The 187-acre farm produces food for people in the community
By Diego Flammini
A farm in New Brunswick is being used to help community members suffering from mental health and addiction challenges.
Charlie Burrell, founder of the Humanity Project, purchased a 187-acre farm near Salisbury, N.B. in 2020 with the help of two business owners.
He recently purchased a 35hp Branson tractor from another farmer.
This year, the property raised 16 pigs and a garden that produced hundreds of pounds of food.
All the food raised on the farm goes back into the facility to feed people using its services.
Burrell himself isn’t a farmer but would welcome engagement with the greater ag community.
“We haven’t made those connections yet,” he told Farms.com. “I’m part of some Facebook groups and people offer me chickens when they have one to spare, but we haven’t talked with any larger farms yet.”
He calls the farm a rehabilitation and reintegration retreat.
“The first part is to rehabilitate people, help them find their triggers and help them manage it before they turn to drugs,” he said. “The second part is to reintegrate them back into society because if someone is homeless for five years, they may have forgotten basic skills.”
The farm property includes a barn, a home, and other buildings.
Reintegration takes place in multiple steps.
Residents are first housed in a communal home on the farm with seven bedrooms and a shared kitchen.
Once he or she can complete certain tasks, like basic cooking and cleaning and personal hygiene, they will be invited to live in a small, private cabin while still being able to access treatment services.
“We want people to have a place to live while they have access to the necessary treatment on the property,” Burrell said. “I called a mental health support for one gentleman in April, and I received a call back in October to make an appointment. That’s a problem.”
Burrell and other volunteers will also identify strengths and interests for people living on the farm.
“We’ll find out what each person likes,” he said. “If someone likes working with animals or gardening, we’ll find a spot for them there. If someone likes to build things, then we’ll identify where they can use those skills too.”
There’s also a goal-setting component.
“Some people might just want to get a car and a job, while others want to reunite with family,” Burrell said. “We want them to take ownership of what they think is going to make them successful.”
Burrell started his charity work a few years ago in response to homelessness, mental health challenges and methamphetamine addictions in the community.
He began by making up backpacks filled with winter supplies to members of the homeless community.
The following summer, when food banks and soup kitchens closed, he and other volunteers started providing meals in parking lots while also collecting financial donations from the community.
“We raised $180,000 to purchase a commercial kitchen with a dining hall and we started feeding people out of there,” he said. “And in the wintertime, we’d convert our dining hall into a shelter.”
Last month, Burrell appeared in front of a city council committee asking for $3 million in start-up money over three years to help the project along.
During the meeting, Burrell told the committee the farm would happen with or without their help.
“It might take us 10 or 20 years for us to get to where we can have 100 cabins on the property and helping 100 people at a time,” he said. “But I can tell you this, it is happening, and I won’t give up.”
His passion is to help people, he said.
“There’s no better feeling than when you see someone who has reunited with their children,” he said. “Or when you feed a senior knowing that person didn’t have to choose between a meal and their medicine.”