2023: A Year In Review

Melissa Williams, Development Coordinator

As December draws to a close, it is our tradition to look back at all the things we accomplished over the past year. Since we started posting a year in review blog in 2019, Shaker Village has experienced some remarkable highs. We have also weathered the challenges of the pandemic and its ongoing effects. Collectively we have all become very adept at this balancing act.

Preserving the Village and its Memories

We experienced this kind of resilience at the Village this year. In March we told you about the 1835 Carriage House that was flattened when a tree fell during an unprecedented storm. Acts of nature, such as this one, are one of the things the staff here fears most. It was gut wrenching to see the building in this state. But, our talented team of carpenters were able to salvage many of the original materials and were determined to rebuild the Carriage House. They spent most of the year doing so (and encountered many material delays). Now it stands proudly – almost as if nothing ever happened.

The Carriage House restoration is almost complete.

This summer we received an impromptu, transformational gift from a new friend who had recently stayed overnight at the Village. Her experience at Pleasant Hill moved her to help support the restoration of the Village and preserve it for future generations to discover. Her gift is designated for the 1845 West Family Sisters Shop and work is underway now to restore its windows, doors and cornice.

Last summer we were sad to share the Riverboat was retiring after 40 years on the Kentucky River. Over its years of service, the boat touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of visitors. This year, through the generosity of a donor, the Riverboat received a facelift and a new permanent home in drydock at Shaker Landing. At the same time the Shaker Landing Barn was masterfully restored. This allowed us to reopen Shaker Landing as an educational center and event venue, and will ensure that more memories are made that last a lifetime.

The permanently docked Riverboat is now an event venue at Shaker Landing.

These larger projects were a major focus for us this year, but we also continued our regular, ongoing maintenance of all of the historic structures and added new roofs to the 1848 Post Office and 1875 Scale House.

Life on the Farm

At the Farm, there is always a lot going on behind the scenes. Our expanding sustainable agriculture focus keeps us busy throughout the year.  In February, we kicked off the year with a celebration of maple syrup harvested from the trees along the Historic Turnpike and across the property. The Maple Days event was our first organized maple-themed event in recent years and it attracted quite a crowd of interested and engaged guests.

During the spring time, our “farmily” grew as babies arrived. New lambs, chicks, ducks, turkeys, calves, and piglets were greeted by guests at our popular Brunch with the Babies event in April.

Guests enjoyed meeting baby farm animals at Family Farm Days including these lambs.

In the fall, we celebrated the changing seasons on the Farm with Harvest Fest in September. This event was our largest, best attended Harvest Fest ever with more than 3,200 participants.

Throughout the changing seasons, our team also continued the Community Supported Agriculture program. Participating members receive a variety of fresh weekly produce and their participation helps to sustain the garden at Shaker Village which has existed in the same spot for more than 200 years. The CSA program has been so well received that it was expanded further to include meat shares.

Protecting the Preserve

On The Preserve, a lot of time and focus was spent this year on cleanup following the same March storm that impacted the Carriage House. Throughout the Village and the Preserve, an estimated 70 trees fell during the storm. This left our team with a lot of trees to remove, particularly so the trail system could reopen safely for our guests.

In the Spring, major restoration work began on the Shaker Pond Dam to prevent further erosion to the cultural landscape. This work was made possible by contributions from a local foundation and it complimented a two-year project to rehabilitate 20 acres in the pond drainage area that was already in progress. The Shaker Pond Drainage rehabilitation and educational project is funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It aims to improve water quality in the drainage area, and at the same time made it possible for 327 local students to participate on STEM educational activities this year as the project progressed.

Students conducted studies on water quality.

If you are an avid user of the trail system, you will notice that the West Trail Head was relocated this fall as part of the site’s long-range plan. Funded by the Kentucky Colonels Good Works Program, the trail head was moved to be adjacent to the West Lot Dwelling parking lot to provide easier access to the trail system for our guests. 

The Preserve Team also completed work at Shaker Landing and on the Palisades trail. If you have not hiked this trail recently, we encourage you to add it to you adventure list and mark it off soon.

Expanding Education and the Guest Experience
This year, we hosted tens of thousands of guests in the Village for daily adventures, dining, overnight stays, signature events, weddings, family reunions, business retreats and more.  And, with an expanded guest experience, there was more to see and do this year.

Two exhibits opened to the public in 2023. The first, a temporary exhibit, Searching for Sister Mary helps guest to explore the life of Sister May Settles who passed away 100 years ago as the last Shaker at Pleasant Hill. The second, The Believers, opened as a permanent exhibition in September on the second floor of the 1820 Meeting House. It encourages visitors to learn more about how the Shakers’ faith influenced the way they lived and it compliments our live Shaker Music program that takes place on the first floor of the building daily. The Believers was made possible through a grant by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

The Searching for Sister Mary exhibit opened in early 2023 and explored the life of “the last Shaker.”

