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Promoting sustainability, justice and peace through farming

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TOWN OF SPRINGDALE (WKOW) -- For new farmers, jumping in head-first can be a high-risk investment especially for those who are new to the U.S.

To help, a Dane County non-profit is dedicated to assisting new farmers, particularly immigrants. It grew out of a family mission to make the world a little brighter.

The Farley Center rests on 43 acres in the Town of Springdale.  

"Peace, justice and sustainability," is how director, Sheddon Farley, explained The Farley Center mission.  "What that really means is there is nothing that is out of bounds in our mission."

The center was born out of Sheddon's parents' mission, Gene and Linda Farley.  To put specifically the justice portion into action, they opened their family land to Hmong farmers, so they would have a place to grow.  That was almost 20 years ago.  

"We have all these farmers who otherwise would not be able to farm because they didn't have access to land or equipment," said Farley.  

The vision has grown into a collaborative farm largely made up of immigrant farmers from all around the world.  One of those is Jarucha Sirikaew.  When she moved to Wisconsin from Thailand four years ago, she knew she was facing barriers.  "I [didn't] have land here," Sirikaew recalled.  "I [didn't] know English.  I [couldn't] speak English."

Now, she and the other farmers at The Farley Center can use the 43 acres to grow their own farming businesses, selling their products at farmers' markets, through CSAs or to stores and restaurants.  

"You have all these experienced farmers from all over the world that are all together, so you can see how other people would grow the same sort of crop and refine techniques and get better over time," said Dave Bachhuber, recognizing that The Farley Center is mutually beneficial to Madison locals like him and the immigrants like Sirikaew.  

"They give me [lessons] learned," said Sirikaew.  "[I] learn to do the crops because [it's] different crops from Thailand.  Really, really different because [here it's] cold, hot and the rain.  In Thailand [it's] warm."  

"It's kind of a blank slate where people can come and have the land and the tools needed for them to make their own food businesses and really use agriculture in creative ways," said The Farley Center's farm manager, Seth Riley.  

On the note of creativity, The Farley Center is a certified organic farm always looking for other unique ways to promote the sustainability portion of the mission.  One example of that is how the center uses its coolbot.  With a strong air-conditioner, the coolbot makes an insulated room double as a refrigerator for the fresh, organic produce without the high price and energy usage that comes along with a commercial unit.  

Also since organic produce typically has a high price tag, in The Farley Center spirit any extra grown goes to local food pantries.  Some is even grown specifically for food pantries.  

"I think we're all pretty darn committed to this methodology," said Farley.  

Finally, we come to the peace portion of the mission.  "Peacefully treating the land.  Peacefully treating other people," explained Farley.  "We're not solving world peace issues, but our philosophy, our concept is to be peaceful with everybody that we come into contact with."

A concept Farley thinks his parents would be proud of.  "There's no question in my mind, they would just be beside themselves with pleasure."

The Farley Center is also home to the only green cemetery in Dane County, The Natural Path Sanctuary.  That's how The Farley Center maintains a lot of its budget, since Farley said the farmers get to keep the money from the food they grow on the Farley land.  

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