My husband and I both spent our childhoods on New York and Kentucky dairy farms where we were indoctrinated in hard work ethic and sacrifice for the community. Our playgrounds were hay mounds and mazes amongst the fields of soybeans, corn and tobacco. As children and grandchildren of farmers, a significant amount of our life lessons and education were gained organically through exposure to the machinery, physical labor, climate monitoring and being immersed in the perpetual cycle of life and death of our plants and animals. We worked hard, played hard, ate well and slept hard.
After graduating out of farm living and into an architectural career, and now in raising our young children, I can fully appreciate the magnitude of my childhood farm experience and how essential it is for all children to have similar experiences. Five years ago, I moved to Anchorage, Kentucky, which is a suburb of Louisville. My husband and I fell in love with the wooded trails, streams, fences and long driveways reminiscent of our childhood homes. Here we met our friend Prem Durham and her family, who had recently moved from northern California. Her love for humanity, community, children, education, health and simplicity was refreshing, yet familiar. Prem has driven, founded and supported numerous initiatives and organizations around these passions since I’ve known her. For example, Prem started a farmer’s market in Anchorage, actively contributes to farm-based food education programs such as The Food Literacy Project, and initiated the creation of an on-site garden and got it integrated into the school curriculum at local public schools. Remember my previous statement about the importance of children getting to experience farm life? Prem is my favorite farmer because she is making that happen in every way she can.
In 2014, Prem further manifested her passion to provide all with access to, knowledge about and participation in the growth of healthy food, healthy communities and healthy economies by purchasing a small local farm and dedicating it to the community. She hosts workshops and classes for all ages in sewing, electronics tinkering, horse-shoeing, cheese making and more. Lakshmi Farms is open to the public to plant flowers, manually milk the cows, gather eggs and feed the goats and donkeys.
Recently, Prem started a Farm Incubator Program at Lakshmi Farms where she provides the resources (land, water, tools and community participation) to young farmers in their first years of farming. The first participant in the incubator program is Hadley Piper. Hadley’s harvest will be available through a “Tiny CSA” (Community-Supported Agriculture intended for small households) this summer at Lakshmi Farms.
While Prem’s significant contributions to the inclusion and health of the community at various scales are impressive and impactful, I have a very personal experience that conveys Prem’s compassion and intuition. Last year, after many years of long days, nights and weekends at his computer to meet near-impossible deadlines, my husband succumbed to the stress when he experienced a crippling anxiety attack that wouldn’t relent...for months. An integral part of his recovery is due to Prem. When she heard about my husband’s health state, and knowing his farming background, she intuitively put him to work at Lakshmi Farms where he was able to tap back into the spiritual connection and symbiotic healing and growth that exists between man and the Earth. Every cut knuckle, grease stain and bead of sweat contributed to the shedding of his pent-up stress.
Thank you, Prem, for your love of friends, family, community and humanity, and your efforts in making everyone and everything better.