The guest experience also expanded this year to include a natural playscape for our youngest visitors. This area adjacent to the farm is both a recreational area and a natural learning lab. Since it’s opening this fall, it has been extremely popular and so inspirational. The children who visit Shaker Village today will be the stewards of the site tomorrow.

With Thanks and Gratitude to You

Since 2019 I have had the privilege of authoring this blog post. Every year as I begin to pull together a list of all the things that happened, I am humbled by just how much your support has impacted the Village.  When you visit for the day, when you dine with us, stay overnight, make a purchase in the shops, become an annual passholder, and make a financial contribution, you are making a difference here. 

Shaker Village’s mission and work is all about inspiring future generations by sharing the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers, but we can’t fulfill this mission without you. 

Thank you for everything you do – big or small – to help us carry out our work. Together, we can and will ensure that Shaker Village remains a place for tranquil reflection, for families, for discovery and for play.

Shaker Village Farm Meat Shares

J. Michael Moore, Farm Manager 

There is a history of agriculture at Pleasant Hill that is deeply rooted in the Shaker spirit. We embrace this heritage in every choice we make on the farm today. The Shakers were among some of the most prominent agriculturists of their time, even working with some famous Kentuckians like Henry Clay. The Shakers were practicing sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry before it was the “right way” to do things through their set of millennial laws. 

Section VII. 

Order Concerning Beasts, &c. 

  •  No beasts belonging to the people of God, may be left to suffer with hunger, thirsts or cold, in consequence of neglect, on the part of those who have the care of them.  But all should be kept in their proper places, and properly attended to according to their needs. 
  • Beasts may not be called by the given or christen names of persons. 
  • No kinds of beasts, birds, fowls, or fishes, may be kept merely for the sake of show, or fancy. 
  • No beasts or any living thing, may be wantonly pained, injured, or tortured.  And no living thing may be chastened or corrected in a passion. 

We believe the land we stand on is to be tended in a sustainable and regenerative way that ensures the history of its production provides for us now and continues to produce for the next generations of guests at Pleasant Hill. Every year we produce thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables from our certified-organic garden and orchard, but what you may not know is that we provide protein to our onsite restaurant and local communities.  

The Shaker Village Farm provides a true farm-to-table experience with fresh seasonal produce delivered daily to The Trustees’ Table restaurant.

Our farm supports more than 300 animals that play a significant role in our success. We believe every animal has a purpose; we use their natural abilities to mimic how they interact in nature to manage our land in a fashion that improves the land they occupy. These ecological services are exemplified through manure used as fertilizers in our garden, holistic grazing to improve our pastures, or even using ducks to manage pests and waste in our orchards.  

All things are interconnected on our farm to ensure our livestock live the best possible natural life while improving the land we rely on. We are focused on the philosophy of “one bad day,” whether it is some of our favorite barnyard friends or our production livestock, we work every day to treat them all the same and provide them with the best quality of life. 

Farm Manager J. Michael Moore checking on livestock in the pasture.

Every year we provide thousands of pounds of meat to our restaurant, The Trustees’ Table, but we have expanded to provide the best possible meat from our fields to your plate. We finish all our cattle and sheep on grass, and all of our hogs and turkeys are pasture raised and only feed non-GMO grains. When you purchase a meat share or garden share from our farm, you are not only supporting 200 years of history, you are also supporting furthering sustainable and regenerative practices that we believe are the path forward and the future of our food systems. Don’t just take it from us, read what one of our happy customers had to say about their experience. 

“Leslie and I are enthusiastic supporters of Shaker Village. When we learned that they were butchering and selling beef and pork raised on property we quickly put in our order. We purchased a whole cow and have enjoyed several of the cuts. The beef has a wonderful fresh, healthy taste to it that just can’t be found in grocery store meat.  The cuts are perfect serving sizes, and Mike Moore, Shaker Village Farm Manager, couldn’t be easier to work with or more accommodating. It’s rewarding to us knowing we are serving our family premium, tasty, and wholesome proteins while supporting Shaker Village. We hope you’ll consider Shaker Village when buying your beef or pork.” 

Mike Browning & Dr. Leslie Horn 

If you are preparing for the holidays, special occasions or looking to stock your freezer, we’d be grateful if you considered purchasing a meat share of lamb, pork or poultry from the Shaker Village Farm.  

Environmental Education Field Trips

Pony Meyer, Program Specialist
Laura Baird, Stewardship Manager

Shaker Village boasts 2,000 acres of Nature Preserve full of educational potential. We host a variety of environmental education opportunities through our discovery treks and seasonal guided hikes; however, part of the challenge in harnessing this potential for larger school groups is access. Recently, we have started to expand our environmental education field trip offerings by improving access to natural areas closer to the Village center. To do this, we secured an 18-month grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to fund pond restoration, habitat improvement and environmental education opportunities in a specific project area.  

