Recently our resident blogger asked Carolyn Lewis to respond to some questions others might have about a new initiative, Your Tiny Farm, that Carolyn is leading as part of her volunteer efforts to support Reach for Home.
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the new Reach For Home initiative you are working on?
Carolyn: Absolutely,…I am very excited to be working on our Your Tiny Farm initiative, which is a food producing program I am developing to help ensure that the clients who are part of RFH transitional housing programs have access to fresh fruits and vegetables available to them at no cost.
As part of that same program I hope to give my tenants easy access to lots on which they can, with our assistance, plant and grow vegetables and fruits. We also plan to pay the clients for their food growing labors so that they can supplement their income.
Food grown by the clients will be available first to the clients to enhance their diets. In addition, as discussed below, we hope that if there is an excess of food grown beyond the clients’ needs, this excess could provide a source of client income through sales at local Farmers Markets or restaurants. Our hope is that the end result will be that our clients, working with us, can take responsibility for, and have the opportunity to ensure, a healthier diet.
Q: The Reach for Home webpage describes the organization’s purpose as providing opportunities and support for clients to work toward self-sufficiency, independence and permanent housing. Additionally, programs are designed to offer clients the opportunity to gain self-confidence and to become self-sufficient. How does Your Tiny Farm fit in with Reach For Home’s Purpose?
Carolyn: By providing my tenants the opportunity to help to develop the garden and be able to pay them for their time. There will be opportunities for them to work during off-hours which will enable them to look for full time work or supplement their income while working other jobs. By having responsibility for the garden, and benefiting from their efforts, clients will also develop pride of ownership in the project. They will have “skin in the game.”
Q: You have launched the program at a property in Cloverdale. Why Cloverdale?
Carolyn: Well, first of all we purchased a home there because the price and the neighborhood suited our needs. It is a property with a fair amount of usable outdoor space, making it suitable for the program. Cloverdale has a fairly significant homeless population, which, in my opinion, is under-served.
Q: If this first Your Tiny Farm project is a success, can you envision it expanding and how?
Carolyn: Absolutely! Reach For Home is currently in the process of purchasing several other properties in the area and if the organization would like to work with me, I hope to replicate this model if it is successful in Cloverdale. We have already received offers of donations of materials and tools for the current project and our volunteers seem excited to help. While I am strictly working with RFH in a volunteer capacity, and the Your Tiny Farm project is not an official part of the RHF program, I do hope this program I am developing becomes something other properties can use or replicate.
Q: Tell us why you chose to volunteer for Reach For Home and what your experience has been so far?
Carolyn: All you have to do is look at any news source to see that homelessness is a huge and growing problem in this country and in our community. I was looking for an organization that was well run and small enough that I could have an impact without encountering all the red tape and politics of the larger local organizations.
Colleen Carmichael, our Executive Director, inspired me initially with her impassioned description of what the Reach For Home does. From there it was an easy decision to want to help. The experience has been very rewarding so far.
I was also inspired by a TED Talk by Rex Holbein, who started an organization in Seattle called Facing Homelessness. Rex and I met and talked and his vision of putting a face to the homeless was inspiring to me. Rex also has a project, The Block Project, in Seattle, which provides housing in tiny homes situated in backyards in the city. Perhaps, one day, we may be able to place a tiny home, providing additional housing, in among the beauty of a fruit and vegetable garden in Cloverdale!
Q: Think Big – What would you like the Your Tiny Farm program to look like 5 years from now?
Carolyn: In five years I envision having multiple properties with thriving small “farms” and perhaps even growing enough produce to sell at local farmers markets creating an income stream for our residents.
Q: If someone wanted to be a part of this program, what opportunities are there and how would they get more information?
Carolyn: Anyone with interest should feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also be sure to follow our progress on our Facebook page. We will also be holding periodic open houses for potential volunteers to get a better feel for volunteer and partnering opportunities.