“It’s so important to have a program like this in our community.”

After struggling to find work, Stephanie now thrives at Operation Grow, a hydroponic farm that receives funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Through this social enterprise program, women who have experienced poverty, abuse, and trauma cultivate new skills and build stronger financial futures.

FOR MANY REASONS, it’s been tough for me to find a stable job that will help to support my family. I recently got out of my 20-year marriage. And because I had stopped working to raise our children, I didn’t have much professional experience. My son has autism, and it’s hard to find a job that I can do around his schedule.

One of my friends told me about Operation Grow, and I applied though I knew nothing about farming. But once I got started, the training taught me so much. Growing things hydroponically is more complicated than planting seeds in a pot. When we run into problems with the crops, it’s up to us to figure out why and find solutions. That can be challenging, but it also makes the work more interesting and fun.

So far, we have harvested kale, butterhead lettuce, basil, thyme, mint, and we’re starting to grow spinach. I love that I can buy the produce here for a reduced price, and since I know what goes into it, I’m more confident about eating it and giving it to my children.

Working at Operation Grow has become the part-time job I needed that also works with my schedule. I depend on it. It’s made me more calm and confident as a person, because the environment here is so peaceful. I bring that feeling home with me.

When I’m here, I make connections and friendships with other women. We’ve helped each other out in many, many ways. We all have something in common, which makes it feel comfortable and safe. And it helps when your supervisors know what’s going on in your life and understand you completely.

It’s so important to have a program like this in our community. When you go through a lot of trauma, you need to talk about your problems, but there’s not necessarily anyone you can trust or open up to. In this program, you’re able to do that and feel comfortable in the space. You actually want to work and improve your life, because you see other women going through the same experiences you’ve gone through, and it motivates you to do better for yourself.

Operation Grow, delivered by Huronia Transition Homes in Midland, Ont., has received funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation.