• 39°

Escape to Nature

HomeGrown HideAways offers ‘glamping,’ primitive camping adventure

Tucked in the wooded foothills of Berea, Kentucky, HomeGrown HideAways (HGHA), is an idyllic destination for folks looking for a peaceful escape in a natural setting.

“It feels like you’re a million miles away from the outside world, but we’re really only around 12 miles from I-75,” said HGHA’s “Instigator and Co-Conspirator” Jessa Turner. “We were initially worried that visitors would be turned off by our lack of cell service and internet, but what we’ve found is that most of our guests come out here specifically to get away from the constant buzzing of notifications on               their devices.”

Jessa, a Berea College graduate (Sustainability and Environmental Studies), runs HGHA with her husband, Nathan, a Sullivan University alum/chef and volunteer firefighter. Both Kentucky natives, the couple took ownership of the property on their seven-year wedding anniversary in April 2009.

“We fell in love with beauty and grandeur of the area the moment we laid eyes on it and knew this place was something special,” Jessa said. “Being down in the valley makes it feel like the mountains are hugging you, and we’re so far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. Instead of sirens and honking horns, we have songbirds, crickets, and spring peepers. The noisiest things out here are the rooster, the full-moon chorus of coyotes, and the occasional piece of farm machinery.”

Whether you prefer pitching a tent or spending the night in something more modern, like a yurt or treehouse, HGHA has a variety of accommodation options for guests.

“We offer the basics of any campground, including primitive and improved camping as well as RV hook-ups, but we also have three ‘glampsites.’ They include The Porch, a 12×15 covered porch for tents and hammocks with a fire pit, picnic table, and, of course, a porch swing; The Nook, a 16-foot bell tent tucked back in a cozy and semi-secluded area of the farm near our mushroom logs; and The Tipi, a 24-foot diameter Sioux-style tipi with an indoor fire-pit, is located in the playground area, so it’s great for kids and scout troops,” Jessa said. “Our top-of-the-line offerings include Abi’s Arboreal Abode & Hammock Haven (AAAHH), a 15-foot diameter yurt atop a 10-foot high platform attached to a grove of walnut trees; the Yome Away from Home, a secluded 19-foot diameter yurt/dome with huge deck, hardwood floors, and a woodstove; and our soon-to-open Treetop Flyer, a one and a half story treehouse with a sleeping loft, wrap-around covered porch, and valley view. Those are all equipped with beds, sheets and pillows, and table and chairs for eating and/or playing games.”

As for amenities, the bath house — with toilets, sinks and solar-heated showers — is open April-October. There are also two outhouses for off-season guests and a covered pavilion with seating for more than 100. The concession stand-turned-Courtesy Kitchen has appliances, utensils and a farm stand with excess eggs and produce for sale. A renovation is being planned for that specific area, thanks to some startup funding HGHA received as a semifinalist in the American Farm Bureau Federation® Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge last year.

“We plan to use that money, along with personal savings, crowd-funding, and loans, to rebuild the Courtesy Kitchen into a 3,000 sq. ft. Certified Kitchen and Classroom where we can offer a wider array of workshops such as cooking, art, yoga, and other community activities,” Jessa said. “We’re really excited about the opportunities this new building will allow us to pursue and hope we are able to raise enough money to make this new dream into reality.”

To reserve their stay at HGHA, guests can use the popular site, Airbnb, which has had a significant impact on the business’ growth and success.

“Airbnb has helped us turn a side hobby into a full-blown business model. Growing a garden, hosting events, and allowing folks to camp on the farm brought in a small amount of income, but not enough to feel comfortable relinquishing the day job. Adding lodging to our farm was a natural fit to allowing more opportunity for folks to stay over, but we never imagined how popular it would become in such a short amount of time,” Jessa said. “We had our first booking in August of 2016, and in 2017, we hosted almost 600 guests from 19 states and 4 countries! Having a farm means that we no longer travel like we used to, but having such an array of guests means that we still get to meet new people from all over the world without even having to leave the comfort of our home.”

Events have also played a large role in HGHA’s story. Several festivals, including Holler in the Holler, the Whippoorwill Festival, Moonshiner’s Ball and PlayThink Movement & Arts Festival (the only one HGHA still hosts) have used the farm as their venue. HGHA has served as a site for weddings, reunions, retreats and other group activities.

“We also try to organize several in-house events as well such as our Mushroom Inoculation Workshops, Outdoor Adventure Retreats, and Chef’s Table, a 3-4 course farm-to-table dinner that takes place in the Turner’s home kitchen,” Jessa said. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to have a farm where we could grow our own food, teach workshops, and have a gathering place for events that promote local music, food, arts, crafts, and community building. I wrote my first business plan in college when I was recruited to the Entrepreneurship for the Public Good program in 2005, and it’s fun to look back on that document and see that everything I dreamed of then has since turned into reality.”

HomeGrown HideAways is located at 500 Floyd Branch Rd. in Berea, Kentucky. For more information, visit homegrownhideaways.org. To contact, email DesignBuild@HomeGrownHideAways.org or call 859.YUM.DIRT (986.3478) before 9 p.m.