Avid preservationists, Lois Mateus and Tim Peters purchased the first acres of Tallgrass Farm shortly after their marriage in 1992, for her a return to farming in her childhood community. They put a conservation easement on the farm, built a home and, as they acquired adjacent land, began the ongoing process of restoring fields overgrown with cedars and trash, raising grass-fed cattle organically, planting warm native season grasses, and slowly and gently grooming the landscape, taking great care to protect the creatures that inhabit the farm.
Together they received Riverfields’ Land Heroes Award in 2005 for their commitment to farmland preservation. In 2010, Preservation Kentucky recognized their partnership in the arts and retail redevelopment of the NuLu District on East Market Street where local food was the highlight. They are recipients of the 2012 Ida Lee Willis Award for Preservation of Historic buildings in Harrodsburg and the 2017 Linda Bruckheimer Award for Rural Preservation. Having restored eight buildings in downtown Harrodsburg, they created and funded a new Preservation Kentucky ‘ Making a Difference on Main Street ‘ Award in 2019.
Tim Peters has owned and operated Peters Construction in Louisville as a general contractor and construction manager since 1975. He has completed hundreds if commercial projects of all sizes with an emphasis on historic preservation. A conservationist, he is a champion of adaptive use of existing buildings and his projects have won numerous awards, including being Louisville’s first LEED Platinum builder.
He is a native of Wisconsin and attended UW before joining the Army in 1965, rising to the rank of captain in Vietnam. He graduated from the University of Louisville, and has served on the Kentucky state board of Housing, Building and Construction. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Lincoln Society of the Kentucky Historical Society, the James Harrod Trust, and is a gubernatorial appointee to the Kentucky Heritage Council.
Lois Mateus is retired from Brown Forman Corporation, where she was senior vice president, a member of the executive committee, and responsible for restoration of the company’s historic properties from 1982 to 2008. Previously, she served in the economic development branch in Governor John Y. Brown’s administration as state commissioner of tourism and the arts. With First Lady Phyllis George Brown, she helped develop the state’s marketing program for arts and crafts and co-founded the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. She has served on the boards of International Association of Culinary Professionals’
Culinary Trust, Lenox China, and Hartmann Luggage, and was one of three shareholders in the development of Woodford Reserve Bourbon.
She serves on the board of Kentucky Humanities, the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation, Centre College president’s advisory board, and is a lifetime trustee of The Kentuckians of New York. Her alma mater, the University of Kentucky, awarded her its Lifetime Achievement Award in Communications and Public Relations in 2005. She is a board member and past chair of UK’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. She has been a regular monthly columnist for The Harrodsburg Herald since 2005.
How We Feel about this Place
My psyche is deeply rooted in the natural and cultural history of Kentucky farming. The natural rhythms, the colors, even the smells, and the connection with the land have always been in my blood. I love the open space, the seasons, feeling the weather before it gets here. I remember watching my father search the sky at the end of the day and evening for what tomorrow’s weather, and thus his work, would be like.
It is my desire to continue to restore and revive this land and then to leave it, better than we found it, preserved in perpetuity from development and sprawl. Both Tim and I revere nature and champion individuality and the rural spirit. We recognize that one cannot legislate aesthetics and stewardship of the land, or mess with farmers’ independence, but we know it is right for us to save and protect this place. We try not to intrude on nature; parts of Tallgrass farm are still wild, and with our conservation easement, they always will be. One cannot help but see and feel that many places on the farm are sanctuaries– the heartbeat of this place.
I plan never to retire from the construction business, and I still think of myself as a weekend farmer. Our reverence for nature and history is reflected in this place; the work here is slow and steady, a thoughtful development of preservation and conservation. Tallgrass Farm is a model of what can be done to reclaim poor rocky soil covered with cedars. Stewardship is essential and one has to make personal choices that are environmentally inter-related.
We are curtailing weeds and rebuilding the soil by careful mowing and grazing, taking care to accommodate both wildlife and agriculture. As we contain the cedars and mow weeds, the yield of hay increases. The warm season native grasses we have planted in three strategic locations nurture wildlife, providing cover for turkey, quail, and the pheasants I raise each year. The herons love the waterways; and the owls, bats and hawks soar in protected peace. Here in our vegetable gardens, I feel we are giving back some of what the land gives to us.