vegetable garden and know the magic of seeing a beet come from a tiny seed," Mateus said. She also knows the magic and satisfaction of using those beets in the most delicious salads, within minutes of pulling them out of the ground.

The easily accessible gardens are on terraces that curve directly behind the house.

Mateus, a former senior vice president of Brown-Forman who retired this year, looks for ways to be creative and a good steward of the environment. A long arbor is hung with ornamental gourds, gray water is used to help irrigate, and branches from surrounding fig trees are woven into edging.

She said that with the physical labor in farming comes "a new kind of wisdom in hearing the birds, seeing the sun rise and set."

Raised just a few miles away, Mateus feels a deep connection with the land here. The mantle over their fireplace, for example, is recycled wood from beams in a barn from Mateus' childhood home.

And when development in Harrodsburg's Industrial Park threatened the oldest bank barn in the state, built in 1802 by Joseph Morgan, Mateus and Peters moved the structure piece by piece, with its stone base and hand-hewn beams, to their farm and have restored it for active use.

The farm itself is secured from development under a conservation easement, while the charitable Tallgrass Farm Foundation that they formed brings inner-city students to the farm to experience the rhythms of life in the country. Activities include growing vegetables, building rock walls, exploring the waterways and discovering wild animal habitats.

Peters, who is working on a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building and farmers market complex in downtown Louisville, said he has walked every inch of the farm, and he tells of heartfelt encounters with animals: sharing a few cold, snowy moments beside a foraging fox, learning the difference between an ordinary coyote howl and a warning call.

"Our reverence for nature and history is reflected in this place. One cannot help but see and feel that many spots on the farm are sanctuaries," he said.

Mateus said that the epitaph written at St. Paul's Cathedral in London for the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren comes to mind when thinking about their home. Translated from the Latin, it reads: "If you need a monument, look around."

Perhaps there was something in that first view from the ridgetop after all.

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What We Do

Tallgrass Farm Foundation
is a 501c3 non-profit agricultural and environmental education resource model practicing rural land use that is environmentally and culturally sustainable. By reclaiming, preserving and adapting its rural Kentucky landscape, along with what is believed to be the state’s oldest bank-style barn, Tallgrass Farm Foundation offers facilities and resources for teaching and demonstrating cooking, conservation and good stewardship of natural and agricultural resources.

Tallgrass Farm is preserved in perpetuity through an agricultural conservation easement.

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