CVT's St. Paul Healing Center Gets a Backyard Farm | The Center for Victims of Torture

CVT's St. Paul Healing Center Gets a Backyard Farm

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Joan James believes that big life changes happen once you start playing in the dirt. She’s been backyard, or urban, farming since she was a little girl and currently co-runs her own business, A Backyard Farm. This fall, the local agriculture operation donated raised gardening beds to CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center!

A Backyard Farm designs and installs herb and vegetable gardens in residential lawns throughout the Twin Cities metro area. Staff members maintain the gardens on a weekly basis throughout the growing season (April – October) to ensure that as many vegetables as possible can grow within a confined, vertical space.

Joan and a team of volunteers installed the raised beds at CVT’s center in early October. It was a rainy Sunday morning, but Joan’s energy was high – and infectious. She and her team worked fast. They transported hand-built wooden bed frames from A Backyard Farm’s shop, hauled copious amounts of organic soil in on wheelbarrows and then distributed it neatly among the planters with rakes. The beds will be ready for planting in April 2018, so CVT’s torture survivor clients can immediately start growing prime spring vegetables like arugula, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, Napa cabbage and sugar snap peas. 

A Backyard Farm specializes in raised beds because they are particularly conducive to urban settings. “City yards get contaminated by chemicals like lead and arsenic, so we use a specially mixed organic soil,” says Joan. Vertical planting – or “growing up” – is also space efficient, and allows vegetables like tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and squash to thrive.

When asked why she chose to donate beds to clients at CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center, Joan instantly replied, “To get survivors out of the house!” She appreciates the transformative work being done inside CVT’s intentionally-designed home, but thinks that working outside in the backyard garden will advance the healing process. She hopes that clients find the raised beds to be comforting and familiar. “Some survivors were agriculturalists back in their home countries,” notes Joan. “I want our backyard farm to give them the opportunity to raise vegetables that they haven’t had a chance to eat or grow in the United States. For others, I hope it provides an escape, or a sense of independence.”

Look for additional posts about CVT’s new backyard farm in spring 2018.

Sabrina Crews, CVT marketing and communications specialist

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