It’s eggs on the menu as the Healthy Harvest Farm rolls into its eighth year of operations.
“We’re looking to expand into chickens next year,” said coordinator Charles Thomas, who joined the farm earlier this year.
Healthy Harvest, located on Beaver Creek Road, is home to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Healthy Harvest Horticulture Program.
“It creates employment for people with mental illness and addiction,” said Thomas.
It provides a way back to working life for those who need help getting back on their feet.
“It gives flexible employment so that there’s not set times that you have to come—there’s flexibility in when people can come to work,” said Thomas.
“It’s a supportive environment. People understand where people are coming from and it’s not a high stress environment.”
For some, it’s a step on the road to recovery. For others, it’s a long-term job.
“There are both. Some people have been here since the beginning of the project and others have started this year,” said Thomas.
“They can choose how to use the program. It’s a place to just come and hang out and grow food.”
It’s also a way to get away from everyday stresses.
“It’s beautiful working out there, you feel like you’re out in the country somewhere. It’s just peaceful and your mind can just sit at ease,” said Laurie, who’s been at the farm since the very beginning.
“It’s non-stressful. You just leave all your crap and get away. It’s a lot of fun.”
She’s seen the farm grow tremendously over the seven years she’s been there.
“We’ve been through the ups and downs. I remember when we first put in the greenhouse there were weeds up to just about my waist.”
These days, the farm is bustling.
“We grow a diverse range of veggies—from carrots to beets, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, asparagus,” said Thomas. Next year, if they can get the funding they’ll expand into chickens—but they need help.
The farm operates off of a grant from the Vancouver Foundation, CMHA Port Alberni, Island health revenues from farm stand sales.
When it comes to capital improvements however, the farm needs to fundraise.
“There’s quite a few different projects. One of them is the chickens so building a chicken tractor, building a fence and then just generally setting up the infrastructure for chickens,” Thomas said. “We’re raising money for a rototiller because our current one’s not great. We’re also building a covered wash station and a covered work area.”
They’re also hoping to get the equipment to be able to extend their growing season.
“We’re hoping to get hoop houses which are small green houses that go over the individual rows.”
To that end, they’re running a fundraiser until Christmas Day. As part of the holiday gift campaign, you can buy the farm a gift of $20, $50 or $100 to go towards the purchase of new equipment. Each gift comes with a special holiday greeting card and a handmade ornament.
Gifts can be purchased at Artemis Books or Ozzie’s Cycle or other various locations around town. They are also available in person from CMHA board members. For more information or to purchase a gift, call Charles Thomas at 250-730-9110.