LOMPOC, Calif. - A new Good Samaritan Shelter farm program is helping grow a better future for many of the clients the non-profit organization's serves across Santa Barbara County.
The new farm is located at Good Samaritan's Bridgehouse Shelter in Lompoc on 3 ½ acres of land that previously was overgrown with weeds and vegetation.
“The Bridgehouse Farm started about in about June,” said farm manager Jeff Hendrickson. “We started our first plantings in June. (The property) had been vacant for 20 plus years and there's a homeless shelter on site. We've been growing produce for Good Samaritan shelters, various programs across the county from South County, Lompoc, and then up in North County in Santa Maria.”
The idea to create the farm was to help improve the overall health and well-being for Good Samaritan clients who are living in the various shelters the organization operates.
“It was really about changing the way that our clients are eating,” said Kirsten Cahoon, Good Samaritan Shelter Operations Director. “Nutrition is so important and something that really gets put aside when you're homeless, you know, having to survive on canned foods or whatever is given away free isn't always the healthiest.”
Now, hundreds of Good Samaritan clients have access to farm-fresh, organically-grown produce daily.
“Our shelters are eating this every night,” said Cahoon. “All of our clean and sober living homes,our permanent housing programs have opportunities to access it. Our safe house, everybody is is being able to enjoy fresh produce, which has never happened. We use a lot of canned foods previously because of expenses and things like that, so this is just a game changer for Good Samaritan.”
Clients are not only eating the produce daily, some of them are helping to prepare meals with it themselves.
“We cook with this food every day,” said Bridgehouse resident Joan Tuohey. “It's amazing. It's nutritious. And delicious. And and children actually love it. They love, you know, eating the vegetables. I see them eating the salads every single day.”
The farm is producing between 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of several different varieties of fruits and vegetables each week.
“We grow pretty much everything,” said Hendrickson. “Over the course of a year, we will grow probably 75 different crops. We do all the leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Everything you can think of will grow.
Cahoon said the produce will be used in Good Samaritan's new culinary program, which has been created to help build marketable skills for participating clients.
“The program manager is already on board and cooking for our shelters,” said Cahoon. “The meals that are coming out of that kitchen now are like nothing we've ever seen before. I mean, the green, the colors, the fresh produce, and teaching our clients about fresh vegetables and fresh produce.”
She added the public also has an opportunity to enjoy the bounty of the farm's harvest through a new subscription service.
“We have subscription veggie boxes that are absolutely beautiful that come out of this farm every week that the public is able to enjoy as well,” said Cahoon. “There's a little mixture of everything. I get mine every week and it's been so much fun to try to figure out what to make with all the incredible produce. It's nothing that you can buy in the stores. The colors, the size. There's no fertilizers and things like that going into it. This is the truest organic produce that is being grown right here in your own backyard and helping our homeless community that are our neighbors.
An additional benefit to Good Samaritan clients is the ongoing News Channel 12 Turkey Drive, which assists SLO Food Bank clients in San Luis Obispo County and those with Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Barbara County.
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, News Channel will hold four donation sites where the public can donate a turkey, non-perishable food, or financial contributions.
Donations collected in San Luis Obispo County, at California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach and Vons in San Luis Obispo will directly assist SLO Food Bank Clients.
Those collected in Santa Barbara County will directly benefit Good Samaritan clients, as well as other local non-profit organizations.
Santa Barbara County locations for the Turkey Drive will be the News Channel 12 Santa Maria station, as well as Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Lompoc.
On-site donations will be accepted from 6 a.m. to 7 pm.
Financial donations can be made anytime by visiting the Turkey Drive website. Donors can choose to contribute to either Good Samaritan or SLO Food Bank.
For more information about the News Channel 12 Turkey Drive, or to donate, click here.
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