The peace and serenity of country life envelops you on the 40 acres that the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program calls home. It is the perfect spot for healing and emotional restoration after families have been torn apart by intimate partner violence.
Working that land would be practical as well as therapeutic, producing enough food for the residential families to eat and help a much-needed program become self-sustaining.
That is Diane Fleet's vision for the Three Sisters Project, a collaboration of BDVP, the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and the University of Kentucky's Violence Intervention Program.
"It is about empowering women, men and children and about empowering non-profits to become self- sufficient," said Fleet, assistant director of BDVP.
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The name Three Sisters stems from a Native American legend in which beans, squash and corn are grown together to the benefit of all. The three agencies do much the same thing for families in crisis, Fleet said. "Our purposes overlap so much."
The collaboration would produce whatever each can offer to make the farm in eastern Fayette County a source of food and profit for all.
"For the longest time, I asked if this is a blessing or a curse," said Darlene Thomas, executive director of BDVP, who also mows the grass. "We have the opportunity to develop it even more."
The farm now consists of 16 raised beds containing vegetables and herbs. A nearby plot has been tilled and seeded with cut flowers that will be sold at market in the fall. The farm recently acquired a beehive, and another is expected soon. There are two horses living there temporarily.
But much more is wanted and needed to make it economically viable.
Architecture for Humanity is working on a five-year design plan to bring cohesion to the vision, Fleet said. If the farm wants an orchard, the plan will have a spot saved for that, she said.
Other volunteers have helped as well. Jim Embry, a community garden activist, has built and helped to plant the raised gardens on the farm.
"When we came out here last summer, what we found, especially with the different women's groups, is that the people had not seen gardening or the farm as a part of what they do to prepare for healing," Embry said. "Now there is a recognition of both the healing aspect and the economic-development aspect."
"The real purpose is that sense of sustainability," she said. "We are asking our families to take a new direction toward self- sufficiency, and we're giving them tools to do that. Shouldn't we be doing the same thing?"
To do that, however, Fleet said, they need a farm manager who knows what crops to plant, and where and how to get ready to produce.
That knowledge will cost money. To get it, Three Sisters has come up with a variety of options.
First, the project is one of many non-profits vying for the $1.3 million that Pepsi is giving away each month this year. BDVP is listed in the $50,000 category. If it wins the money, it can pay the salary of a hands-on farmer who also can manage the volunteers who are willing to work.
The top 10 will receive that amount. On Monday, the project was listed at No. 163.
You can help by voting online for the project every day. Go to www.refresheverything.com/bdvpfarm.
Or you can donate. Donations are accepted on BDVP's Web site, www.beyondtheviolence.org. Or you can call Fleet at (859) 509-2143 and ask her to send you a pledge card. You can pledge as little as $10 for five cabbage plants, $200 for bee hives, $1,000 for irrigation equipment or $2,500 for a tractor.
The residential families can't be required to work the gardens, but Fleet said the farm can teach them management and marketing techniques.
"We have women wandering out here all the time," Thomas said. "They are not sure what to do, but they are wandering out here.
"We have an opportunity to develop this into so much more."