Sustainable Communities Network is a  commnity-based  non-profit organization located in Lexington, Ky that endeavors to educate, inspire, build, create and empower sustainable cities

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with highlights of our work in 2010



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Youth GreenCorps Report

GROWLEX Community Garden Manual

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Sustainable World Sourcebook

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Merlene Davis: Agencies want to grow a farm for families

By Merlene Davis

Herald-Leader columnistJune 22, 2010 

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.

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."

Thomas agreed.

"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."

Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or mdavis1@herald-leader.com.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2010/06/22/1317767/merlene-davis-agencies-want-to.html#storylink=cpy

Domestic violence victims raise garden that raises hope

Unique domestic violence program seeks to expand its mission

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears, vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comAugust 1, 2010 

Angela Wall, left, Gwen Clark, center, and Sandy Boyd peeled tomatoes at the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program shelter Wednesday. Shelter residents are invited to work on a number of farm projects. CHARLES BERTRAM

Sandy Boyd and the other women who live at the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program shelter see a lot of hope in a head of cabbage and a tomato picked fresh from the shelter's garden.

Residents of the facility that sits on 40 acres in eastern Fayette County are beginning to feed themselves from a garden that is the first phase of a proposed agriculture and marketing initiative. Within five years, the initiative could make area domestic violence victims more self-sufficient, according to officials.

But the project has hit a road block: The program did not win $50,000 from a contest in June that was sponsored by Pepsi. Officials had hoped to use the money to hire a farmer to turn the property into a working farm and manage volunteer workers.

Diane Fleet, assistant director of the domestic violence program, is heading the garden project. She said the program needs to hire a farmer if it is to move forward.

A farm manager could spur a significant change so that "it's not just a shelter with a farm, but the farm is the shelter," said Fleet.

"We think we could hire a full-time farmer for $35,000 to $40,000," said Darlene Thomas, the center's executive director.

With some tweaking, the project could integrate many of the shelter's programs, said Fleet: healing and self-care, self-sufficiency, credit repair and marketing and finance.

Meanwhile, the shelter's residents made spaghetti sauce and salsa from the garden's tomatoes one night last week for dinner. They've been eating a lot of cole slaw this summer. And within the next several months, they hope to start selling their flowers around Lexington.

The families living at the center aren't required to work in the gardens or to cook the produce, but many do.

Sandy Boyd, a resident who has been working in the garden, said that law enforcement officials guided her to the shelter when she was abused a few weeks ago while traveling through the area on a trip from Mississippi to Ohio.

Boyd said she is now planning on settling in Lexington.

"I guess you would call it a healing process," Boyd said of her time working in the garden. "It took a lot of stress off."

Angela Wall of Lexington said she has been at the shelter for two weeks and hopes to soon be living independently. She has been cooking vegetables from the garden for the residents' meals.

"If you get in the kitchen you feel better about yourself," said Wall. "It's therapeutic for me to cook."

Gwen Clark of Harrodsburg said she came to the center two weeks ago and hopes to use her time there to begin a new life and perhaps go to college.

In the meantime, she said she will help in the garden and cook the produce "to occupy my mind."

Officially called the Three Sisters Project, it is a collaboration of the domestic violence program, the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and the University of Kentucky's Violence Intervention Program.

The farm has 16 raised beds containing vegetables and herbs.

The project recently acquired a beehive and Thomas said they hope to start selling honey, along with flowers.

Shelter officials are seeking advice and help from many local groups.

The local chapter of a group called Architecture for Humanity is designing a master plan for the 40 acres.

And Fleet said that donations from BB&T Bank officials will help bring to the project a hoop building. That is a steel framed, polyethylene fabric-covered building that would allow shelter officials to do some growing year round.

Jim Embry, a community garden activist, has built and helped to plant the raised gardens on the farm.

Church garden groups, the University of Kentucky and state agriculture officials have all been consulted.

But what the program needs now, shelter officials said, are volunteer workers and donations that can help hire a farmer and supplement the program in other ways.

"None of us are farmers," said Thomas. "We can weed a garden here or there. But we are going to need that expertise."

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2010/08/01/1371659/domestic-violence-victims-raise.html#storylink=cpy




George W. Carver compliation

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