Garrison farm that houses addiction recovery center in danger of closing

GARRISON (WABC) -- An organic farm in upstate New York is also home to an addiction recovery center, and in addition to helping residents achieve sobriety, it teaches them job skills for when they leave.

James Smith is a city boy at heart, but he's finding his footing thanks to nature. Horticulture is just one of the things the 33-year-old is learning a world away from his home in Elmhurst, Queens.

He is one of 24 men currently at Renewal Farm, a supportive living facility in Garrison where the residents farm and prepare to return to the workforce after battling drug and alcohol addiction, time in prison, time on the streets.

"I think from being up here, I'm building a really strong foundation for myself," he said. "So when I do leave, I'll have the tools that I need to be successful."

What's grown in the greenhouse and on the raised beds of an old tennis court is sold at a farmers markets and to local restaurants, and is also given away to a food pantries. From seeds to sales, a little farming goes a long way.

"In their life, they've been through many activities that have been negative," farm manager Bob Conboy said. "This is totally positive. They're here working as a group, getting to know what life is like, getting up in the morning, getting to work. But most importantly, they're seeing the actual fruits of their labors."

And there are plans to expand the farming to almost an acre beginning this summer, but by then, funding may run out.

"This program has been funded by the federal government for the last 20 years," program director William Mercer said. "And if we don't continue to receive that funding, this program will be closed down."

At issue is the federal government's decision to cut funding to supportive housing programs. It takes $400,000 a year to operate Renewal Farm, and the non-profit hopes to cut its own budget and raise $150,000 through a crowdfunding site to keep it open for six more months.

But after, that the future is uncertain.

"We need a miracle," Mercer said. "We definitely need a Christmas miracle."

It is the kind of miracle that has already helped Smith build a new life and get back to his 5-year-old son.

"There are a lot of people like me in the same position," he said. "This place has helped me out tremendously in every aspect of my life."
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