Spectrum Farms has grown into a key Creston community asset
With large gardens and open spaces, historical and modern buildings, and trees towering over them all, Creston’s Spectrum Farms does much more than simply produce food. It’s a place that allows people with disabilities to thrive, where they enjoy a safe home and meaningful employment.
“Our tenants and staff inspire us in a really significant way,” says Operations Manager Serena Naeve. “They’ve learned to make the best of their lives. They make the most of every day, every moment.”
The 26-acre farm also provides affordable housing to 17 people with disabilities. Some live in Archibald House, a heritage home, and some in Cedar Linden, a residence with nine units that opened in January 2020, built with Trust assistance.
“My outlook on life has improved greatly in the short time I have been here and thus my mental health has improved as well. Not enough can be said for having a safe, self-contained, warm and healthy space to live in.”Maya Moore, Tenant
Operated by the Kootenay Region Association for Community Living (KRACL), Spectrum Farms is located on land purchased in 1962 by the Kootenay Society for Handicapped Children. The society was started in 1951 by a doctor from Trail, William Endicott, and eventually became KRACL in 2005.
The farm employs tenants who are able to work and other people with disabilities from the community. Since it added a market garden in 2014, employment has expanded from five seasonal staff to 11. From April to October, they work in the bakery, hen house or food processing plant, or keep busy harvesting produce they grow from seed and place directly in the hands of eager consumers.
A long-standing relationship
When COVID-19 struck, the organization needed help to make the transition to pandemic life as smooth as possible for tenants. Some of them were still exhausted by their move to the housing two months earlier, so KRACL wanted to ensure they were minimally disturbed by the crisis.
With COVID-19 funding from the Trust—intended to help community social service agencies maintain, enhance and adapt their services during the pandemic—the organization hired someone to intensively clean shared spaces, as well as provide regular cleaning for a visually impaired tenant. It hired another tenant, with a background in technology, to provide tech services for the other residents so they can better engage in the increasingly virtual world.
“I see the Trust as the most available resource in the region,” says Naeve. “They’re always on the cutting edge of providing service. They respond to community need in a way that’s quite unique and timely.”
Since 2014, Trust support has made it possible to revamp irrigation, construct hen houses, increase the garden to 1.5 acres, and renovate and reroof Rosewood, the building that houses the Going Green Market, bakery and food processing facilities. It enabled the farm to build a commercial kitchen and purchase a dehydrator, allowing it to preserve its produce and rent the equipment and space to community producers.
The farm is also working to develop space for a fibre mill, purchased with Trust support, which would operate for a fee on behalf of farmers and artisans who want to mill their own wool, giving employees another way of developing unique skills.
Expanding their horizons
By gaining experience in areas like these, some employees have been able to find work with other Creston employers.
“This is a stepping stone to further education and employment opportunities,” says Naeve. “They gain enough skills and confidence to create more opportunities for themselves in the mainstream.”
To further encourage self-esteem and interpersonal skills development, in 2017 and 2018, a small Trust grant allowed a dozen participants with mixed abilities to work with a professional theatre director to create their own theatre pieces.
“For us, it was a really shining light,” said Naeve. “The stories surprised us, and so did the confidence they had going through the process. We were amazed about how creative they were, and how witty and funny.”
As with many organizations, volunteers are the farm’s lifeblood. Nearly 20 volunteers give their time in all aspects of the operation, from the store to recycling to maintenance.
Their willingness to contribute demonstrates how important the farm is to Creston Valley residents, who are touched in many ways. Schoolchildren visit, as do participants in Creston and District Community Complex programs and members of the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors, run by Valley Community Services. The farm is also home to the Therapeutic Riding Program, run by the Creston and District Society for Community Living. “I see this property as sacred and healing,” Naeve says, for the community, its volunteers and, most importantly, its tenants and staff. “I see this as a property that promotes growth for individuals.”