In Sunday B Blog

Growing Roots: Urban Farming with the Overcomers


Growing RootsFor the past few weeks, every day has been Earth Day at the Mission as the Overcomers work hard on the urban farm growing in our parking lot.  As you may know, it is difficult to find “green space” in Center City Philadelphia.  Since
we do not have a traditional yard, our Farm is being built from the proverbial concrete up using recycled pallets.

The men in our Overcomer Program participate in weekly Skills Training classes that change throughout the year.  For this spring and summer, the men are learning about building, growing, and tending a garden through the Grow Food Where You Live class hosted by the Asian Arts Initiative.  Resident artist and farmer Meei Ling Ng is working closely with the men in our Overcomer program to teach them valuable skills about farming.


Skill Training

When a man graduates from the Overcomer Program, he should be as marketable as possible for any job he wishes to pursue.  This is why everyone graduates with Serve Safe certification, a completed GED, and has a written resume.  This Farm is another way to help the men gain more skills to help them further their careers.  Regardless of what career path they choose to follow, these skills are valuable for when they someday own or rent their own home with their very own yard.


Therapy & Recovery

Working outside with plants has been proven to have therapeutic benefits for people in difficult situations.  Horticultural Therapy can be used to rehabilitate prisoners, decrease the stresses of mental illness, or as a means of addiction recovery.  The act of taking care of something so fragile and then seeing it grow into something useful is powerful and meaningful for people working towards leaving homelessness behind.  Not to mention that it is an excuse to get outside and soak in some much needed vitamin D after the winter!

One Overcomer, Kisean, in particular has become very invested in this project.  He was the first to volunteer to water the seedlings while they were growing inside.  Now that “his babies” are outside, he checks on them regularly.  He did not like to thin his plants (removing a weaker sprout which is growing too close to a stronger sprout) because he felt like he was abandoning the weaker plant.  Kisean is compassionate and this project gives him the opportunity to see something thrive under his care.


Community Building

The greater China Town North community has seen the value of this farm and has been very supportive as we build and plant.  Through this engagement, our neighbors have had the opportunity to work with the Overcomers as partners and equals.

A few weeks ago, a quiet Overcomer, Nick, began coming out of his shell when he was assigned to be a Team Leader that would oversee the building of a pallet planter.  To my surprise and joy, I saw Nick step up in this leadership role as his team finished their planter fastest and sturdily.  Since then, he has been slowly coming out of his shell and continues to participate in classes.



But what do we plan on doing with all the food? Eat it, of course!  The kitchen is looking forward to using these fresh ingredients to improve the quality of the meals we serve at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.  With almost 600 meals served each day, these plants will be a valuable resource for the homeless community.  We intend to improve the health benefits of our breakfast because it is “the most important meal of the day.” As the only provider of free “all welcome” breakfast in Philadelphia, it is essential that this meal be fresh and vitamin rich!


How You Can Help

If you would like to be involved in the next Community Build Day then email and ask to be added to the Farm Project email list.  You could also help improve the quality of food served by donating money and specifying that it is for “Better Breakfast” which means it will be designated for protein or vitamin rich foods served at the Mission. You can improve the quality of life for your homeless neighbors, today!

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