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Produce isn’t the only thing that grows at this Texas farm

Ranch House Recovery and Simple Promise Farms are working to not only help people get sober but also stay sober.

ELGIN, Texas — On a Sunday morning, a farmers market can connect you with the people who grow your food. 

"We have shallots, they're spring onion-style shallots," said Kevin Sease.

Simple things like shallots become a connection to people who walk different lives than yours. But at Simple Promise farms, you'll meet people trying to walk a different life than they used to.

"We're a nonprofit farm. We partner with a treatment center for men with drug and alcohol addictions," Sease told a customer. 

Taking a look earlier into the life of the vegetables allows you to better understand the people who grow them.

Like Maddux Middaugh, a 24-year-old from North Texas.

Credit: Hank Cavagnaro
Maddux Middaugh is in the Ranch House Recovery program.

"Got about six weeks to go," he explained. 

Middaugh is one of 12 people in a program called Ranch House Recovery. 

"Ranch House Recovery is the name of our recovery home, and Simple Promise Farm is the name of the farm," said Brandon Guinn, who started both. "I think the biggest thing here is they get to see the fruits of their labor here."

Credit: Hank Cavagnaro
Brandon Guinn started Ranch House Recovery and Simple Promise Farm.

Everyone working on this farm, like Conner Thornton, has been impacted by addiction.

"I've killed a lot of plants with this thing, man," he joked as he showed a tool. 

As he overcomes an addiction to opiates, this is a chance to stay busy while staying clean.

Credit: Hank Cavagnaro
Conner Thornton works at the farm.

"Being a non-licensed program really allows us to get these guys out here and do the work," said Guinn. "They love it, most of the magic happens out there with that peer-led model."

It's a model that helped Middaugh. Ranch House isn't his first recovery home. 

"Yeah, I went to one facility in L.A.," said Middaugh. 

But for him, this place is different.

"All the other clients that had been here before me kind of inspired me to take another look at why I came here in the first place, and I think that that set the ball rolling for me to try and carry the torch and help out the community," said Middaugh. "The garden's really awesome to watch also. I've been here five weeks now and none of this stuff was out here whenever I got here." 

"That's the environment we're creating out here, we're building relationships, we're building trust, and I think that allows for these guys to dive in and do the work," Guinn said. 

Every morning is spent growing something and, every afternoon, they work on growing themselves.

"1 o'clock they have a group and 2 o'clock they have a group," explained Guinn. "Most of our groups are 12-step based, so they have their two groups."

This allows them to share and help each other. 

"We believe having groups all day would be counterproductive to what they're trying to do, so we found having fewer groups a day, more one-on-one time with the guys seems to be a lot more productive," he said.

These groups are led by staff members. Groups where they get to share their stories, and for Guinn, a chance to share why he started Ranch House Recovery. 

"I wanted to touch on something, we got a lot of first-timers in the house. You know, my son broke his arm on the football field. By the time he got to the hospital, he had three shots of morphine, they gave him another shot of morphine in the hospital, they sent him home with Percocets," he explained. "It was nine months before pills were too hard to find and too expensive before heroin became his drug of choice – it's easy to find it's cheap. You know, Ranch House Recovery started with being a parent of a son struggling with heroin addiction. So when my son finally had his first real success with sobriety, it came from a horse ranch up in Washington state." 

It's a unique approach that helps those who need it most.

"We had a client in here and didn't know it at the time but I found out after he had been here 60 days, but it was my son's former heroin dealer. I didn't quite know how to feel about it at first," he said. "Every person that comes through this program is somebody's kid. My son has done questionable things. My son has caused harm. How can I not offer that same love and kindness to someone else?"

This is why he does what he does. 

"If it wasn't for the guys in the house, it wouldn't be what it is, and I don't think it would have the community connection that it does. Y'all sitting at those farmer markets sharing your story, it's powerful," he said to the group. 

The farmers market is where the outreach happens.  

Credit: Hank Cavagnaro
Kevin Sease works at the farm.

"Sign up on our volunteer sign-up sheet," Sease said to one of the people at the farmers market. 

"Yeah, he was telling me about your program," he replied. "I'm in recovery." 

"How long have you been sober?" Sease asked.

"About 15 months, but I've been in and out for about 15 years," he said.

"Yeah, I feel you, I'm sitting close to about eight months right now," Sease added. 

Sharing their stories to help others.

"We have no set prices," said Sease. "All the profits we make here go into a scholarship fund for men and women in need of sober living treatment, anything to help them in their addiction recovery." 

Continuing to keep people sober from people currently starting their sober journey.

"All the profits from the farmers market are scholarship-ing people for a sober living for mental health, for different areas of need," said Guinn. "So it's a way to give back, it's a way for them to be a part of something." 

Connecting people from different walks of life, as some try to find their new ones.

If you feel you or someone you love would need help from Ranch house Recovery, click here

Simple Promise Farm is at several farmer markets including Downtown Austin and Mueller. To learn more about the farm, click here.

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