A healing place: Farming has a hand in recovery for those suffering from mental illness

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Hopewell Farm is a therapeutic farm community for adults with mental illness.

MESOPOTAMIA, Ohio — Hopewell Farm looks like many farms along the rural eastern Trumbull County road near Mesopotamia. As you come up on the farm, you see a barn, a pasture and horses on this wintry day.

But that’s just what is on the outside. It’s what’s inside that is much more valuable to those who live there.

Purpose

Hopewell is a treatment center designed to help adults with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression and other forms of serious mental illness.

It is a therapeutic community located on a 300-acre farm with hogs, horses, cattle, sheep and chickens. In addition, a greenhouse is in the back with cottages for the residents and housing for some of the staff.

The farm has three main goals for its patients: helping the clients believe in their own potential, developing skills necessary to manage their mental illness, and helping the clients learn how to transition from Hopewell to a more independent living situation.

The farm was founded by a Cleveland woman, Clara Rankin, and it began accepting residents in 1996.

Hopewell is a rare kind of treatment center — it is a therapeutic farm community and the only one of its kind in Ohio.

The center is able to serve 40 adults, with housing in four residences.

At any given time, Hopewell employs between 30-40 full-time and part-time staff.

When clients come to stay at Hopewell, they are expected to work on a crew.

Colleen Welder, director of program services, said clients know when entering the program it will include assigned chores on a work crew. Some are unable to work eight hours a day at first, but they work up to it during their stay.

The five work crews include housekeeping, kitchen, maintenance and grounds, farm and a garden crew. The average length of stay for clients is six months.

“It’s time when the clients keep their eye on the goal of moving to a more independent living situation,” Welder said.

The farm is more than a farm. It is a community.

Some clients work in the garden, planting, cultivating and harvesting the goods. Even in early March, the garden crew is busy planting seeds in the greenhouse in preparation for this year’s garden.

When harvested, produce is taken to the kitchen, where the kitchen crew prepares meals with the in-season garden goods and makes provisions for when there is no produce, including canning and preserving the fruits and vegetables.

The staff and clients eat all meals together which are prepared as much as possible from meat and vegetables grown on the farm.

The farm crew is responsible for feeding livestock, mucking stalls and general care of the livestock on the farm.

Welder said it is a therapeutic center where peers learn from their peers. She added residents learn from one another and learn to rely on each other. It is a skill that their illness has most likely prevented them from developing.

The meal time is where many clients realize Hopewell is similar to a community where everyone has a part in making the whole.

“They are a part of everything we do,” Welder said.

The maintenance and grounds crew is kept busy throughout the year. They are responsible for mowing and mulching in the summer and snow removal in the winter.

The housekeeping crew is responsible for cleaning and keeping living areas livable.

New project

In addition to the work crews, the staff and clients have been preparing for the past year to open a store on the farm. It will provide maple syrup, which the clients have helped to produce including collecting the syrup, cooking it down and bottling the gold liquid.

The store will also sell eggs raised on the farm, birdhouses, artwork and jewelry designed and crafted by clients living on the farm.

The art and jewelry have been produced in the creative arts room in one of the two cottages located on the farm for clients. The clients have spent the winter months designing and creating the goods.

The store, which is the Hopewell Farm and Craft Market, opened March 10. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and will be operated by staff and residents.

Equine therapy. Not every animal on the farm is used for production. There are also two horses and a pony, but they aren’t used for riding purposes.

Welder uses the horses in ground-based treatment programs for the clients. For example, she said an obstacle course is set up in the pasture, and clients are supposed to take the horse on a lead rope and make it through the obstacle course. The obstacles are metaphors for things that can happen during a client’s recovery that could hamper their progress or a life’s event that could delay it.

“Residents spend a lot of time outside. It’s a great place to learn about their mental illness from their peers and recover,” Welder said.

She added the farm offers a range of activities that aren’t all outside or farm related.

Welder said the combination of everything encourages a client to recover.

“Participation in the meaningful work and community helps aid in their recovery rather than facing mental illness alone,” Welder said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I have a friend that has bipolar, 67. Even when he is not manic he is so lonely. He is talented and very knowledgeable. He loves gardens and has much to offer, very educated. This may be just what the doctor ordered. Is there a waiting list, cost, etc. He lives in New Jersey. Is there such a place in NJ. Please let me know

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