Cultivating Wellness

Elena Velez

You can tell it’s a Thursday when a certain someone pops her head into the farm office with the warmest of greetings, “Hello beautiful, hello wonderful.” It’s Elena Velez, a longtime healthcare interpreter and now wellness trainer, who has come to lead Frog Hollow Farm employees in her Community Restorative Training.

Elena embodies a brightness that translates to the role she plays here on the farm. As our resident wellness expert, her kindness and deep knowledge of wellness research and techniques ripple throughout the Frog Hollow Farm community. In her words, cultivating a balanced lifestyle is like making soup. The key ingredients to making it delicious are breathing well, sleeping well, nutrition, physical activity, and stretching. “One extra ingredient, to me, is joy,” she adds.

Elena began leading these workshops for our field, packing shed, office, and kitchen teams in the fall of 2020. In each session, she shares information on everything mind, body, and spirit. Her restorative yoga and stretching techniques provide some strategies to prevent injury and balance one’s body when performing physical tasks. And her guided meditations and breathing exercises provide a brief respite in a busy, fast-moving day. “I teach what meditation means, how you do it, and how to learn little by little,” says Elena. It’s a practice that not only has good consequences for the individual, but also for their family and extended community. Wellness has a ripple effect.

“The reason why I am a good persona to introduce these ideas is because I am just like them,” Elena says. “I am a Colombian-Latina woman, a mother, divorced, taking care of 2 kids, handling all the struggles that life can put us through when you are a single parent. I was very stressed out and very anxious for so many years. So now that my kids are grown up, I realize how important it would have been if I had done some breathing exercises myself. Now I am doing it. And I am understanding fully the importance of stopping, of taking a breath, of recharging your body.”

Having worked as a medical interpreter for 16 years, Elena emphasizes the importance of having ownership of one’s own health. Building trust with each and every person she interacts with on the farm is, for her, an essential part of teaching them to take their wellness into their own hands.

“It’s not the same when somebody whose first language is English comes and speaks Spanish to teach these things. You need to have somebody from your own roots to explain the new ideas because there is a lot of mistrust in our community. It takes time. And I understand that.”

Over the last year plus, Elena has built those relationships. “During the sessions, they are shy,” she shares. “But at the end of sessions they come to me and that makes me feel proud that they ask me questions.”

Elena’s impact is felt farm-wide. “Elena is so passionate about health and wellness,” says Farmer Al. “She cares about her community and the hard work they do here in California food industries. Her positive upbeat spirit brings us all together creating trust.”

Elena’s dream is to take this work beyond Frog Hollow Farm and to as many California farms and farmworkers as possible. “We need to invest. I want all farm owners to give this chance to their workers. It’s because I value their work. Without them, without their food and their hard work, nobody survives. So I created this program with the purpose of giving back to them.”

Here are a few quotes from our crew on their experience with Elena’s Community Restorative Training program:

Thank you for helping us better our physical and mental health. I believe that everyone should better their physical and mental health. We only need motivation, consistency, and discipline.
 
Hi today I relaxed! I loved the breathing, without a doubt that helps a lot. Thank you Elena.

Thank you for speaking about how to meditate and breathe in different ways! Yes I really do like this program.

You can read more about Elena's Community Restorative Trainings on her website.

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