Harvesting Hope is a partnership between Sustainable Berea and Liberty Place, a recovery center for women in Richmond, along with several local businesses. Program director Cheyenne Olson said many people might be surprised by how much planting and harvesting translates to other types of work.
"There's an incredible amount of job-skills learning that takes places on the Berea Urban Farm," Olson said.
The 26 graduates were paid for their work on the Berea Urban Farm, in addition to receiving training in financial literacy, job interviews and building a resume.
Kentucky has one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the country, according a 2017 report by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Olson pointed out while the opioid epidemic has made it difficult for many employers to fill available jobs, communities haven't put effort into helping people transition from sobriety into employment. "And we also want to develop a model program that can be adopted by other communities who are seeking to do job-skills programs," she said.
Olson also said no job-skills program is going to work without addressing personal trauma and self-worth.
"Unless they are able to have some way to heal, personally and spiritually, all of the job skills in the world are not going to help them," she said. "If you don't have that piece, I don't think it works. And we didn't know that when we were going into this. We did not know that we were going to be dealing with the personal issues."
The state's Injury and Research Prevention Center has launched