On any given day at Costanoa Commons Farm, you’ll likely find Chris Robertson out tilling the soil – shirtless and shoeless. Chris’s struggles to overcome homelessness and addiction, while caring for a severely autistic 13-year-old child, make him a representative of three distinct and too often despondent populations. To Chris’s right, Carson, a 20-year-old whose passion for farming shines brighter than his cerebral palsy diagnosis, preps a watermelon patch. To Chris’s left, a group of ‘special’ children attend a summer camp, oblivious to any segregating needs, and they frolic after free- range chickens.
Costanoa Commons is an urban farm/ intentional community located less than
a mile from downtown Santa Cruz, CA. Costanoa cultivates a deep sense of companionship by integrating diverse neighbors, including unhoused people and disabled youth, as common-‘panions’ (Latin for ‘spiritual/physical nourishment) through a common-passion (the foundation for ‘compassion’) for gardening.
The farm is working hard to demystify labels and misperceptions by focusing on the gifts, not the ‘needs’ that make these neighbors ‘special.’ “Noah is very clear about wanting to offer something to his community that other people value,” says Heidi. “With an effort that is truly integrated, where those with disabilities work side-by-side with others who don’t have the same challenges, attitudes that typically hinder people from living full lives can change.”
Society vastly misunderstands people who are often classified as “disabled,” despite their prominence in the community. In fact, “if formally recognized as a group [they] would be the largest minority in the United States” says the National Institute on Disability. Moreover, it is the one minority group that any of us could join at any time.
Alternatively-abled individuals are too often viewed as lacking… defined, labeled and limited by their ‘needs.’ This is far from the case, for God has made each ‘perfect’ and ‘whole’ and their presence is essential to the completeness of our greater community. As Plato wrote, “we are all born whole, but we need each other to be complete.”
As soon as you set foot on the soil – the ‘adamah’ (dirt) from which we sprout – of this Santa Cruz sanctuary, you feel at home. In these fields, inclusivity is more than an aspiration, but an experience as refreshing as the early summer strawberries brightening the fields. What makes gardeners of this farm so special isn’t their ‘dis’- abilities but their unique ability to see beyond divisive labels (the L’s, G’s, B’s, T’s and Q’s; abled and disabled; housed and homeless; Jew, Christian, Muslim…) as they cultivate a community of true acceptance.
How can you help you ask?
- Donations of gift cards: Help us provide for those who are working to provide for the community! These veterans are transitioning out of homelessness and any support towards food, transportation, social services, or therapeutic services (medical, nutritional, counseling, etc) is incredibly helpful.
- Host a ‘Pop-up Farmstand! : We are looking for safe/supportive events and communities to bring our mobile gratuity based (pick ur price) organic farmers market simulation stand and pizza stand!
- Visit/volunteer at our farm!!! We’ve partnered with www.costonoacommons.org and host volunteers every tuesday 10am-1pm, our Saturday farmstand 12-3pm, and would love to schedule a special intro/workday for you and/or your group side by side with our special needs and homeless gardeners! 335 Golfclub dr., Santa Cruz CA
- Hire one of our trainees! Our program is meant to be a transitional (and transformational) step towards longterm employment and housing…. We would love to work with you as a potential placement site for individuals as they grow ready to re-enter the workforce.
Make a financial contribution. All donations are tax exempt and we invite you to direct your support towards general operations or specific initiatives:
- Provide a scholarship for one of our participants (a small stipend for their garden work and material costs for their project)
- Sponsor a produce scholarship for a community in need, event, etc
- Help us get a dehydrator! (@$550)
- Build a Barn! $10,000 to go!
Learn more about our partners www.costanoacommons.org