Agrotherapy and Residential Care: The community feedback period for this idea began on 4/30/2019 and ended on 6/29/2019. *STATUS UPDATE*

What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Please describe how it is related to mental health.
Lack of affordable housing and meaningful, sustainable activities for people with mental illness; unspent Mental Health Services Act dollars

Why is this a concern for Orange County? What can Orange County and other counties learn from this project?
Addressing the housing shortage while also providing sustainable solution toward livelihood. There are people who are homeless and need proper shelter and meaningful activities. Agrotherapy could potentially address both.

What is currently being done to resolve this problem in our county and throughout the United States? If applicable: Is it working; why or why not?
Development of more affordable housing; innovative, evidence based programs are needed to help people with mental illness recover.

What is new or different about this project idea? Please describe how this differs from what is already being done (Question 6). Please list any research that was done on this topic.
There’s been growing research on agrotherapy for people with mental illness: There’s also growing research on agrinature research and sufficiency economy.

What is the project idea? Please describe how this project will operate.
Agrotherapy is using farming to help people with mental illness heal, thrive and sustain their livelihood. This could take place in a board and care/assisted residential facility that provides a farm-like, sustainable environment. Residents would be able to learn and implement farming techniques, grow their own foods/herbs, sell the surplus, generate income, interact with farm animals and have a greater sense of purpose while being in a welcoming community who’s committed to their health, well-being and livelihood.

Additional Information:
Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate all that you do for the county.



April 16, 2019


Innovations Team

Thank you for your submission. The innovation team needs additional information, please elaborate on your responses as best as possible so that we may work through our review process.

• Horticulture therapy with those exhibiting mental health symptoms is currently being practiced in many different settings. How would this program differ from other existing programs?

•What do you think can be learned from this project that would be different than what is currently being learned from existing agro- therapy / horticulture therapy programs?

How would this program differ from other existing programs?

Proposal: The program will be the equivalent of a wellness center/residential center. However, it’s different than existing programs because it will be held on a farm, focusing on youth job skill development, sustainable practices through horticulture program, recreational programs, farmer’s market, and learning center/therapeutic school. The program will address the needs of transitional aged youth with mental illness through evidence-based program. The program’s mission is to foster a sense of belonging and help youth develop life skills in a supported, welcoming environment. The program may also offer residential housing for youth living with mental illness. The program will include an interdisciplinary team of dedicated providers, including occupational therapist/program coordinator, mental health professionals, peer support providers, etc. Providers will receive specialized training on adverse childhood experiences, trauma informed care, mindfulness-based stress reduction, sensory modulation and more. The program will also draw support from cities and business partnerships who provide supported employment through individualized placement and support (IPS).

•What do you think can be learned from this project that would be different than what is currently being learned from existing agro- therapy / horticulture therapy programs?
The program is more than just a horticulture program. It will provide a safe haven for transitional aged youth to call home/a second home while fostering life skills (both technical and soft skills) that are needed to succeed. Youth will have an opportunity to learn about sustainable practices as part of the therapeutic program and develop job skills with the goal of participating in supported employment.

REDF ( has listed Transitions – Mental Health Association / Growing Grounds ( in San Luis Obispo, CA since at least August, 2017. This is one of the only semi-market based interventions that I have come across. The fact that market forces can support such a venture means that pitching this to the right investor is probably a better idea than pitching it to a slow, bureaucratic and non-market based entity that forces you into a contract that pays in arrears (meaning you front all the financing and then they pay you back – perhaps). Plus, if you own the entity then you have residual access to the income stream from the entity and can enter the joyful world of discussing ethical ways to manage wealth.

(You have a choice to) Make an appointment with Frank Ricceri (, a leader associated with Growing Grounds and see how they do it and if it can be duplicated in Orange County, CA.

I attended a breakfast session with REDF in 2017. It attracts serious people and organizations across the United States that want to address serious social issues.

Best wishes and I hope the journey is fruitful. Perhaps the Orange County Healthcare Agency could provide some mentoring for the originator of this innovations idea… It would be nice if someone in the community could help the originator of this innovations idea to plan a meeting with Growing Grounds and provide guidance on if this is a good fit for Orange County. It would be unfortunate if the originator of this idea moved to San Luis Obispo and Orange County looses this opportunity with someone motivated to engage on this issue.

Thank you for the information, Aaron. I will have to look into this. There are many wonderful programs out there that we don’t know about. I appreciate your sharing.

Riverbed Farms ( is available for volunteering opportunities in Orange County, CA. There isn’t a residential facility nor associated income with this facility, but it does exist as an opportunity.

Gardening/Agriculture teaches a few practical living skills/coping mechanisms:

1) Sanitation / Separation of Clean & Dirty – there are clean things and dirty things. After working with soil and plants one learns to wash everything: self, tools, etc.
2) Healthy Boundaries: The Herb mint grows like a weed and will take over all your land if you let it. This is what mint does, this is how mint works, and there is nothing you can do to change that. So you need to set a boundary for mint – use a small container and only mint goes into that container.
3) Hope & Planning: Instructions of where to plant seeds, how many days to harvest, hope for the future harvest.
4) STEM: Measurement of distances between plants, depths of seeds, space for each plant. This might not be very formal, exacting, precise, nor accurate – but having a general sense of these concepts is important.

“Play therapy” is well recognized as a modality in children where rapport is developed between the therapist and child. During “play therapy” the communication and behaviors give tremendous insight into what a child is going through. Such a phenomena is possible with agrotherapy – you will discover who has a concept of sanitation/clean/dirty, healthy boundaries, hope/planning, and general, practical science/technology/engineering/mathematics.

Thank you for your idea submission. Upon review and discussion, it was determined that this type of program could be included within already existing residential programs. As a result, the Innovation team is unable to continue exploring this idea under the MHSA Innovation component as proposed.

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