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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Lives of Our Times: For Liz Farley, volunteering is in her blood and under her nails

    Liz Farley goes nose-to-nose with her former 2,200-pound Belgium draft horse Ivan.(Photo submitted)

    Tall and strong with long dark hair and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose, Salem resident Lizanne Farley, 63, looks right at home elbow-deep in mulch as she’s guiding volunteers in East Lyme’s Giving Garden or saddling up a rescue horse on her property.

    But Liz’s passions for all things outdoors come after a full career at some of the top corporations in New York City.

    All things outdoors

    A native of Huntington Station, Long Island, Liz grew up with two older brothers who taught her how to fish, drive (her oldest brother would put her on his lap and let her steer the car) and had her shooting a rifle by age 5. “I grew up in a family of avid fishermen of mostly trout and bass,” Liz said. “My brothers had me hooking worms and cleaning their catches when I was just 6. When you have older brothers, you have to keep up!”

    Part of Liz’s love of the outdoors manifested in a love of horses, which she began riding when she was 3.

    “I loved riding and caring for horses and still do,” Liz said. “Learning to ride so young taught me to not have a fear of many things.”

    She rode competitively through high school (where she decided to become the first girl in the school to take Woodworking instead of Home Economics: “I knew how to sew and cook; I didn’t need another class in that. I wanted to learn how to use power tools, and it was one of the best decisions!”

    She began her college career at SUNY-Delhi on a path towards an associate’s degree in Horse Husbandry.

    “I fully intended to go into the horse training business but realized that was a very hard career path.”

    Liz moved on to Saint John’s University and turned to accounting instead. Her love of horses went with her, and she was a founding member of the university’s equestrian team. The team not only went on to regional competition in its first year, but it also organized its first horse show, raising over $10,000 for the program.

    Outdoors for the Big Apple

    The self-professed country girl found herself in the heart of New York City as she climbed the corporate ladder as controller for companies like Clairol, Paramount Pictures, Sony Corporation of America and Gannett Outdoor. “Being in finance as a woman meant I was truly in the minority. I moved throughout these corporations because it was important to me to have a breadth of experience to move up in my career.”

    Like many professional women, Liz left the corporate life when her daughter was born.

    “My husband and I both had one-and-a-half hour commutes into the city. I was never home and needed to be with my children.” Her husband, Scott, got an opportunity to move to Connecticut with his position and the couple jumped at the chance to settle in East Lyme where they made their home for more than 11 years. Along with raising her daughter and son, Liz began her new passion as a volunteer in the East Lyme school system, serving on the PTO, helping in the classrooms and fundraising for various school programs.

    She got involved with local town activities.

    Once her kids were students at East Lyme High School, Liz and her husband, who had retired, decided they needed “more land and less house” and they moved to Salem where her kids could continue attending the high school. Now, she had the land she needed to rescue horses from “kill shelters.”

    “These are places that hold horses before shipping them to Canada or Mexico for food production,” Liz explained. “It’s heartbreaking to see so many beautiful animals just thrown away and ending up packed into a cattle trailer to their death.

    “Over the years, I rescued six horses,” she continued. “I rehabbed and gave away three of them to good homes and kept three.”

    Currently, Liz is working with a friend’s horse.

    Organic gardening

    She’s also found a passion for organic gardening. “I have raised-bed gardens. When something doesn’t work, I try to find out why and then fix it in the next year. I ended up doing enough research that I found I was starting to answer others’ questions and connect through gardening sites on social media with other local gardeners.”

    While the Farleys now live in Salem, their friendships and connections remain in East Lyme. Those connections and her interest in gardening led Liz to her involvement as a board member for the East Lyme Giving Garden, begun in 2021. The garden is located on four donated acres at 4 Church Lane in East Lyme and started with a grant from Sustainable CT and generous donors.

    “I’ve never backed down from a challenge and, I thought, let’s see what happens,” Liz said. The garden’s mission is to grow organic produce that is then donated to area food pantries and soup kitchens.

    “It was a management process,” Liz explained, calling on her professional experience. “We put together a plan. What will grow in our climate? What is most resistant and will give us the best crop? We were dealing with being new and with Covid restrictions.

    “We researched seeds, built an irrigation system, got necessary permits and fencing in place.

    “We got everything into the ground in May, and thanks to our team and volunteers, ended the summer with over 4,000 pounds of produce. We donated the vegetables through the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut to food insecure families through the pantries and soup kitchens in our area.”

    Liz admits that she loves to volunteer. “I just want to help,” she says. “I loved volunteering in the East Lyme school system and for the town. My work with rescuing horses – I’ve been really dedicated to that. Now, I consider myself a gardener. It’s about giving back and paying forward. I feel like these are good and important uses of my time. I also learn a lot. It’s so important to challenge yourself.”

    Editor's Note: A few weeks ago, we reached out to readers asking them to tell us stories about local people. If you have a story to tell about a local personality, email photos and Word documents to times@theday.com with "Lives of Our Times" in the subject line. Please keep submissions to around 300-450 words.

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