A self-sustaining, nourishing environment—rich with economic opportunity and personal growth becomes an ideal place for people to rebuild their lives.
That’s what Chris Megison, president and CEO of Solutions for Change, had in mind when he broke ground on a two-acre plot of greenhouses north of San Diego. He wanted to create a place that not only transformed the practice of farming, but transformed the lives of those overcoming homelessness.
After 3,000 hours of volunteer construction and thousands of dollars in fundraising, Solutions for Change opened up Solutions Farms—an entirely fresh take on sustainable living. Its holistic approach ensures the environment, the community and the Overcomers who maintain the farm can all thrive.
The farm is now the workforce development centerpiece of Solutions for Change’s programming. By working on the farm, residents learn how to work on a team as strong employees—a skill that will help them maintain employment and avoid homelessness. The farm is truly the culmination of everything Chris and the Solutions team have learned about growing people while growing nutritious, organic produce. Above all, Solutions Farms is a place to build life skills from the ground up.
Solutions Farms is a 7,000-square foot, entirely self-sufficient farm outfitted with fish tanks, grow beds, water pumps and UV lights.
That’s certainly not the equipment of a conventional farm, but Solutions Farms is anything but conventional. It has no soil, but rather nourishes plants through nutrient-rich water that is derived from fish culture. The plants purify the water, which can then be returned to the fish. This cyclical, sustainable farming technique is called aquaponics.
Aquaponics is an eco-friendly method that allows Solutions Farms to produce large quantities of fresh-grown vegetables without taking up much land. Solutions Farms is proud to be one of the most productive aquaponics facilities on the West Coast.
But beyond the farm’s innovative growing techniques, it also serves as a life-changing hub of social enterprise. It doesn’t just raise produce, it raises hope.
Nearly all of the farm’s workers are individuals who have experienced homelessness and are trying to permanently escape poverty. At Solutions for Change, these are residents in their first phases of the Academy’s workforce development program. The farm is their laboratory to learn important work values and prepare them for re-entry into the workforce.
The close-knit farm environment is ideal for lifting one’s confidence, naturally building their accountability and showing them the rewards of a job well done.
Farm managers extend trust to each participant to maintain the careful balance of water, nutrients and light that keeps the farm running—the high stakes of this work develops a sense of purpose and responsibility. The core values of Solutions Farms—Get Up, Suit Up and Show Up—encourage all employees to hold themselves and their peers accountable to quality work. And when everyone commits to their jobs and supports each other, they get to take pride in the literal fruits of their labor by selling the produce to the community.
Solutions Farms organic produce is distributed to local restaurants, partner farms, Solutions families and the community. All of the proceeds go right back to funding programs to help people overcome homelessness. So in every way, Solutions Farms aims to sustain itself like they expect residents to do while nourishing everyone around it.
Working on the farm is a healing journey for all the families that go through Solutions Academy. Just like the vegetables they grow, residents get to start from their roots, be nurtured by the farm and go out into the community inspired to add value and give back.
Solutions for Change client, Brenda, started working for Solutions Farms as soon as she possibly could. She was ready to change her life, and she knew this opportunity to farm would push and motivate her.
“After I started working on the farm, my 11-year-old daughter told me, ‘Mom, you’re so happy!’” Brenda said. “I’ve only been here 30 days and it has already made that much of a difference.”
The tranquility, rewarding work, and support of her coworkers brought Brenda healing without her even knowing it.
“I don’t think about my problems from the outside world when I’m here,” Brenda said. “I’m all about being at the farm. It’s peaceful.”
To learn how you can buy Solutions Farms produce or other ways to support the program, visit Solutions for Change. We’re so thankful for the support of our community, and it is an honor to give back. Stay tuned for our next blog all about Solutions in the Community, our initiative to make the San Diego area an even better place.