“I have nothing but good things to say about this program. I have been homeless for five years. This is the first time I’ve received a housing voucher, and it’s thanks to this program.”
— Kate, Green Team member
“I still volunteer there once a week because I love it so much. I give back because I’ve received so much.”
—Teressa, Green Team alumni
“Being of service really flips the script for these women,” says Green Phoenix Farm Director, James Loomis. “When you find yourself in poverty, always on the receiving end of everyone else’s generosity, you tend to have a story of yourself as a perpetual beggar, which can be crippling to your self-worth. These women are providing food and plants for thousands of people, and it rewrites the story so they’re the ones giving.”
Started in 2016, the Green Phoenix Farm is a 1.38 acre urban farm located in west downtown Salt Lake City, and an integral part of the Wasatch Community Gardens network.
Aside from being a fully functioning certified organic urban farm, the Green Phoenix Farm offers a job training program providing employment, mentorship, and advocacy for women facing homelessness. The women in the program, comprising the Green Team, work on the farm five days a week for 10-months under the leadership of James Loomis
Leveraging the naturally therapeutic environment of a garden, the job training program supports women in crisis to recover an internal state of calm and groundedness as they work each day. Throughout the farm season, the women rediscover a sense of personal power and a boosted feeling of self-worth. As the program progresses, they work with mentors and advocates to set goals and create an action plan to become housed and into long-term employment by the time they graduate from the program.
Nearly 60 women have graduated from the program since its inception, with around 75-80% of graduates obtaining jobs and housing upon completing the program. And they continue to be housed and employed over time. That kind of success is not only staggering and impressive—it’s a meaningful solution to homelessness, which Salt Lake City desperately needs.
After completing the program, alumni are invited back to the farm for monthly lunches and annual ‘Farmily Dinners’. They’re also invited to become mentors to current Green Team members. Program leaders actively stay in touch with graduates to ensure their lasting success, knowing that it’s not about slapping people into housing or getting them a quick paycheck, but plugging them into a network and ensuring they have the tools, skills, confidence, self-esteem, and inner sense of empowerment to reliably show up for themselves and their future.
I asked Green Team alumni, Teressa McCord, about the highlight of her time on the Green Team: “The atmosphere of the farm and the support that they give you. Working on the farm gave me the confidence to make the positive choices I needed to make to change the situation I was in. I have a full-time job now. I’m nearly self-sufficient. I’m doing really well.”
And when asked what she wants people to know about the Green Phoenix Farm, “More than anything, we’re a ‘farmily’, Teressa says. “The people who work there are some of the strongest women I’ve met.”
James concluded our chat with this sentiment: “Sometimes I get more credit than I should. The success of this farm and this program belongs to the women who make up the Green Team. I feel honored to be a part of this thing alongside them. They inspire me every day with their hard work.”
If you’d like to get involved or become a volunteer at the Green Phoenix Farm, visit Wasatch Gardens website for more information.
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