New nonprofit pairs aquaponics with at-risk youth counseling

GREELEY and LOVELAND — A nonprofit startup in Greeley, Blooming Health Farms, is acquiring a new facility in Loveland that will be used to bring sustainable agriculture to the community while providing counseling and job skills training for at-risk youth. The 2,000-square-foot facility will use aquaponics to grow 1,500 pounds of vegetables weekly.

Crops are currently being grown in the nonprofits Greeley facility. Courtesy Blooming Health Farms

“We believe agriculture offers the best chances to create the future leaders of our community,” Sean Short, director of operations, said in a written statement. Short, who holds a degree in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, partnered with clinical counselor Ryan Smith to create Blooming Health Farms.

Aquaponics is a type of agriculture that mimics the natural ecosystem as closely as possible in order to produce more food with 93% less water and 90% less land than the traditional farm. In this process, fish raised in tanks are fed a nutrient-rich diet. Plants growing in the tank filter the water for the fish, while fish waste provides nutrients for plant growth. 

Sustainable agriculture is only part of Blooming Health Farms’ overall mission — it also strives to reduce crime involvement among at-risk youth who will staff the farm, with the goal of reducing their criminal involvement by 90% within five years. In addition to participating in cognitive behavioral therapy, participants will receive job skills training in both STEM fields and soft skills such as communication and leadership.

“Blooming Health was always destined to be a place of learning,” Smith said. “Whether it’s job skills training, clinical supervision, community classes or exploring new methods of crop production — learning is at the core.”

Youth crime costs about $200,000 per individual yearly. Many young people get caught in the revolving door of the justice system and end up in a lifetime of crime and addiction, costing taxpayers millions. Blooming Health Farms is currently forging partnerships with local youth centers in order to change this and save Weld County taxpayers more than $2 million a year.

The new Loveland aquaponics facility is being prepared. Courtesy Blooming Health Farms.

Participants receive paychecks, food rations and cooking classes. They are eligible for a peer mentorship program to develop leadership skills and enhance employability. 

“We’re turning desperation into passion — helping kids find meaning in a world where it’s hard to survive,” Smith said. 

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

 

GREELEY and LOVELAND — A nonprofit startup in Greeley, Blooming Health Farms, is acquiring a new facility in Loveland that will be used to bring sustainable agriculture to the community while providing counseling and job skills training for at-risk youth. The 2,000-square-foot facility will use aquaponics to grow 1,500 pounds of vegetables weekly.

Crops are currently being grown in the nonprofits Greeley facility. Courtesy Blooming Health Farms

“We believe agriculture offers the best chances to create the future leaders of our community,” Sean Short, director of operations, said in a written statement. Short, who holds a degree in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, partnered with clinical counselor Ryan Smith to create Blooming Health Farms.

Aquaponics is a type of agriculture that mimics the natural ecosystem as closely as possible in order to produce more food with 93% less water and 90% less land than the traditional farm. In this process, fish raised in tanks are fed a nutrient-rich diet. Plants growing in the tank filter the water for the fish, while fish waste provides nutrients for plant growth. 

Sustainable agriculture is only part of Blooming Health Farms’ overall mission — it also strives to reduce crime involvement among at-risk youth who will staff the farm, with the goal of reducing their criminal involvement by 90% within five years. In addition to participating in cognitive behavioral therapy, participants will receive…