Over the next 10 months, the newly launched Green Team Farm Project will cultivate crops with a big measure of hope.
The Downtown Alliance-sponsored program has teamed a small group of women who are currently homeless with experts from Wasatch Community Gardens to learn the fine points of organic gardening, intensive vegetable production strategies, small farm management techniques, and other life and job skills. Other partners in the project are Salt Lake City RDA and Advantage Services.
“This is a way to add more job opportunities for homeless individuals in the city,” said Camille Winnie, director of community services for the Downtown Alliance, and creator of the Green Team Farm Project. “The garden seemed like the next natural step because it beautifies a neighborhood that is challenged, and gives people something productive to do during the day.”
The project was launched on September 28 at the downtown RDA site that sits vacant and waiting for the gardeners’ TLC.
“Everyone involved in this collaboration has shown how the planting of a good idea – to provide job training for women who are experiencing homelessness – can literally take root and bloom,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski at the project’s ribbon cutting. “With care, attention and mentorship, the women who participate will grow not only organic produce, but also their life skills and sense of hope.”
The Mayor took the opportunity to single out the Downtown Alliance for its steady and positive efforts to address the challenges of homelessness in the city.
“The Downtown Alliance has consistently jumped into this work with sleeves rolled up and anxious to help. We already have the Clean Team. Now we have the Green Team – another example of the Alliance’s collaboration with the city and non-profit groups to meet homelessness in the streets and move forward toward solutions.
“We are all in this together,” the Mayor said.
The project was a natural outgrowth of the Clean Team, which the Downtown Alliance launched in 2013 to help keep the Rio Grande neighborhood cleaner and to provide jobs for homeless individuals. Clean Team members collect trash, shovel walks, and clean sidewalks in front of downtown businesses.
The Green Team and Clean Team (try to say that three times, fast) are managed by Advantage Services, which provides the actual job training. Wasatch Community Gardens will oversee the Green Team’s tilling, planting, maintenance, and harvest of the garden. The women participating in this first project class were referred by homeless outreach agencies and social service providers.
“These programs offer support and direction for people who once saw themselves only as homeless,” Camille said. “They are working and developing their sense of pride. It’s a win for them and for our whole downtown area.”