There is nothing better in the summer than a fresh salad with organic veggies and herbs. Thanks to a grant from the Orange County Food Bank , a program of Community Action Partnership, residents at Phoenix House treatment program in Santa Ana, Orange County, will soon be able to eat home-grown salads. This project is a brainchild of Jeremy Massie, Food Manager, who won a grant for an Urban Farm hydroponic project and supervised its implementation in the garden of the Santa Ana residential facility. The facility has lots of unused space in the back, and the hydroponic garden, using far less water than any sprinkler system, was installed in a corner near existing fruit trees.
The hydroponic garden consists of 12 multi-level containers of special pellets, water, and nutrients, into which gsardeners place seedlings or seeds. Plants grow very fast and the crop is large. The grant was awarded and the 12 containers, constructed by Grow Up Hydro-Garden Company, were installed four months ago. Now the question is: Why are the tomatoes still green?
The answer: Squirrels got to the container garden first; they ate every fruit, stem, and leaf of the first original planting. Only after the squirrels were gone, could the vegetables grow undisturbed. Now an impressive variety of plantings including tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, red peppers, hot peppers, chives, parsley, cilantro, are filling the containers. Volunteers from among the program’s clients tend the garden, check for threats, regulate the flow of water, and add nutrients. “The Urban Farm is a great way for our clients to see and taste the results of their hard work,” Mr. Massie says. “It gives them something to be proud of and to focus on besides addiction.”
Healthy food, with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs, is a key factor for long-term health and life in recovery. By planting the hydroponic garden, engaging clients in its upkeep (on a strictly voluntary basis), and serving the food to the residents, Phoenix House is teaching clients about healthy eating habits and hobbies. Gardening and close contact with nature are also well-known activities for improving mental and physical health.
“We are so lucky to be able to offer our clients food grown organically with their own hands,” added Paula Rice -Sherman, Director of Adult Programs in Orange County. “We are thankful for the grant Jeremy obtained for us. At Phoenix House Orange County, you could say we have the Cream of the Crop !”
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