The Independent

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Food for the soul

By RHONDA MIX
The Independent

A little more than three years ago, Park Ridge resident Linda Bruce and her husband Robert purchased 80 acres of land in what used to be Country Orchards, at 4706 Alden Road.

“We bought the land not knowing what we would do with it in the future, but I knew I wanted it to have something to do with horses and giving back to the community,” said Linda Bruce.

The picturesque property features wide open spaces, prairieland, marshland and a barn – which the Bruces built themselves. Over the last few years, Bruce said she and her husband have been working to help restore the wetlands and prairies and also have planted pumpkins and corn. A portion of the harvests were either donated or sold for charitable fundraising efforts.

But Bruce said she has been wanting to do more.

After reflecting on how she feels when- ever she visits the property, she said the name Soulful Prairies came to her. “It just feels very soulful and comfortable here,” she said.

What can visitors find at Soulful Prairies farm?

newspaper-photoPlans are now underway to offer “grow-and-share gardens” on the acreage as well as an equine therapy facility. People will have the opportunity to lease 50-by-50 plots of land for $25 each. “People can plant whatever they want,” said Bruce. “The idea is for them to come out and pick vegetables and donate 25 percent to organizations [such as food pantries]. I want the place to have a community feel.”

The soil will be tilled and access paths will be provided so people can drive directly to their plots. Three pumps also will be available for watering.

Bruce said Soulful Prairies aims to stay self-sufficient and “green” so only organ- ic fertilizers will be allowed on the land.

“I feel like [leasing a plot and planting] will be a fun family thing to do,” she said. “Maybe churches could also get involved and share what they produce while enjoying themselves at the same time.”

Additionally, Bruce said she has hopes to open the equine therapy facility within the next year or so. She plans to move a couple of her own horses as well as select retired horses into the new barn.

“I’m hoping to take on [a few horses] from the Hooved Animal Humane Society. They have horses that can be hard to adopt out,” Bruce said.

Other plans include possibly using Soulful Prairie’s grounds for school field trips – with an area featuring beehives and beekeepers – and equine education clinics.

The first of these clinics will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9. Gabriele Sut- ton, president of KAM Animal Services, will present a workshop on horse health. A $10 donation will benefit HAHS, and beer, wine and light refreshments will fol- low the workshop.

“The equine health workshop will give people a chance to learn about natural ways to [help] horses, whether [the hors- es] are having a health issue or [people] are just looking for a way to support every day horse health,” said Bruce. “The more we know, the better equipped we

are to make good, sound decisions when equine health issues do arise.”

The number of grow-and-share plots leased and the types of programs Soulful Prairies will offer will depend on the number of people interested in Soulful Prairies’ projects and events.

“I believe that the soul is the life force that is in all of us and connects all of us,” said Bruce. “I am hoping that this piece of property and the things that are offered will bring people together to experience a safe [and] comfortable place to have fun, learn, grow and even make mistakes – perhaps [as a] sort of community-life force.”