Four residents of the Central Coast, dedicated to agriculture are donating $2000 to Growing Grounds Farm in Santa Maria. Lisa Bodrogi, Cara Crye, Ivor VanWingerden, and Erin Huston are members of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. This statewide, two year fellowship through the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation is affiliated with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Pomona, Fresno State, and UC Davis. “We are a broad network of people who are advocates of the agriculture industry,” said Bodrogi.

After one year in the program the group participated in a service project in Washington D.C. and at the end of second year their service project was in South America. In Peru they fundraised and repaired 30 homes damaged in an earthquake. There were funds leftover at the end of their project so the funds were split up by region to be distributed. “The unique combination of giving aid to the mentally ill through farming and employment made Growing Grounds Farm an ideal fit for the group to sponsor,” said Bodrogi.

Bodrogi feels that their portion of the funds fit with the agriculture and mental health world. During her experience with the program Bodrogi went to a mental health facility and helped clients to prepare potted plants. “It was a moving and deeply rewarding experience that was truly joy-filled,” she reflected.

Growing Grounds Farm is a small business that does double-duty as an employment program. This program provides horticultural therapy, vocational training, independent living skills and paid employment annually to over 40 people with a severe mental illness. The donation will help to pay for client wages and staff at Growing Grounds Farm, which relies solely on sales and community support.

Having lived around the corner from Growing Grounds Farm for several years, Bodrogi was aware of the program and thought it to be a perfect fit. “I really appreciate what Transitions and the Farm is doing in our community. We wanted to help support that effort.”

“Our agricultural roots run deep at Growing Grounds Farm, attracting so many wonderful supporters to our four-acre farm that supports people and plants,” said Frank Ricceri, Associate Director at TMHA who oversees Northern Santa Barbara County programs. “The added beauty is the timing of this generous donation as it coincides with a challenge matching grant from an anonymous donor, effectively doubling the value of the donation.”

A check presentation will take place at 1 p.m. during the third annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 16th from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Farm located at 820 West Foster Road in Santa Maria. There is no charge to attend and barbeque tickets are $10 each for adults and $5 for children 10 and under. For more information on the event, or to purchase barbeque tickets, please call 805-540-6594.

“This is a fun family event and a great way to support the farm and the people who depend on it for employment and horticultural therapy,” said Ricceri.

ABOUT CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURAL LEADERSHIP FOUNDATION

The mission of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation is to enhance the long-term viability of California agriculture through leadership development, which in turn benefits the people and communities agriculture serves. The vision of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation is to be the preferred deliverer of premier leadership development programs that meet California agriculture’s need for a continuing supply of enlightened results-oriented leaders who can successfully engage today’s challenges and tomorrow’s uncertainty.

The California Agricultural Leadership Program is an intensive two-year fellowship that provides selected individuals with an exceptional professional and personal leadership development experience. The experience is global and comprehensive in nature to reflect the on-going dynamic of California’s $30 billion agricultural economy. The Program has more than 1,000 alumni. The program’s mission is “to prepare and motivate men and women in California agriculture for more effective leadership.” For more information, visit www.agleaders.org.

ABOUT T-MHA

Transitions-Mental Health Association is a non-profit organization that helps children and adults live, work and grow in our community. TMHA operates 27 programs at over 35 locations that reach over 2,000 people and 1,500 families in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. The emphasis of TMHA’s many services is to teach vital independent living skills, and build a framework for community re-entry through personal empowerment and hands on experience. For over 30 years, T-MHA has been dedicated to providing housing, employment, case management and life-skills support to teens and adults with mental illness; and support, resources and education for their loved ones. For more information, visit www.T-MHA.org.v