News & Features

Healing Harvests

In the Flathead Valley, local farms and gardens are using nature-based programs to empower and nourish underserved populations

If nature is good for our mental health, then the Flathead Valley’s pastoral farmlands, bountiful gardens and verdant forests provide an ideal setting to draw a deeper connection with the outdoors and promote positive well-being.

It’s a concept that has driven a number of organizations to integrate nature-based programs into the local health care and social justice arenas, affording people struggling to find employment an opportunity to engage in meaningful work and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

Some folks are living with physical or developmental disabilities, while others are suffering from dementia or depression. Some are teenagers who have committed minor offenses and are working to get their lives back on track, while others are seniors who don’t regularly interact with friends or family.

Whomever the person, the seed that sprouts from their accomplishments working the land, harvesting vegetables or promoting homegrown health and wellness throughout the community helps empower them as individuals.

These programs give people a sense of purpose and control, nourish underserved populations and can decrease the need for care elsewhere, while curbing the rates of recidivism for at-risk youth.

As the farm-to-table movement continues to gain momentum and popularity, and people are increasingly interested in the connection between food and its source, the opportunities to develop innovative homegrown health-and-wellness models have never been greater.

This week, the Beacon profiles some of the people behind the programs, as well as the valley residents benefiting from them.

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Michael Jones celebrates after harvesting garlic at Raven Ridge Farm with Cassady Daley, left, and Sam Guetz on July 26, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Care Farming Cultivates People

Program empowers vulnerable populations by connecting them to local farms and the outdoors

By Tristan Scott

Alec Howell has ambitions of becoming an actor, but on a recent summer day in the Flathead Valley, he found work as a farmer.

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Burket Kniveton, executive director of the Center for Restorative Youth Justice, checks in with guests as Jonathan Gregoire, right, serves food during the supper club dinner on July 27, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Opportunities for Growth

Trellis Project offers Flathead Valley youth the chance to work together, grow food, and feed their community

By Molly Priddy

Sitting at picnic tables in the evening sun, a couple dozen people ate dinner together, family style, under the shade of a willow tree.

The table decorations — all cloth and mismatched china and freshly picked greenery — evoked an idyllic summer meal, fit for Pinterest, and the guests, who before dinner didn’t know each other, fell into the easy patter of small talk.

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Harvested chard being rinsed. Beacon File Photo

Helping Farm Hands

Nonprofit organization improves community food access through new programs

By Tristan Scott

Agriculture enjoys a celebrated history in Montana, where the act of cultivating the land and producing fresh food is a tradition that continues to thrive today.

But gaining easy access to nutritious meals presents another set of challenges, a reality that prompted a local community organization to roll out a growing stable of programs to improve residents’ food needs.

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