Post by Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program
(This is the second of a two-part post. Click here to read Part 1.)
We started small.
Our foray in farming involved only a few box gardens of seasonal herbs and vegetables to augment our food purchases for meal service in the emergency shelter. For the first two seasons, we honed our gardening skills, observed resident interest in the effort, and tested various means to relate the box gardens to shelter operations and client services. The next year we cultivated a plot of land and planted several beds of produce and fresh flowers.
The opportunity to sell fresh-cut flower arrangement to local restaurants was identified, and this activity provided our first source of revenue to invest back into the farm. We continue to have meetings with regional agriculture professionals to develop our farm expansion and marketing strategy. These relationships have been critical to the continued growth of the farm program and our successful agriculture practices, land use, and marketing efforts.
Although we weren’t sure the community would appreciate how the farm program was related to our agency mission, the connection quickly made sense to our staff, clients, and partners. Several individuals and groups stepped up to offer consultation about the effort. With Grow Appalachia taking the lead, other funding organizations followed with financial support to bolster the program. We were able to hire a farm manager to focus on cultivation of the land, launch auxiliary production efforts such as beekeeping and honey harvesting, and integrate these efforts with the delivery of our core services for intimate partner abuse victims.
With the help of Grow Appalachia, Toyota Manufacturing, KU, and many, many groups and individuals who shared our vision, we will continue to sing our farm song!