How a Family Farm Evolved into a Nature Retreat
In the Beginning
In 1948, Fred Bliffert’s father, Robert, purchased the property to use it as a summer home. Robert soon added a porch and a lower section to the farmhouse, installed an in-ground pool, and planted a variety of bushes and trees, including mulberry and apple. With time the area naturalized – the trees grew, prairies thrived and the property became a special getaway for Robert and his family and friends. He enjoyed his summer home for many years, until - in the mid-1990s - his health began to deteriorate.
Preparing the Land
In 1998, Fred took responsibility for the property. He and his wife, Susan, began fixing up the land, house, and barn. For years, they spent most weekends for years making improvements - aided by Fred's brother, Duke. At first, it was just a lot of hard, physical work, including clearing dead wood, fixing fences, re-painting the pool interior, and hauling away several 30-yard dumpsters of trash and broken furniture, appliances, and rusty machinery.
Inviting the Community
The property blossomed into a beautiful natural retreat from the city. Realizing the potential of the farm to be a sanctuary, Fred and Susan wanted to share it with the community. Initially, they invited a few special-needs groups to use the property for picnics and outdoor relaxation. The Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI) was one of the first groups to come to the property. After seeing the positive impact these visits had, the Blifferts decided to share the space with even more groups.
Fred and Susan applied for 501c3 nonprofit status, and in 2002, Blue Lotus Center was born.