Sustainable Berea

PO Box 1302

Berea, KY 40403


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©2019 by Sustainable Berea. All Rights Reserved.

Our History

In October 2005, 15 people met at a local church to share concerns regarding climate change, population growth, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and rising national debt, and how these trends might affect the future of Berea. Following a brief period operating as the Berea Outpost (under the Post Carbon Institute), this group became Sustainable Berea, a 501c3 organization consisting of:


a group of residents of Berea Kentucky and surrounding areas who work together to increase Berea's resilience – it's the ability to withstand external energy, economic and environmental shocks – by partnering with other community groups to re-localize our economy, food system, and energy sources.


Sustainable Berea’s initial efforts included film series, workshops, speakers and other events designed to educate citizens about challenges faced by the community, but also to give people the skills they needed to strengthen their households and neighborhoods. Activities organized by Sustainable Berea during its first decade included:


  • A city-wide rain barrel festival

  • Four 100-mile potlucks

  • Nine solar tours

  • Five local food expos

  • A dozen neighborhood food feasts

  • Many reskilling workshops

  • Cooking classes

  • Two local foods/local recipe books

  • Two informational wall calendars on household resilience and gardening

  • Manufactured and sold raised beds, rain barrels, and compost tumblers

  • Established a seed library with Madison County Public Library

  • Fruit and nut tree sales and giveaways


The Rain Barrel Festival in 2008 was a watershed event for Sustainable Berea.  One hundred and twenty-seven rain barrels painted by members of the community were auctioned, while 15 local and regional organizations dealing with water conservation and protection had booths to educate the 1500 people who attended. The success of this event provided a model followed since then: Partner with other organizations, include an educational component, and make it a fun celebration that brings people together.


In 2009, Sustainable Berea’s accomplishments led to its being designated by the Transition Network as the 13th official Transition Initiative in the United States. This provided a formal mechanism for the sharing of ideas and knowledge with what is now more than 150 groups in the United States that are working to increase the resilience of their community.


As Sustainable Berea’s first decade wrapped up, its emphasis shifted toward participation in the development of a locally sustainable food system for Berea. In 2013, Sustainable Berea collaborated with the City of Berea Tourism Commission to begin establishing the Berea Urban Farm, a 1.4-acre educational market garden in Old Town, Berea. Since then, the land has been improved and infrastructure including two high tunnels, a greenhouse, and a packing facility has been added. The production of crops for sale is the foundation of the farm’s educational programs for local gardeners, school children, and tourists.


Begun in 2014, the Backyard Beekeeping project helps five Berea households each year to become beekeepers.


In 2015, the First Annual Victory Garden Blitz saw more than 100 volunteers gather to build and install 180 raised garden beds throughout the city, primarily in low-income households. Subsequent Blitzes 2016-2018 added education and mentoring for new gardeners.


The Neighborhood Perennials project started in 2016, provides fruit and nut trees and bushes along with training on their care to households, schools and other organizations throughout the city.


In 2018, Harvesting Hope, a job-skills program for women recovering from opioid addiction, was begun and included work on the Berea Urban Farm.