Growing Works

Growing Works is a public-private partnership in Ventura County, CA.  The Ventura County Board of Supervisors is leasing land to Turning Point Foundation to turn it into a very unique plant nursery. Mentally ill adults, with a focus on young adults, will engage in horticulture therapy, while learning valuable job skills of the nursery industry: planting and growing drought-resistant plants, sales and customer service skills. They will also be paid as they are learning, having a job is healing in itself. The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation seeks to support recovery programs that incorporate nature-based therapies and approaches, and we have made financial commitments to this project.

See this article with a more in-depth discussion of the Growing Works model.

Below is Dr. Karen Wade’s letter to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in support of the project, at the meeting where they voted, unanimously, to go forward with Growing Works. 

December 10, 2017

My name is Karen Wade. This statement is in support of the proposed conceptual plan for the lease agreement with Turning Point Foundation for county-owned property in Camarillo for the purpose of starting the Growing Works plant nursery and job training program for people with mental illness (Supervisorial District #2).

I am the parent of a young adult with a mental illness, a mental health professional, and a co-founder of The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation, a California 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating a kinder, safer world for young people with mental illness.

My son, Andrew, lost his battle with a severe bipolar depression and died by suicide in 2011. He was 24 years old. He had struggled with depression since elementary school. His death came almost exactly a year after his diagnosis and hospitalization with bipolar disorder. He left us just as it appeared to his family, friends, and doctor that he was getting his life back (with work, with school, with friends).

In retrospect, I believe that Andy had pushed himself too hard trying to regain the time he felt his illness had taken from him toward “growing up” and becoming an independent adult. We, his parents, encouraged him on this path because, at the time, we had no guidance otherwise. Subsequently we learned that the mind can take a couple of years to fully recover from a serious episode involving psychosis. Having a structure for work and life is essential, but they must be calibrated to the person’s recovery process.

Our family’s terrible loss led to the creation of the foundation in Andy’s memory. A major finding in our search for ‘best practices’ in mental health recovery, is nature-based therapies. We have come to strongly believe that being engaged with nature is a crucial missing component in most current programs. Growing Works ‘kills two birds with one stone” by providing a job training structure in a nature-based therapeutic context. For this reason, The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation has made a financial commitment in support of Growing Works.

After Andy’s death, I began to work on the front lines in acute psychiatric settings. Unfortunately, I see many young adults, sad and struggling with their illnesses, caught in self-medicating, and worrying about what kind of life they can have. I contrast those faces with what I envision in my mind’s eye as Growing Works gains traction. I see the smiling faces of young adults engaged in horticulture therapy, with soil, plants, sun, water, in a manner that nourishes and calms their often-overactive minds, that literally grounds them in nature, and the life lessons that nature provides. I see them rebuilding self-confidence, and hope, through mentorship, guidance, structure, and accountability attuned to each person’s stage of recovery. And, of course, they are acquiring real job skills, all necessary bricks on the path toward wholeness, responsibility, and a meaningful life.

Rarely do so many forces converge simultaneously to create something truly good. There is a well-respected organization to shepherd and develop the therapeutic program, an experienced volunteer nursery manager, the means and the people willing to finance and physically clear and fence the land. The proposed site is fortuitously located to spur multiple collaborations which can: serve those who receive job training, develop the land in harmony with its surroundings, and stimulate economic development in the region. As citizens interact with the program’s clients, as volunteers and nursery customers, we will gently educate the community about mental illness, thereby reducing its stigma.

It is a field of dreams. If we build it, they will come, and many will flourish.

I urge you to vote in support of this visionary plan.

Karen Beck Wade, PhD, RN-BC

Co-Founder, The Andrew Wade Friendship Foundation