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Francis Sullivan: Farm Manager at GrowGood Urban Farm

GrowGood Urban Farm provides the 500 residents at the Bell Shelter in Los Angeles with healthy produce, employment options, and opportunities to connect with nature. Bell Shelter residents can access the healing benefits of being on a farm while learning new skills and connecting with others. Learn more about their impactful work here!

Can you tell me about GrowGood’s wellness programs?

We’re a 1.5 acre regenerative organic farm across the street from The Salvation Army’s Bell Homeless Shelter. Our Food for Life program involves wellness practices like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. Food for Life works with wellness participants, who are people going through recovery and veterans at the shelter. It’s eco-therapy where we talk about anxiety and use metaphors to relate the farm to their own lives. People can be fully involved in every opportunity, or passively involved by just being in the natural environment. The farm is a safe space where folks can hang out, pick some fruit, read on a bench, listen to music, anything they want.

What employment opportunities do you offer?

Residents can get a job with us through our transitional employment program to bridge gaps in their resumes and have a reference for future employment. The 3-month farm hand opportunity is all about building trust and responsibility and helping residents get back into a workflow. They have to show up on time, follow tasks, and learn introductory elements to working on a farm. One of the residents recently completed the program and got a job at a dog grooming company. It’s a way for people to learn different skills that can translate to other task-management jobs.

What are some of the benefits of farming for Bell Shelter residents?

Being around food brings back memories and starts conversations. The different foods we have remind them of their childhoods or of dishes their families made. It opens up a line of communication and brings everyone together. Being in a shelter can be hard, so having the opportunity to connect with others is really important. We are located in an industrial part of LA, so being out in nature is stimulating and rejuvenating. It’s a special feeling to harvest something, prepare it, and share it with others while having great conversations.

What does being a farm manager entail?

I run the overall day to day operations, which means I oversee the folks who are part of our transitional employment and plan our daily projects. We have a greenhouse operation and hydroponics set-up that I run. Everything we grow on the farm is eaten by shelter residents or dropped off at the shelter, so I frequently coordinate with the kitchen there. The best part is being able to connect with people from the shelter and with the farm. It’s a really beautiful place, and I love working with such amazing people.


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