Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Paul Lee vividly remembers a frigid night in 1976: The former philosophy professor was on a London subway platform when he heard a death rattle coming from a man lying on a bench. Even though Lee believed the man would be dead by the morning, he boarded the train alone. “I have never forgiven myself,” he says.

That experience inspired Lee to open the first homeless shelter in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1985 and, five years later, to co-found the area’s Homeless Garden Project, a 5-acre organic farm that employs 20 homeless workers and five staff members. Close to 100 local families support the farm, each paying about $450 a year for produce harvested during a 29-week growing season. Since the project started, more than 200 workers have learned marketable job skills.

Bill Tracey, a formerly homeless Vietnam vet who worked on the garden’s compost operation for four years, now has his own landscaping business. Tracey credits Lee with helping him learn how to make a garden from scratch, thereby getting him off the streets. “If life hands you garbage, make compost,” Tracey says.

“A visionary Santa Claus” is how Lynne Basehore Cooper, co-founder of the garden project, describes Lee. Recently, he snared AmeriCorps funding that guarantees wages for a 24-member team of students and homeless workers.

Not content simply to garden at home, Lee has set his sights on Washington. If all goes well, Lee says his AmeriCorps farmers will be teaming up with restaurateur Alice Waters to plant an organic garden at the White House.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate