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Monday, April 26, 1999                                         back                                      The Halifax Herald Limited

Couple Opens Farm, Arms to Troubled Teenagers

By Anne Hargreaves



Anne Hargreaves

Youth counsellor Terry Goodwin and volunteer Kerry Wentzell enjoy a lunch prepared for them by participants of a farming program designed to help teens.

Crousetown - There's an easy camaraderie and a lot of laughter among the guests in Joan Wentzell's kitchen - a far cry from the way things used to be for the teens gathered there.

Her guests are participants in a farm project located in Crousetown, just outside Bridgewater, run by the Youth Support Foundation. Founded in 1986, it was the first program of its kind in Canada to help young people between 13 and 19 years old with substance abuse problems.

Effram and Candy, (not their real names), have been involved with the farm program for a year.

"It was our bad decisions that got us here, and our good decisions are keeping us here," said Candy, a pretty, bright-eyed 17-year-old with an impish smile.

The idea for the farm project came from youth counsellor Terry Goodwin.

"I always liked gardening, even when I lived on the 35th floor," said the former Vancouver resident.

Since Joan and husband Kerry offered the use of their property to the project in February 1998, the group has moved about three tonnes of rock (Terry kept count), built a large greenhouse, tilled the land with a team of oxen, grown 40 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers and made their own preserves.

Thirty teens are now working at the farm three days a week.

Some are here because they sought help from school guidance counsellors, and others because their habit got them in trouble with the law, Mr. Goodwin said.

The program, which had 230 participants last year, claims a high success rate.

"Three of our graduates are now studying counselling at St. Thomas in Fredericton," Mr. Goodwin said.

Another teen participant - "Call me Clifford," he said - compared working at the farm to having a big oversized family.

"There's never a doubt in your mind that they'll be there for you."

This year, the group will sell their produce at local farmers markets and will be supplying some local inns with fresh organically grown produce.

"Last year, although successful, was a learning process. We tried too many exotic things," said Mr. Goodwin. This year they'll be limiting their selection by a simple criteria. "If you can pronounce it, we'll grow it," he said.

Their goal is to raise enough money to have a barn-raising in the fall, and their dream is to one day own their own farm that would serve as a safe house. "Many of these kids leave detox and return to the bad situation they left," he said.

The program relies on donations and some funding from the foundation.


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