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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 54.0° F  Overcast
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The Farley Center's official dedication event focuses on sustainability
Honoring and educating

A hoop house will be constructed as part of the dedication open house on Aug. 18. These help the center's farmers extend their growing season.
Credit:Janet Parker
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If it's not the only peace-and-justice center/farm incubator/green cemetery in the U.S., no one at the Farley Center has been able to find any others.

The Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability, just outside of rapidly expanding Verona at 2299 Spring Rose Rd., has been operating since 2009. But now, with the legal transfer of the land and house from executive director Gene Farley to the center, the staff felt it was time for a formal dedication. A weekend of activities, Aug. 16-18, not only aims to educate dedicated activists but introduce newcomers to the center.

The weekend kicks off with a keynote on "Peace, Justice and Sustainability, the Foundations for a New Economy" by Joshua Farley, a professor of ecological economics at the University of Vermont -- and Gene and Linda Farley's son -- at Verona high school.

"I'm biased, as a father," says Farley, "but he receives invitations to speak from all over the world."

Panels on health, environment, food and justice continue on Aug. 17.

The centerpiece event is Saturday evening's "Feast From the Fields," a fundraising dinner highlighting the products of the center's farm incubator and its affiliated farmers.

Farmers Yee Ythao and Reyna Gonzalez Torres will be cooking Hmong egg rolls, vegetables and herb dip, pastured chicken with bitter melon, slow-cooked lamb, squash stuffed with pipicha and sweet corn, squash blossom soup and more, with the tables set in the center's yard. The dinner will be "elegant but down-to-earth," says Janet Parker, the center's farm incubator facilitator.

An open house Aug. 18 will include a dedication ceremony recognizing key individuals in the local peace and justice movement and guided tours of the farm and natural cemetery, with natural art installations by the group Earthtones.

The strands of the center's mission intertwine. "It's really about community," says center facilitator Susan Corrado. Ultimately, its goal is to shift economic emphasis toward more sustainable models.

The farm fields offer opportunities to farmers of color; the produce goes out to the community via CSAs and through farm stands, including one at the Madison East Shopping Center convenient for participants in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The Nature's Path Cemetery on site serves people wanting a natural burial and helps fund the preservation of the land.

Doctors Gene and Linda Farley, who moved to Madison in 1982 to begin teaching at the UW-Madison, bought the land in 1983. The house was built with passive solar and to maximize light. The large, open, hexagonal space on the second floor of the six-sided house makes an ideal meeting area for gatherings and center events; nonprofits come here for retreats, for instance. Being in the country "frees the spirit and the mind," says Corrado.

When Linda Farley died in 2008, it prompted Gene to think about making plans for the land's future. "It's amazing how it all fell together," says Farley, who feels more at peace with dying "knowing all this is going on."

And there's much to be done. Training farmers across languages, arranging for organic certification, building more hoop houses, and adding low-cost cooler space for preserving picked produce are in the works.

Reservations for the Aug. 17 workshops ($30) and the Feast from the Fields benefit dinner ($75) are available through farleycenter.org; or call 608-845-8724.

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