Learn more about school programs at Shaker Village here.  

NFWF Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program Grant

In Fall 2022, we received a Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program Grant from the NFWF. This grant funded habitat improvement, pond restoration and environmental education in a 20-acre area of early successional forest and wetland habitat.

This upland drainage includes three historic farm ponds, the largest of which was built in 1837 and is a 2.5-acre pond stocked for catch-and-release fishing. The Shakers called this pond the “Big Pond” or “West Pond.” Historically, it was an important source of water and ice for the Shakers, especially during periods of drought. The smallest pond in the project area is roughly 0.2 acres and catches water released from an on-site wastewater treatment facility. The project also includes the small stream that connects these ponds and the remaining length of this drainage until it connects to a tributary of Shaker Creek, which drains into the Kentucky River after approximately 4.5 miles.

This map shows the 20-acre restoration and educational area including three historic farm ponds. 

Restoration and Habitat Improvement

For habitat improvement, the project focuses on the removal of invasive plants such as bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard as well as replanting native species selected to support birds and pollinators. Both the Preserve and Program departments, as well as community volunteers and Mercer County students have played an integral part in this stewardship.

Upland streams, headwaters and wetlands are considered priority habitats in Kentucky’s State Wildlife Action Plan and many of the birds who utilize this habitat are considered priority species in this area of the state. This project builds upon previous work completed on property to improve the habitat and the quality of the watershed. Since 2009, more than 1,000 acres of surrounding fields at Pleasant Hill have been converted from modern farmland to native shortgrass prairies and managed for grassland bird diversity. 

Click here to learn more information on the land conservation efforts in the Preserve at Shaker Village.

Environmental Education Programs for Mercer County Students

NFWF also funded the development of two environmental education programs in this project area specifically for students in Mercer County, Kentucky:

  • Pond Restoration, Habitat Improvement, and the Importance of Native Plants
  • Water Quality Testing in Shaker Village Ponds

Over the winter of 2022-2023, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill’s Program and Preserve teams developed these stewardship programs; ran a teacher focus group for participating teachers; and cleared a temporary hiking path through the area. In the spring of 2023, we piloted and launched the two new programs for grades 3-12. We ran 11 programs with nine different teachers and provided programming for 174 students! Students from Burgin Independent and Mercery County High School used a hands-on 3D model to explore how watersheds work and the impact of possible pollutants. Hiking a little over a mile through the project area, students also performed water quality testing in two Shaker Village ponds and planted native trees/shrubs in riparian areas. Students learned how Best Management Practices like planting native plants and vegetation buffers near our waterways help mitigate non-point source pollution.

8th grade students from Burgin Independent using a 3D watershed model to learn about water pollution.

Students planted a variety of bareroot native trees and shrubs including Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), American Hazelnut (Corylus Americana), Eastern serviceberry (A.canadensis), American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Students also placed tree protectors (blue tubes pictured) to protect the young trees from the elements and from foraging deer.

Third grade students from Burgin Independent planting native trees and shrubs.
A 10th grade student from Mercer County High School holds a streamside salamander (Ambystoma barbouri).

What’s Next?

Beginning this fall, the Program team will continue running these two stewardship programs where students from Mercer County will have the opportunity to test water quality, plant native plants and explore the Nature Preserve. The Preserve team will continue working on establishing the educational foot trail while the Program team will also be working on interpretive signage in this area including information on the Shaker Village wastewater treatment plant. Looking to 2024, Shaker Village plans to offer these two programs as educational field trips for students in our state and region. Please keep an eye on our school programs webpage as we continue to expand our environmental education offerings in this project area and beyond!

The Gift of Shaker Village

Shannon Timmons, Annual Passholder Program Coordinator

As we enter the month of November, many of us turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving, and what we are grateful for from the past year. At Shaker Village we have many things to be grateful for, and the support of our 3,300 Annual Passholders is at the top of the list.

Annual Pass fees support 3,000 acres of discovery, new programs and educational opportunities for our guests. Pass fees also go towards the preservation and maintenance of our pristine grounds which includes 37 miles of walking and riding trails, and 34 original 19th Century buildings.

Discovery starts here at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

The Annual Pass Program has incredible value! We have three different passes and a variety of ways to customize them to fit your needs. The Village Pass, Equestrian Pass and Photography Pass all include tremendous benefits:

  • Unlimited free admission to The Historic Centre, The Farm and The Preserve.
  • Unlimited free hayrides and non-motorized boat launches from Shaker Landing (seasonal).
  • Free admission to signature events like our Easter Egg Hunt, Trick-or-Treat, Harvest Fest, Vintage Dads Day and Craft Fair.
  • 10% discount on overnight rooms in The Inn.
  • 10% discount on meals at The Trustees’ Table.
  • 10% discount on purchases at The Shops.
  • Additional passholder-only discounts several times a year across the Village.
  • Discounts on Discovery Treks and Workshops.
  • Insider emails and exclusive promotions.

