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Growing Crops, Changing Lives

Progress at the Renovatus farm means more than crops of spring vegetables.

On “Farm Day” last Saturday, founder Pete Higgs was showing off the beds of greens, carrots, and lettuce, but he was also introducing people to another kind of growth — residents who are working the farm while they work on their sobriety.

Brian Fox, 51, has been living here seven months. He met Higgs and heard about his program while he was serving time at the Jefferson County Jail.

“I was at my end,” Fox recalled. “I was in terrible shape. I think I weighed 130 pounds when I went to jail. The drugs just had me. I told God, ‘Give me somebody — either help me or take me.’”

That somebody turned out to be Higgs.

“Some of the other guys in jail told me about him and his program. [Jail Administrator] Ricky Oakes let me go to one of their meetings in the jail.”

Fox has turned his life around at Renovatus.

“I’m ready to start sponsoring and helping other guys now,” he said. “I feel so much better about myself. I tell the new guys here: ‘When you’re at the end of your rope, give it to God. Give Him three days. He will show you the light.’”

Working the ground is a healthy part of the struggle, Higgs says.

“It’s part of getting reconnected,” he said. “This is what we use to build community. First you have a safe home, then you work on becoming part of your community. Then you can develop your life skills and begin your Christian discipleship.”

The Farm Day included tours of the gardens and hoop houses, live music and bar-b-que, a petting zoo, games, and other events. Renovatus is in the middle of a capital campaign to build an $8,000 greenhouse.

They are also offering subscriptions to their community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Under the agreement, you pay for a subscription and get to visit the new pavilion at the farm every week to pick up a basket of fresh produce. Shares are still available. Send an email to

First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City recently donated $3,000 toward the new greenhouse, so the campaign is off to a good start, Higgs said.

“It would be a huge boost for us to have a greenhouse,” he said. “For the past two years, we’ve been starting a lot of our seedlings and doing other work at the Mixon greenhouse in Grainger County, but having one here would really help.”

The new 30 by 32 pavilion was made possible by a devoted group of donors and workers, Higgs said. They include Swann’s Chapel Women’s Ministry, First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City, Grace Community Church of New Market, Blanc & West Lumber Company, Cate Roofing, J.C. Deering, Thorngrove Christian Church of Knox County, and D.J. Moody.

“Brian Fox, Brandon Owenby, and Bobby McPherson did most of the construction,” Higgs said. “We really appreciate everyone who had a hand in this.”

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