CMHA Elgin County, Salt Creek Farm Market
Welcome Premier of Ontario
(June 23, 2016, St. Thomas, ON) – It’s with great pleasure to host Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, at the official grand opening of the Salt Creek Farm Market, the largest social enterprise of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Elgin County Branch.
The presence of the premier and other dignitaries allows CMHA Elgin County to publicly tout the unique vocational opportunity the branch provides to its clients. Aside from providing some of the best locally grown produce, the market on Highbury Avenue in St. Thomas provides a supportive setting where people with lived experience of a mental illness develop a variety of job skills.
With one-on-one support from mental health workers, participants learn about retail operation and food preparation. Clients report for shifts and stock, clean, do maintenance, bake goods and prepare ready-to-eat meals that are sold at the market. Over time, clients develop more independence and support is gradually withdrawn.
“The model has had great success in other jurisdictions. More than just skills and experience, the program helps build self-esteem, dignity, and a sense of accomplishment. We’re delighted the Premier will be here to experience that pride and excitement first hand” said Heather DeBruyn, Executive Director at CMHA Elgin.
People with lived experience of a mental illness often face higher rates of unemployment. Improving job options for CMHA Elgin clients enhances their well being as employment is a key determinant of quality of life.
“I love it. I’m learning cleaning skills and how to bake right now. I love being able to bake because it’s a passion of mine. And I like working with people at the market because they’re great people. They have helped me write my resume because I’d like to do work in another bakery one day,” said Kelly Wissink, a CMHA client.
Local produce for the community, by the community
The Salt Creek Farm Market is owned by the Sloan family and has been a fixture in St. Thomas for more than 20 years. Last year, CMHA Elgin entered into an agreement with the Sloan family to operate the business as a social firm and employment skills development program.
Throughout the transition, CMHA Elgin remained committed to supporting the county’s rich agricultural heritage. That commitment was strengthened when Steve Peters – former Mayor of St. Thomas, MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly – was hired to run the market.
Peters, also a former Minister of Agriculture and Food, is leading efforts to ensure the market focuses on offering the best of in-season fruit and vegetables grown by local farmers. He’s also been a supportive, open-minded mentor for CMHA clients.
The public is welcome to today’s opening. Salt Creek Farm Market is located at 11143 Highbury Ave. S. Come taste the pies, muffins, meat pies, lasagna and other delicious homemade baked goods.