The Village Pass is designed for singles, couples, and families who enjoy strolling the trails, picnics at the pond, exploring the history of our original Shaker structures, or just simply soaking in the peace and tranquility of the property.

The Village Pass allows individuals, couples and families to experience the best of the Village.

The Equestrian Pass is prefect for equine aficionados who bring their horses and explore our 30 miles of riding trails. This pass also includes free stall use and two complementary admission passes to The Historic Centre to share with family and friends.

Horse lovers will enjoy spending time out on the trails.

If you are a photographer, the Photography Pass is for you! Your clients receive free admission to the property during their photo session, and you won’t find a more beautiful location in Central Kentucky for outdoor photo shoots.

Professional photographers can capture their clients in the beauty of Shaker Village every season.

Not only is an annual pass a wonderful gift for yourself, it makes the perfect gift for the holidays. Giving the beauty, history and hospitality of Shaker Village is a unique way to treat your loved ones. So, as we approach the season of giving and of thanksgiving, we say THANK YOU to our annual passholder supporters. For those of you who are interested in joining our passholder family, please visit our website for more information and to sign up.

If you’d like to give the gift of an annual pass, or have any questions about the program, please contact Shannon Timmons, Annual Passholder Program Coordinator at stimmons@shakervillageky.org, or 859.734.1553.

A Look Inside Little English’s Fall Photoshoot

A few months ago, Shaker Village hosted Little English, a female-led Lexington, Ky. based children’s clothing line, for their fall collection photoshoot. The Village was a perfect fit for the countryside chic vibe they were looking to capture. We enjoyed having them so much that we invited them to be a guest blogger this month. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the shoot and visit littleenglish.com to shop the collection, and receive 10% off through October 31, 2022 by using code: SHAKERVILLAGE10 at checkout.

Guest Blogger Siobhan O’Neill, Little English Affiliate Marketing Specialist

Established in 1805, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was once the third largest Shaker community in the US. This landmark destination includes 3,000 acres of discovery in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers and is home to the country’s largest private collection of original 19th century buildings. Shaker Village’s rich history, beautiful countryside, and proud roots were a few reasons Little English decided to host our fall 2022 photoshoot at this destination, just outside of Lexington, in Harrodsburg, KY.

The Charlotte & Davant Bubbles in Gray Blue Gingham & Classic Cashmere Blend Cardigan in Navy.

Like Shaker Village, Little English values tradition. Shaker Village’s mission is to inspire generations through discovery, by sharing the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers. Similarly, Little English works to preserve tradition in clothing by curating classic and high-quality children’s clothing that celebrates childhood. The emphasis Shaker Village places on nature preservation, history, and tradition made it an easy location choice for Little English.

Corduroy is trending for fall. Shop these styles in the Little English Fall Catalog.

One of the historically significant and well-preserved landmarks of Shaker Village are the dry-stack stone fences that can be seen when you first drive onto the property. Pleasant Hill once had more than 40 miles of dry-stack stone fences. Today, they repair and maintain 25 miles of these fences famous to the Bluegrass. Like most of the stone fences in the Bluegrass region, the ones that surround Pleasant Hill were built by Irish and African-American stone masons (learn more about their history here). Little English featured these stone fences in our photoshoot because of their beautiful and unique texture and historical significance to Kentucky.

The Scale House Wagon is loaded up for a fun fall day. Shop the looks here.

The display wagon, used in Little English’s photoshoot, is housed in the Scale House. Built in 1875, the Scale House was used as a weigh station for heavy loads of cargo used by the Shakers. The wagon you see today is a reproduction of the Pennebaker Brother’s original wagon used to haul coal, brick, and other supplies on the property.

A cozy morning on the West Family Dwelling porch in Gingerbread Cookie Printed Jammies.

Utilized as a location for retreats, meetings and reunions today, the West Lot Dwelling was once a gathering house for apprentice members of the Shaker community. In the late 19th century, it became a home for Swedish immigrants and later turned into the Pennebaker Home for Girls. Little English did the majority of our shooting in and around the West Lot Dwelling because of the beautiful interiors, grand porches, and lush outdoor areas.

Little English was so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Shaker Village on our fall 2022 photoshoot. The 3,000 acres of rolling hills and 19th century buildings provided endless shooting opportunities to capture Shaker Village’s beauty and highlight the mood and inspiration behind our fall collection.

Fall is a great time to discover all that Shaker Village has to offer with special events, daily tours, a seed-to-table restaurant and overnight stays at the historic Inn. To learn more or to plan your getaway to Shaker Village visit shakervillageky.org.