WKU student purchases farm, continues family tradition

A+portrait+of+WKU+junior+Alex+Burke+in+the+loft+of+a+barn+on+his+family%E2%80%99s+farm+on+Feb.+11%2C+2022.

Arthur Trickett-Wile

A portrait of WKU junior Alex Burke in the loft of a barn on his family’s farm on Feb. 11, 2022.

A blonde-haired woman sits in a leather-back chair in the lobby of an office. Several colorful plastic toy tractors are parked at her feet and photos of farms hang around her.

A young man in jeans emerges from a room on the other side of the building. They meet by the entrance and shake hands.

“Take care of my farm,” says JoAnn Jones as she shakes Burke’s hand. Jones, 75, sold him the land, after her husband passed away. (Arthur Trickett-Wile)

“Take care of my farm,” she said.

With a pat on the shoulder, she leaves, and their business is done.

Twenty-year-old accounting and finance student Alex Burke just bought his first farm from his neighbor, 75-year-old JoAnn Jones, at Farm Credit Mid-America on Friday afternoon, Feb. 11 in Hardinsburg, Kentucky.

Jones’ husband farmed cattle on their land before he passed. After a difficult round of surgeries, he was unable to maintain the land himself, she said.

“I wanted it to stay a farm,” Jones said. “I didn’t want it to be broken up . . . to auction it off into little sections. I’ve had that happen to neighbors around me.”

Jones says she feels comfortable selling the land to Burke.

“The Lord put him in my life to be a caretaker of that farm,” Jones said.

Burke Family Farms, as seen from above. (Arthur Trickett-Wile)

Burke, a fifth-generation farmer, said he’s excited to do just that.

As a junior on the Hill, he has the virtue of being a full-time student and helping to run his family’s cattle farm in Breckinridge County, roughly an hour and a half away from campus.

Burke’s family was, and largely still is, in the agricultural circuit, which helped develop Burke’s deep rooted love for farming.

“All of my family farmed, I started helping my grandparents out in the sixth grade,” Burke said.

Burke’s father was a veterinarian and a farmhand, which inspired him to not only work with animals, but to develop a sense of compassion for them.

Alex Burke’s father, Jonathan Burke, loads a feeding truck with a mixture of distiller’s wet cake and straw. (Arthur Trickett-Wile)

“We never really want to hurt the animals,” Burke said. “We want to make them as comfortable as possible.”

Burke often finds himself hauling hay back and forth from Bowling Green to Breckinridge County. Though to most people this may seem strenuous, Burke doesn’t seem to mind. His passion for the craft outweighs any complaints he may have.

Alex Burke holds a handful of distiller’s wet cake, sourced from Maker’s Mark, which he and his family blend with straw they raise on Burke Family Farms to feed to their cattle. (Arthur Trickett-Wile)

“I leave the house and feed the cattle in the mornings,” Burke said. “I haul grain back and forth. During the summer months I am on the tractor a lot.”

Burke has a message he wants to relay: that farmers are people, too.

“I’ve had a chance to meet and speak with many farmers in my county, and they are some of the most unique people out there,” Burke said. “When farms go out of business, it’s devastating.”

Burke, as of now, plans to graduate and continue working on his farm even after his degree is completed. He holds devotion to his community dear, and devotion to his family even dearer.

“When I graduate, I’d love to farm with my family together,” Burke said.

Staff photographer Arthur Trickett-Wile can be reached at [email protected]

News reporter Jake Jones contributed to this story. He can be reached at: [email protected]