In Santa Cruz, California, on a 3-acre organic farm, an extraordinary garden project is living and thriving. Above and beyond the berries, beets and broccoli of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), the Homeless Garden Project brings hope for a brighter future.
Community Gardens, Community Growth
Most people are now familiar with the CSA concept and its benefit to local growers, businesses and citizens. When members of a community know where their food comes from and who grows it, folks feel inspired to eat and live well. On the flip side, farmers who are assured of a market for their harvests feel equally invested in providing a fresh, quality product.
Taking this model one step further, the Homeless Garden Project has created a fusion of local agriculture and philanthropy. As the name suggests, this community plot aims not only to provide great food, but also offers displaced citizens a meaningful role in the CSA system. In the process, trainees participate in job-training programs, create individual plans for growth, and even receive support in cases where addiction or illness pose added challenges. All with the ultimate goal of transitioning back into the community with the right tools to find and retain employment, a home and an empowered way of life.
Food & Community – A Match Made in Gardens
For shareholders in this budding Santa Cruz CSA, they’re buying into much more than a nourishing food source. Members are investing in the betterment of their community by helping to take homeless citizens off the street, provide them with transitional employment and a better chance of overcoming isolation to regain autonomy.
The program admits a range of individuals to the training program, all of whom undergo an application process for admission. Offering her take on what applicants can expect, Executive Director Darrie Ganzhorn shared the following words:
“The farm is the great equalizer. Everyone is on common ground and working to achieve the day’s goal, a tangible outcome of working together and working with the earth. Trainees work to show volunteers how to harvest produce that will be distributed to low-income people; it is a great source of pride for our trainees to grow healthy, organic produce for low-income people. Volunteers cook lunch in the kitchen with a trainee, then everyone eats lunch together. Often visitors will comment that they couldn’t tell who was homeless.
A conversation between a trainee and volunteer can lead to a volunteer’s increased understanding of homelessness, as experienced by one person, of the humanity of the people involved and of the potential our trainees have to offer the community. It can also lead to trainees feeling they belong and have a community of support that is encouraging success.”
Now that’s what we call “green” power.
On any scale, community gardens serve to benefit the health of our families and strengthen neighborhoods. For more information on how you can help this particular garden project, check out the website. And for Twitter enthusiasts, check out and follow this inspirational CSA via @HomelessGardenProj.