The Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability in Verona brings together concepts of environmentalism such as community gardens and natural burials to one location, while gathering the community to discuss social justice issues.
Linda Farley was a long-time family physician who lived her life promoting social and environmental justice alongside her husband, Gene Farley. When she passed away in 2009, the idea of formalizing this legacy as the Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability was birthed.
The Farleys donated their home and land so that others may also be inspired to create a sustainable legacy.
The center is composed of 43 acres of land. A portion of the land is being used for community gardens for minorities, primarily for Hmong and South American families, Farley Center facilitator Susan Corrado said.
The center has developed a farm incubator program, providing training and support for aspiring farmers to grow their farm businesses.
“They have different levels of experience, and they all bring their cultural practices in terms of eating and growing into their farming,” Corrado said. “What we provide them is land, equipment and staff that provides technical skill training as well as marketing support.”
Aside from the community gardens, The Farley Center also uses 25 acres of its land as a natural burial ground, Corrado said.
When Linda Farley passed away, her family buried her on the land, ceremoniously digging her grave themselves. Corrado said this is what made her and her husband realize the Farley family was serious about developing the land into a community center and including a portion for clean burials.
The environmental benefits to clean burials include a lack of harmful embalming chemicals, cement and a casket, Corrado said. While many people think cremation is environmentally friendly, it actually uses a lot of fuel, she said.
“In a contemporary cemetery, you peel back the lawn, and it’s just a layer of cement vaults budding up against each other, so you have tons of concrete in the ground every year,” Corrado said. “We leave the grounds very natural, so people can just walk through it, and it feels like a nature preserve.”
The burial spots on the land are mapped using Geographic Information Software, Corrado said. There are no stones marking the burial sites, and throughout the site there are pieces of sculpted artwork and benches for visitors to spend time in meditation and mourning.
The center also frequently reaches out to the community for various initiatives related to its mission. The University of Wisconsin has gotten involved with the Farley Center through volunteering and educational outreach projects.
UW’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies has reached out to the center and worked with them on a feasibility study for a biodigester and is currently working on the possibilities of incorporating solar power.
A group of UW students also helped the center on a GIS project to develop the map for the burial site.
Corrado said while the center does a significant amount of work for environmental issues, she hopes to see growth in the other parts of the center’s mission – peace and justice.
The house at The Farley Center is used to hold events for non-profit groups in the community that use the space to do work that focuses on various issues like environmental justice and racial equity, she said.
“The Farley Center is a land based resource. We connect people to nature, to the land, in sustainable ways, developing partnerships that promote peace and justice,” Corrado said.