Last month, Margaret Feeney ran into a friend whose mother was battling breast cancer. Feeney, a Fairfield resident whose father died of pancreatic cancer four yeas ago, decided it wasn't enough to hope for a cure. She wanted to help harvest one.

It is no secret that various fruits and vegetables can help prevent cancer, and so Feeney, who lives on a 2-acre property with her mother, will eventually devote approximately one acre to "Feeney Farm." This year, however, she's starting small. Beets, cabbage, radishes and squash have been planted in a small area of the back yard. Her initial goal is to provide food to three cancer survivors -- but that's just the beginning.

Feeney's target in 2011 is to harvest enough food to provide for 30 people, so she is applying for two $50,000 grants, one from Pepsico's Refresh Project and the other from American Express. In

addition, she is waiting on word regarding a $2,500 grant from Home Depot. The entire area planned for planting -- fenced in -- used to be home to horses. It's not the area of the yard where her family gets together for cookouts. It's gone unused for some time. And now, Feeney has found a good use for it.

With big aspirations, she is hoping for financial backing to support the farm on an annual basis. She said she would love to convert the old horse barn into a greenhouse to grow crops throughout the winter. Feeney also wants to erect a fence that would be high enough to keep deer out. Deer can leap over the wooden rail fence there now, she noted. An irrigation system is also needed.

Feeney said ever since her dad died, she, her sister and her mother are "all more cognizant of what we eat."

"My risk for cancer is high so it's important to make choices that positively affect the rest of my life."

She added, "People I've talked to, people affected by cancer, do make a switch to organic produce and foods."

Feeney would qualify as a vegan were it not for the fact that she has an affinity for honey.

She's hoping her generosity will get others on a healthier path and help decrease their risk of a reoccurence of cancer.

Feeney said she wished she knew four years ago what she knows now about diet and exercise.

"I wish I could have made my dad lunch every day so he didn't have to buy out as often," she said.

Feeney said her father, David, was a giver, an accountant who often did people's tax returns for free, and who coached his daughters' soccer teams.

Feeney just started growing her initial crops but she's already been able to give some food away, thanks to the generosity of Patti Pop, a woman who runs a farm in Easton. In addition, a May 8 tag sale that Feeney hosted at her home raised money for supplemental purchases to use throughout the summer. Feeney said a number of people have pledged support for what she's looking to do -- from friends and family to neighbors who have offered to roto till the soil.

Feeney, who graduated with an MBA from the University of Connecticut, is head of operations at a hospital improvement company that raises funds to help nonprofit hospitals stay afloat financially. Farming is a new thing for her. However, she's learning the tricks of the trade.

A visit to her garden Monday afternoon revealed dandelions planted around the edge by her mother. Deer don't like the smell and tend to stay away. Also, there are CDs on posts around the garden, as well as pieces of CDs in the garden itself. The bright light that reflects off of the CDs often scares away the birds that might otherwise eat the vegetables, Feeney said.

Feeney said the Feeney Farm is her way of giving back.

"You get one shot to do something good for others with your life and your time," she said. "I'm happy if this is it for me."

Anyone in the area suffering from cancer who is interested in receiving some produce, or those who would like to contribute to the effort, are invited to e-mail Feeney at margaretmaryfeeney@gmail.com