Health Team

UNC therapy farm helping people with mental illness

Posted September 25, 2015 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2015 7:01 p.m. EDT

— Many people love working in their garden – planting seeds, nurturing them and reaping what they've sown. Doctors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Medicine have set up a farm where they are using gardening as therapy.

The Farm at Penny Lane is on 40 acres in northern Chatham County, and the goal is to provide a unique kind of therapy to clients with severe and persistent mental illness.

Volunteer Heather Nash recently picked some peppers she planted.

“It's good to come out here and get free food and cook it at home so you don't have to worry about stuff,” she said. “It's like a whole community. Everybody works together. Everybody knows each other. Everybody's friends.”

Nash says the work isn't easy, but she loves it, and it's good for her.

“To get out here with the earth, get out here with other people and nature, it kind of heals you,” she said.

Farm manager Michelle Morehouse says people who come to the farm learn to cook the food they grow, which also helps them become healthier.

“When individuals come here, they're not identified by their diagnosis. They're just people. We work side by side,” Morehouse said. “We've had people who said, 'I’ve lost weight. I feel better. I have more energy. I have a reason to get up in the morning.”

If you'd like to participate as a volunteer or client at the Farm at Penny Lane, contact Morehouse at or 919-869-3419 or Thava Mahadevan at or call 919-962-4919.