Today I'm coming home from the annual ACRES USA conference in Louisville full of fellowship and enthusiasm from meeting with folks who do fantastic things. One fellow I met with yesterday is participating in the growing movement to use agriculture as therapy in a crumbling and hurting culture
As recently as 50 years ago mental institutions and prisons grew their own food with inmates and patients, not just to save money, but also to give folks meaning and purpose. Everybody needs to feel needed, and nothing does that better than plants and animals. Plants and animals never call you names and they are always glad to see you. And they need us to care for them.
The connection between pets and quality of life for retirees is well documented. When Grandma has to get up to feed the cat, she feels important and necessary. In that vein, the ecological farming community is truly embracing imbedded farming in some of the worst areas of cities. Michael Ableman has been doing this for several years in Vancouver with portable urban garden beds. The homeless and drug addicts finding relief from their demons through tending gardens is nearly miraculous.
Yesterday I met with a guy who uses urban food production to salvage addicts, homeless, ex-offenders, struggling PTSD veterans . . . the list goes on and on. One of his partners has cured 1,500 schizophrenics with food. What? No drugs? I can't imagine a healthier development in the mental health field.
Offering solutions without drugs has to be one of the most liberating options, and that more people are connecting the dots between nutrition and farming and overall health is truly wonderful news. These folks are getting authentic results with the most basic elements of life: growing and eating integrity food. I think it's good to step back from this whole thing and realize that while all this awesome food and farm stuff is going on, driven by thousands of people, at the same time thousands of researchers are developing new drugs to administer instead.
In other words, a war is being fought over the nation's most vulnerable, hurting people. One side is working from an affirmation, connection, nutrition angle; the other is working from a mechanical, manipulative, money-dominated angle. I'm deeply grateful that our ecology-driven healthy food and farming movement is gaining ground and developing a track record second to none.
Have you seen a troubled child respond to a farm animal?