An aquaponics expert and a mental health counselor walk into a bar...

Just kidding, that's not how the two founders of Blooming Health Farms met (at least not that I know of).

But somehow, aquaponics expert Sean Short and mental health counselor Ryan Smith did meet, and Blooming Health Farms (located in Greeley) was born.

Calling the organization a "combination of two dreams," Short, now the Director of Operations, described the farm as a refuge for at-risk youth that teaches them important life skills through innovative farming.

This innovative farming is aquaponics, a type of agriculture that involves growing plants and fish in tanks in order to create a symbiotic environment.

According to their website, this method of farming is not only good for the environment, but also great at teaching kids the value of earning a paycheck for hard work.

On top of farming, the program's youth also participate in academic studies based around what they're doing at the farm, as well as individual and group counseling with licensed clinicians.

"[We use] cognitive behavioral therapy, which is one of the most scientifically-backed mental health interventions out there," said Smith, the Director of Programs. "We also partner with the professors at Aims and UNC to develop actual STEM-based curricula in conjunction with the farming activities."

The ultimate goal of Blooming Health Farms is to get youth back into school and possibly higher education. By improving the mental health of a child, Smith hopes the child's entire family dynamic will improve.

Although the business has only been around since April, Short has already seen positive results.

"There's enthusiasm for this type of thing," said Short, recalling the volunteers and youth he has already begun to work with. "We're growing food for Northern Colorado and people for the community."

To learn more about Blooming Health Farms, listen to the full interview with Sean Short and Ryan Smith below.

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