Contact Ben

Work: (859) 236-2551 ext. 127
Home: (859) 474-0747

Archive for October, 2009

Day off: Garrard County Commercial

The YouTube Garrard County advertisement was unveiled this weekend. You can check it out here.

“It’s Garrard County”

Marijuana Support Increasing

Here’s something interesting I read about recently. Support for the legalization of marijuana has been growing for a long time among U.S. residents. And now Gallup has released this interesting poll about marijuana, including this interesting tidbit:

If public support were to continue growing at a rate of 1% to 2% per year, as it has since 2000, the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years.

This majority would consist largely of people in the west and east. In the western region of the U.S., a majority already support legalization, and in the east, 44 percent are in favor of decriminalizing weed. Support is much weaker in the midwest and south regions. But the fact remains, we could, as a country, be mostly in favor of legalizing marijuana by 2014.

What does this have to do with Garrard County? Well, Garrard County has a lot of farmers, and many of those farmers are in a real struggle to make ends meet. With tobacco on the decline(pdf), if marijuana were legalized, would Garrard County farmers opt to start growing?

Marijuana is already Kentucky’s biggest cash crop(pdf). The total value of all marijuana grown in Kentucky in 2006 was estimated at more than $4.3 billion. Only Tennessee ($4.77 billion) and California ($12.3 billion) had bigger crops.

Legalization could open those billions up to legitimate industry and bring in a lot of tax dollars, but odds are a minority of Kentuckians would actually be in support of decriminalizing the trade.

Would you guys be interested in seeing a story about this in the paper? I could ask farmers whether they think marijuana should be legalized, and what they would do if it was. And I could try to dig up some state officials who could give me an idea of how Kentucky politics might play out if marijuana legalization became a major issue.

Buckeye Fire Update

I got an e-mail from a Garrard Countian late last night about Marcia and her son, the two whose house burned down Wednesday morning:


I read your article about the woman and her son who have lost everything in a house fire. Do you know if they are accepting donations of clothing, food, etc? We would like to help out in some way.

We have a bit of clothing (depending on size) and canned/non-perishable foods that they may be able to use. Could you let me know if there is a way we can get their sizes… or the name of where we could drop the clothing off or some canned/non-perishable foods for them?

We live in Garrard County and just want to help out another fellow Garrard County family in their time of need. Thank you for any assistance you could provide.”

I got in contact with Marcia’s mom again, and she gave me a cell phone number to call if you’d like to help her out. I’m not going to post the cell phone number here, since I wouldn’t want to give scammers or other shady Internet people that info, but if you’re a Garrard Countian, or just someone who wants to help Marcia out, you can e-mail me and I’ll provide you with the phone number.

Marcia’s dad apparently works at Southern States in Danville, so if you live in or near Danville, you might be able to work out a drop-off with him closer to your home. And in case you missed it when I updated the original post or just haven’t seen it yet, here’s the story about the fire.

October 29

Today I’m taking photos of workers going around Lancaster on a curb-side recycling pick-up. After that I’m contacting solid waste coordinators in the Advocate’s other counties for a sidebar about other local recycling efforts, and then polishing off the big story.

Couple things coming down the pipe: I’m trying to find out if any of the 100s of people recently arrested by state police on drug dealing charges are from this area. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Lexington should be releasing some information soon, but they haven’t yet.

Also, I’m beginning to work on a series of stories which I have given the working title, “Faces of Poverty.” I’m examining a recent increase in food stamp usage, looking into the homeless situations in the Advocate’s coverage area and hopefully following around a non-profit or two that are focused on care for the poor. The series will hopefully profile several people — putting a face on poverty — and examine how different efforts are aiming to affect poverty levels in the area.

That’s a lot of serious, heavy stuff. Anyone have a fun, light idea for a story?

P.S. thanks to everyone who commented or e-mailed me with sources and other info for the story about recycling, I was quite surprised and very happy to see such a big response, since this blog is just getting started.

P.P.S. Just for fun, here’s a random video from Volkswagen I saw last night that answers the age-old question, “what if stairs were actually a giant piano?” Enjoy.

Buckeye Fire

Looks like there was a fire at a house along Buckeye Road last night. I’ll post more details here as I get them.

Update @ 8:40 a.m.: WLEX has a tiny bit of info here.

Update @ 3 p.m.: I got in contact with the mother of the woman who owned the house that burned down. Barbara Keller said her daughter, Marcia Carmen, was at work in Nicholasville when her house caught on fire. Someone driving by called 911. Barbara said the Buckeye Fire Department did all they could, but the house was completely destroyed. Marcia and her 16-year-old son are staying in a Danville hotel for the next three days on the Red Cross’ dime. Story will be in tomorrow’s paper.

Update on Thursday: Here’s the story.

October 27

(Updated twice below)

I’m currently working on a potential centerpiece for Nov. 1 about recycling in Garrard County. The Garrard County recycling center has apparently been around since the mid-90s, and there are efforts being made all over the county recently to increase recycling participation.

Lancaster has free curb-side pickup, there are recycling drop-offs in Paint Lick and at the fairgrounds, and businesses and schools are getting involved too.

I’m hoping to look at some of the history behind how Garrard County became one of the most active recycling counties in the area. I also want to trace recyclable materials from the recycling center in Lancaster through the middle men to the materials producers and find out what at least some of Garrard County’s recyclables get made into.

Right now I’m trying to track down Ray Hammonds, who was judge-executive when the recycling center was first created. I’m also stuck just one link down the chain trying to find out where the recyclables wind up. I’m having a tough time getting in contact with Director Mickey Mills from Bluegrass Regional Recycling, which is the company that sells Garrard County’s recyclable materials.

If anyone out there can connect me with Ray or Mickey, or if you have a brief flash of genius and have an idea for something I could include in the story, post a comment or shoot me an e-mail @ That’s all for now.


I just had a great conversation with Kim Nicholson-Messmer about her part in the history of the growth of recycling in Garrard County. She hooked me up with several more good sources, which I will be getting in contact with this afternoon.

Also, I thought I would mention whom I’ve already talked to for the story, besides Kim: Chris Thomason, Mike Davis, a Lancaster resident who uses curbside pickup, a Lancaster Elementary teacher and a Lancaster business that recycles its boxes.


I was able to talk with former Judge Hammonds tonight. Turns out the recycling center got started because of some Bluegrass ADD grant money that was available in the early 90s when there was a big push to provide trash pickup in many area counties.

Let the conversation begin!

Welcome to Garrard County Conversations, a unique blog aimed at transforming how journalism is done in Garrard County. As the Garrard County reporter for the Advocate-Messenger, I feel like the work I do could be far more useful if the communities I cover are involved in their own coverage. After all, I’m not reporting on Garrard County for my own education; I’m doing it so the communities in Garrard County can stay informed and aware of what’s going on.

So, instead of the old model of journalism, where I’m the only who chooses what to cover, digs up sources and decides what is news, let’s try a new model, where I act as a facilitator for local conversations. If there’s an important issue in Garrard County, I can dig up statistics, research and sources that will inform the community’s conversation about that issue. And you guys can do the same thing ? if you know about a story that the community should hear about, if you want to voice your opinion on an issue, if you know of a good source for a story I’m working on, you can contribute to the conversation by commenting on a post or e-mailing me.

I’ll be trying to post once or twice a day when I’m on duty. My posts will be focused on stories I’m working on, what story ideas are coming up, issues I’m having with finding information, stuff like that. With your help, this blog can be a valuable asset for Garrard County, and help fine-tune the Advocate-Messenger’s coverage to what the county really needs.

© 2009-2014 Garrard County Conversations All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright