Dear Friends of the Jesus Center,
I am excited to tell you about the growth of the Jesus Center Community Farm because it’s part of what the Center is doing to help unemployed people who eat at the Center become job ready. Started 18 months ago, the farm is on 2.2 acres of ground, 10 minutes away from the Center on 16th Street in Chico. The Growden family, who owns the land, graciously gave us permission to lease the ground for $1 a year!
Farm manager, Jim Mathys, uses the farm to provide job training to homeless people who grow produce which is sold at the Chapman Town Friday market in Chico and eaten in the dining room of the Center. Jim recently spoke at Chico State University to students in the social work department. He spoke about his background as a Chico State student (he has a degree in social welfare and corrections). From his talk, 19 students signed up to work a semester at the farm!
Th internship program is a big success with 6 interns working the farm daily – is that more are to come! Our fi rst graduate Tom Mulholland enthused: “This the most encouraging thing I have been a part of in a long time.” Tom’s internship began back in May and ended in August but he has continued to work as a volunteer putting in a total of 24 hours for the month.
“All this hard work – of not only the interns but also volunteers as well,” Jim told me, “has meant a great deal to the workers because it’s provided a sense of belonging, a visible increase in self-esteem and great joy in seeing the fresh vegetables grow, get harvested and sold. Our plans to help the interns fi nd work and housing at the completing of their internships has begun so we hope to have some good reports this Fall. We plant and wait and see how God brings the increase in vegetables and in peoples’ lives!”
Each week an average of 350 pounds of produce are harvested. “Since May,” said Jim enthusiastically, “we have a lot of produce. In fact about 4000 pounds - praise God!”
Jim has planted a pumpkin harvest for October which he hopes to sell at Halloween.
Produce is sold at the farm stand Monday through Thursday – averaging about $each week – and Fridays at the Chapmantown Farmers Market – averaging $235 each week. Total sales from the beginning of June reached $1860.000. “We have a long way to go to maximize yields and increase sales but we are trending in the right direction. In October we will be trying a new market on Wednesdays at the North Valley Plaza in Chico from 9 am to 1 pm.”