There’s a new and growing trend in residential addiction recovery support programs, and it’s a very exciting one.
After decades of pre-packaged, processed food, factory farms, and overstocked and overwhelming super-sized grocery stores, more and more people today are taking a step back from all of that and are now becoming more interested than ever in the origins of the foods we all eat.
For the first time in a long time, Americans want to again know how our food gets from farms to our tables.
Many are interested in becoming a part of that process. Through the establishment of home gardens, participation in community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, farm tours, farmer’s markets, and volunteering of all kinds, more people are diving into direct, personal involvement with the food supply chain in one way or another. As a result, people are much more knowledgeable about what they choose to put in their bodies and the landscape of food in our country is changing as a result.
In recent years, some in the addiction recovery field noticed this shift and growing interest and saw opportunity.
Many factors made the union of farming and addiction recovery treatment and support a perfect one. Farming helps feed people. Hard work and contribution offers focus. Farm life is remote and serene. It’s a perfect match.
Why not harness this movement to do good for the world, while at the same time help people break free from dependencies and addictions?
The concept of farm-based addiction recovery was born.
If you’re interested in learning more about this concept and why it’s a fantastic and sensible combination, read on.
America was built on farming. For hundreds of years, small family farms fed this country. Generations of men and women woke up with the sunrise and worked hard to grow and raise food until the sun went down again.
Due to a number of factors, small family farms have dwindled immensely over the past few decades. Many have been replaced by corporate farms that produce food at an impressive rate, but also at great cost to both the quality of the food and to the healthy natural environment.
Many see much value in getting back to basics.
Farming and Addiction Recovery
There are a number of organizations and facilities across the country that offer addiction recovery programs that are farm-based. Some focus on early recovery, others offer sober living facilities or halfway house programs to those who need them.
All of them see a beautiful connection between progress on the addiction recovery path and farming for many reasons. Farming offers many benefits to anyone who participates in it.
First and foremost, working on a farm during recovery from addiction gives participants a feeling of accomplishment, responsibility, and ownership over something bigger than themselves. A simple sense of purpose and personal accountability can do wonders for individuals in recovery and can help to build self-esteem.
Connections with Others
Working in a field with others all day to achieve a common goal creates unity and builds special relationships and connections. This camaraderie can only lead to great strength and resolve.
Second, farm work is hard and busy work. A long day of continuous work produces endorphins in the body that encourage happiness and contentment, helping participants to build their internal strength and resolve against returning to drug and alcohol use and abuse. It promotes a focus on positive action. Progress can be seen on the farm every day.
There are other connections too and they just make sense. Farming promotes the sustainability of the earth and of humanity, and that connection inspires reflection on the part of farm program participants and forces them to think about how they can make recovery sustainable.
Farming causes a shift in focus from inward to outward. People suffering from substance abuse disorders have spent years or even decades focusing on themselves and how they could feed their addictions. Agriculture instead turns that focus outward. The new focus is on the animals they care for, the food they grow, and the people that will be fed thanks to their hard work.
Further, working on a farm will solidify a connection with nature that will last a lifetime. In the future, participants will understand and seek out benefits of spending time outdoors such as stress reduction and improvement of physical health.
Types of Programs
There are dozens of different addiction recovery and addiction support programs in this realm and new ones are popping up each year. Each one is a bit different from the others and they are all unique. However, they all have one shared goal: to help people overcome their addictions.
Some farm-based recovery and support programs focus on growing fruits and vegetables on a farm. Others raise animals for food like cows, chickens, goats, pigs, or sheep. Some combine both types of farming. In many cases, the money earned from the sale of the produce and meat raised by participants goes back into the program to expand it or to help subsidize the cost of attendance for those who might not be able to afford it otherwise.
One program in West Virginia takes this concept a step further; food raised in an urban farm setting by program participants is then sold in a nearby cafe staffed by other individuals who are also in the program.
A program in Vermont allows participants to choose from three different crews, all of which work five hours a day before attending therapy sessions in the afternoon. The garden and kitchen crew grows food and feeds the group, the woods crew clears trees and turns it into firewood for heating, and the shop crew maintains the tools and builds furniture.
One long-term program in Arizona helps participants stay sober through forty-hour farm workweeks. The program does not yet have a therapist on staff; the therapy is the work. In addition to farm chores, individuals have their own chores and must maintain their livings spaces. People enrolled in this program stay for two years minimum.
A program in Oregon helps to build and strengthen bonds between parents in recovery and their children through agriculture. The program is participant-driven and gives families a common goal to work towards together. The bonds and memories made will last long after participants’ time in inpatient rehabilitation is over.
Finally, a sober living farm in Germany is the most unique of all. Over one hundred people – including some children – live together on a farm. Most are in recovery from addiction or have violent or criminal pasts. Strict rules – including no drugs, no smoking, no violence, and strict schedules – combined with full days of hard work keep participants on the straight and narrow path. There are no doctors or therapists, but people help one another based on their own experiences. Training programs are available to teach trades to residents, and people can stay as long as they like. There is no application nor waiting period to join.
Farm to Future
Farm-based addiction recovery and support programs are growing in popularity and it’s likely that they will continue to do so moving forward. These programs are innovative and it makes sense that they are helpful for so many. The hard work of recovery and the hard work of farming are similar in many ways. In both cases, the work is never done; it’s an ongoing process.
There’s no time like the present to get started.
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