HawkTank Spotlight: Chrysalis Farms

Many dream of a utopia, wishing that the world and the place we live in could be perfect. This was Erin Petersen’s, Masters of Social Work 2024, vision when coming up with her idea for Chrysalis Farms. As one of the finalists in Center of Entrepreneurship at Monmouth University’s HawkTank, a business pitch competition, Petersen wanted to create a place where people in vulnerable positions can come and reconnect with themselves, others, as well as with the earth and all it provides.

Petersen explained, “In its fully built-out form, it will be a working organic farm that has several different components. First, Chrysalis Farms will provide housing for those in vulnerable positions—think survivors of domestic violence, refugees, or veterans—who are struggling to take care of themselves and their families. They’ll receive therapy as well as life skills and vocational training so that when they leave they will be prepared to thrive. Other components of the farm will include a farm-to-table restaurant and an Eco-Therapy retreat center. That’s the end goal.”

“I’ve decided to pivot for now to try and bring the Farm to urban centers through the use of vertical greenhouses. All the same components will exist in a slightly different format: I’ll focus on building the vocational training, there will be a small cafe on site, and there will be a space for eco-therapy programs,” Petersen continued.

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you received a million dollars? This was Petersen’s thinking when evolving the idea for Chrysalis Farms. She mentioned picturing a big house where people could live and learn until they become self-sufficient, but this was only the beginning of the grander idea of Chrysalis Farms.

Petersen credits the Center of Entrepreneurship at Monmouth University with her successes, “Monmouth’s Center for Entrepreneurship has been essential to getting my idea out of my head and building it in real life. I had never told anyone my idea until I talked to Alison Gilbert [the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship] back in October. I didn’t think I was qualified to start a business and that I needed to know everything about each part of my business before I started – which would be nearly impossible! Alison helped me see that not only was it possible to start building Chrysalis Farms now but that there was no reason not to start now.”

Petersen also credits Dr. Sanjana Ragudaran and Professor David Bess as being especially helpful in the development of her business idea for Chrysalis Farms.

On being a finalist for HawkTank, Petersen concluded, “I feel humbled and so grateful. Like I mentioned, I hadn’t told anyone about this idea until a few months ago. To know that so many people understand my vision and the importance of providing spaces like Chrysalis Farms for others has been empowering.”