Trauma Agrotherapy: Sanando (Healing) our Brain, Spirit, and Soil
Healing By Growing (HBG) Farms, located in East Haven, CT, is a Therapeutic Respite Micro Farm and Educational Center.
We are a trauma-based healing space designed for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), PTSD and trauma survivors. Through a holistic healing approach, we reconnect trauma survivors to themselves, nature, and the environment. As advocates for an equitable food system, accessible and affordable green healing spaces and as champions for the inclusion of our aging population, veterans and disabled communities, we help create trauma awareness and provide education; we invite others to join us in our journey by becoming HBG supporters, champions, ambassadors and allies.
TBI's can change anyone’s life in the blink of an eye creating “invisible” mental health issues that lead to stress, depression, anxiety, unemployment, loneliness, difficulty with relationships, and susceptibility to addiction and suicide. Most TBI's go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to the lack of understanding in the current medical system and the lack of resources to treat those who suffer from TBI's properly and timely.
What we see is missing is truly accessible, inclusive, affordable, and compassionate green spaces for healing. Healing by Growing Farms seeks to fill this much-needed gap through therapeutic farming, educational sessions and holistic healing. By offering structured and supervised activities like gardening, composting, agriculture, forestry, environmental conservation practices, horticulture, propagation of crops, and animal husbandry (caring for bees, pollinators and chickens), to name a few. In addition, we provide agricultural-related workshops to help empower new inspiring farmers, urban farmers, farmers of color, veterans and retiring farmers.
Through hands-on methods, we are teaching valuable vocational skills increasing the potential for new career transitions into agricultural fields and enlarging post-trauma income while learning how to grow healthy, sustainable foods and indigenous medicinal crops. Survivors can finally have a safe and accessible space to silence their minds, souls and bodies and get in tune with their inner selves, which is a significant component in the healing process.
As a social impact organization, the crops and eggs harvested through our farming activities are donated to local communities in need (food deserts, refugees, immigrants, etc.) and our volunteers. We are grateful for our volunteers who seek to heal themselves from their trauma from the inside out by reconnecting with the earth while serving those in need at HBG.
It started with a seed:
Well, actually it was a whip and potatoes, but we’ll get to that story!
Our founder, Dr. Ivette Ruiz, was inspired to create this trauma-based farm after suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury herself in August 2020 while preparing for a disaster relief deployment during Hurricane Isaias. After the hurricane, all the trees in her yard were damaged, and she had to replant them. She asked some farmers for donations of baby trees to help replant her yard, and she ended up with 70+ whips (baby trees) and a big ol’ box of potato seeds donated by Fedco! As a result, she grew over 300 pounds of potatoes which she donated to the woman refugee community in the Greater New Haven area of CT. Thus, Healing by Growing Farms was born. Since many plants have also been donated locally and throughout the Northeast and West Coast.
Her brain injury caused prolonged PCS (Post-Concussion Syndrome), and her life has not been the same since; she has experienced discrimination, unemployment, and a lack of proper and timely medical care and attention. After realizing how difficult it was to get any treatment or understanding, her salvation was working in her home gardens, tending to her chickens and finding a way to help those impacted gravely by the COVID pandemic.
As a Latinx 3rd generation new farmer and first-generation doctoral graduate, Ivette wants to use her vast knowledge and experiences to help others who have gone and are going through similar hardships. Her executive work in healthcare, humanitarian relief, public service, food sovereignty, social justice and education helped lead her to this innovative ministry.
HBG was recently awarded the Yale University Civic Innovation 1st prize for Ivette’s creative green space and therapeutic farming activities. The Dwight Hall at Yale Center for Public Service and Social Justice currently serves as one of HBG Farms Nonprofit fiduciaries and partners.
How will our funding be used:
Our farm is registered with the USDA as an Urban Farm. We aim to continue building this farm's foundation on Ivette’s small personal land to create a fully functioning healing and educational-oriented farm. Eventually, we’d love to expand to a more ample land space to build our respite retreat center. For now, we are working with what we have. With this money, we plan to buy supplies, implement environmental conservation practices needed to run the farm, build new ADA-accessible pathways and make repairs to current buildings on the farm that have been damaged by water and mold. We are starting small, so asking for $700. The breakdown is as follows:
Our 1st Goal - $700 Greenhouse: To buy supplies, tools and materials to fix our greenhouse that was damaged during the latest bad rain and wind storm. 1st PROJECT GOAL ACHIEVE ON Monday, May 8, 2023! Thank YOU to all who made this possible
Our future fundraising goals will be to help us with seedlings, soil, compost, an irrigation system, additional structure repairs and to purchase additional tools, supplies and materials to build livestock housing, hutches, runs and add storage for our newest therapeutic animals arriving Spring 2023. In addition due to the water damage and mold we need to make repairs to our barn and farm house.
Our 2nd Goal - $2,000 Seedlings: To purchase seeds, plant seedlings, growing lights, growing trays and the such for our (20) growing areas including a designated section that’s ADA accessible with its own growing zones and a greenhouse.
Our 3rd Goal - $2,000 Soil & Compost Blend: To fill all our raised growing beds including the ADA-accessible and elevated raised growing beds for our Spring 2023 growing season.
Our 4th Goal - $7,700 Irrigation System: Right now, we are just using our hoses, but we would love an efficient irrigation system that saves water and can reduce the environmental impacts of overwatering. By irrigating only enough to reach the root zones of crops, excess water doesn’t run off into nearby streams. Runoff leaches crop nutrients and chemicals into freshwater sources and contaminates critical habitats. Because we are located in the shoreline area, we would like to mitigate this risk as soon as possible.
Our 5th Goal - $15,500 Structures: Make repairs to existing structures damaged by water and mold; this includes the farm house with an approximate costs of ($14,000) and the barn ($1500).
Acquiring a Van to Conduct TBI On Site Farm Educational Tours and Conduct Pet Therapeutic Visits to Seniors with limitations and accessibility challenges
Acquiring Farm Land to Build a Healing Retreat Center
We appreciate you reading this far and learning more about our needs and dreams! Please know that any amount of money helps; even $5 can be the difference between someone struggling alone and finding community with others. By becoming part of the Healing By Growing Farms community which currently provides all trauma-related services at NO cost to survivors, individuals struggling can find refuge amid their distress.
If you have anything specific you’d like to donate, we would be honored to accept your time, energy or any of the following items. Gardening tools, stones, gravel, gardening gloves, individual planters, growing trays, bagged soil, compost, heirloom seeds, organic seeds, small tractor, hay, woodchips, straw, sand, unused farmland and the such.
If you or someone you love thinks they have experienced a TBI or are experiencing trauma-related isolation and would like to get involved with Healing by Growing Farms, please share this with them and encourage them to get in touch with us! We thank YOU in advance for sharing widely with those in need and for your generous contributions!
Check out our official website here by visiting: Healing By Growing Farms