Talking about the homeless population of America is popular these days. And yet fixing the situation seems, to many, an impossibly overwhelming task. Others are proving it’s not. The Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Project (HGP) uses sustainable agriculture as the springboard to a safer, productive and more hopeful life for many. The agriculture and gardening training provided to the homeless of Santa Cruz County through the project has culminated in both jobs and permanent housing for its trainees.
“We find people that express much greater degrees of well being after they are with us for a year, whether it’s in their diet, in their sense of self, in their ability to set goals and achieve them, in how connected they feel to the community,” says Darrie Ganzhorn Executive Director of the Homeless Garden Project.
Established in 1990, the HGP was the brainchild of Paul Lee, a member of the Citizens Committee on Homelessness. Lee began spending nights along with other board members in the homeless shelter.
Pastor Matt Powell, the owner of Casper, Wyo.-based Skyline Gardens. Photo courtesy of Skyline Gardens.
Matt Powell opens the door to his hydroponic lettuce farm, housed in a used refrigerated storage container on the corner of his Casper, Wyoming property, and the Marriage of Figaro fills the air.
“My little Mp3 there is loaded up with Mozart and Bach. The study I heard said they tested growing plants in three sound proof environments. They had classical in one, death metal in another and silence in a third. Classical did the best, death metal did the second best,” laughs Powell explaining how his fresh hyperlocal greens are grown with the aid of some classic tunes as they stay cool in their farm-in-a-box environment.
When Holly and Terry Delaney poked their heads into the kitchen at the Salvation Army where a friend was undergoing a one-year program toward self-sufficiency they were disappointed to see mostly frozen and canned goods being served. When you’re in recovery and trying to get healthy, you should be eating healthy food, they thought.
With the budget constraints of a nonprofit organization in mind, the pair approached local farmers in their community, the Santa Ynez Valley in California’s Central Coast, who agreed to let them glean produce from their fields or pick up food that didn’t sell during farmer’s markets and distribute it to local charities. One by one, new farmers agreed to contribute, and within a year, the Delaneys realized they had a viable nonprofit organization themselves. They registered Veggie Rescue as a 501(c)(3) in 2011.
When PhD graduate Noah Wilson-Rich looked around for a way to raise capital for bee health research, he stumbled upon the idea of starting a beehive installation company. Before long, The Best Bees Company, founded in 2010, was delivering, installing and maintaining beehives across New England before branching out into several major cities including Washington D.C., Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles. With a focus on creating a healthier bee population and preventative messages to combat multiple stress disorder, Wilson-Rich and his nationwide team of trained beekeepers are collecting regional bee data, disrupting traditional patterns of honeybee home choice and encouraging the restoration of America’s dwindling pollinator habitat.
“Everything we do is in Boston, it’s like our experimental area; then we scale that across the different sites,” says Wilson-Rich, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Boston-based The Best Bees Company. Custom built hives, installation and monthly maintenance as well as the bees necessary to make the whole thing work runs