Aquaponics farm mixes charity with activism

Aquaponics farm mixes charity with activism

The success of an aquaponics farm as an antidote for homelessness is taking hold in Vista, California, and setting up a template for similar operations that could pop up coast to coast.

Solutions Farms is growing like crazy, tripling in size thanks to a million-dollar grant. The all-organic farm program employs homeless families to help grow its produce using popular aquaponics methods. According to the farm, these methods allow Solutions Farms to “ensure healthy yields of both fish and fresh produce.”

But the farm also helps people grow new futures. The charity takes in homeless and recently homeless individuals, offering them job training and a chance to find some traction in a world that seems poised to leave them behind.

The farm is owned and operated by Solutions For Change, a charity focusing on services for homeless families. The nonprofit provides housing but also job training, family and personal counseling, work experience and financial skills development. The overall goal is to help their clients develop personal tools to make it past the trauma and difficulty of homelessness. For some time, the charity helped between 30 and 50 individuals each month, but the grant should allow them to double or even triple that number.

The success of the program is in combining a great cause with a proven system and an interested, contemporary twist. Farming allows those being helped to grow their food while also teaching them life skills needed to be successful as they get their lives back together.

The aquaponics angle also enhances this success. A popular and in vogue farming method, this combines aquaculture (fish production) with hydroponics, which produces plants without soil. The process is complex, but the idea is simple. Raise tilapia in fresh water, then use that nutrient rich water to hydroponically grow crops. The growing cleanses the water so it can be returned to the fish tanks. It works out to be a self-supporting closed circle.

The unique operation coupled with the consistent success makes marketing easy for this nonprofit, if they play their PR cards properly.

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