David Lewis has schizoaffective disorder, which causes paranoia, delusions and other difficult symptoms. Although medication helps him manage the condition, holding a steady job has been a lifelong challenge.
But now the Woodland resident has a regular routine and paid work through a program called Farm to Mouth. A project of the Yolo County Care Continuum, Farm to Mouth provides job skills training – and a paycheck – for people with a major mental illness.
“I’ve had a series of good jobs through my life but I’ve been unable to hang on to them,” said Lewis, 44. “This program has been a lifesaver. It’s helped me get back out into the community and also interact with other people who have mental health challenges. And it’s got me looking ahead toward higher goals.”
Farm to Mouth operates on a 10-acre piece of ground off County Road 96 northwest of downtown Davis. The property is also host to the Farmhouse, a residential mental health treatment center, along with two barns and an assortment of farm animals.
Each Wednesday, Lewis and a team of other workers – all of whom have significant mental health challenges – arrive early in the morning and tackle a wide variety of farm projects, which change according to the seasons.
“We might prepare the land for planting, choose which crop we want to plant, harvest the crop or learn about fertilizing techniques,” Lewis said. “I’ve learned how to set up irrigation and I’ve built chicken coops.”
The goal is to help employees acquire basic skills such as job readiness, working with a boss, managing interactions with other employees and maintaining a positive work attitude. They also become proficient in farm management skills and enjoy the feeling of giving back by assembling baskets of their squash, corn, arugula, sweet potatoes and other produce for homeless shelters and other needy community members.
Farm to Mouth began in 2012 and has scraped along on grants, donations and support from farmers who occasionally volunteer their tractors and expertise. One key element, has been missing – a greenhouse, which would allow workers to start seeds in seeding trays.
“The greenhouse work is one of the most interesting and exciting parts of gardening, so I really want the clients to have the experience,” said Farm to Mouth coordinator Anna-Ruth Crittenden, 23, who studied sustainable agriculture and food systems at UC Davis.
Crittenden spends $40 per tray to rent space in a local greenhouse. Once the seeds become “starts,” she brings them to the farm for planting.
“If we had a greenhouse, it would open up a lot of possibilities for the clients and allow them to understand the full life cycle of the plants,” Crittenden said. “It would also be a big step toward having a more sustainable, closed-loop farming system because I wouldn’t have to drive somewhere to use someone else’s greenhouse.”
Farm to Mouth is hoping Book of Dreams readers will help pay for a greenhouse on the farm. Grant funding only covers operating and staffing costs, so donations are the best hope for financing the critical addition.
Lewis, for one, has his fingers crossed.
“I feel at ease at the farm – peaceful, comfortable,” he said. “The greenhouse would add another great dimension to our program, so I hope it can happen.”
2014 BOOK OF DREAMS
For more than 25 years, The Sacramento Bee's Book of Dreams has helped people and organizations in our community realize their dreams. Their needs can be as simple as a pair of shoes for someone who is homeless; holiday baskets for low-income families or a shiny, new bike for a child. Whatever the dream, you can help by making a donation today.
All donations are tax deductible and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs. The Book of Dreams fund is administered by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. If you donate online, the Region Foundation will appear on your statement.
Need: Funds for a greenhouse
If you have additional questions, please call the Book of Dreams line at 916-556-5667. Donations will be accepted through January 16, 2015.
* To claim a tax deduction for 2014, all donations must be postmarked by December 31, 2014. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting the unfulﬁlled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulﬁll wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies beneﬁting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has veriﬁed the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona ﬁde cases of need. However, The Sacramento Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.