Here at Legacy Farms Virginia we are winding down from our 2015 Summer
Garden Project and it was an amazing experience. Last summer, we planted a garden, grew a lot of tomatoes and made some great strides in promoting our cause, but this year our program put people to work at two local vineyards, Sunset Hills Vineyard and Tarara Winery. Our goal has always been to make a real impact on the community and show them just what we can do for our participants, and we proved we could with our Summer Garden Project.
Over the last few years we have researched a variety of “Green Care” programs. There are 172 active vocational and residential agrarian based programs in the US. We wanted to learn what was working and where we could really find our niche, and what we found was quite astonishing.
Bittersweet Farms mission is to positively impact the lives of individuals with autism and those whose lives they touch. We visited them several years ago and the miracles we witnessed were what motivated us to begin our quest. They provide both residential and vocational services that include:
- Agriculture (including planting and harvesting)
- Horticulture (including greenhouse operations)
- Fencing & landscaping, construction, repair & maintenance
- Produce collection
- Animal feeding & care
- Craft-making & woodworking
Bittersweet Farms has been care farming for nearly 40 years and is the pinnacle of success. They currently have 4 locations in Ohio each with it's own unique program and are a true inspiration for therapeutic farms everywhere.
Founded in 1971, Innisfree Village is a fully licensed, residential community for adults with intellectual disabilities just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Their residential or "Lifesharing" program, which houses over 80 "Coworkers", volunteers, and staff is truly exceptional as both resident and volunteer caregiver share housing among one another.
Daily life at Innisfree Village is community centered and everyone who stays there has a role to play. There are many jobs to choose from:
- Community kitchen
- Vegetable garden
- Herb garden
Lifesharing at Innisfree means that coworkers and their caregivers live, work, and play together allowing them to share in all experiences life has to offer. This is what makes Innisfree so amazing, as these folks essentially become family to one another.
Quincea is a nonprofit vocational services organization dedicated to offering employment training, job transition and support services for individuals facing employment and social access barriers in Tempe, Az. Of all the Care Farms we reached out to, Quincea offered the most help. They logged over 18,000 hours in 6 years researching the nation’s farmstead programs and created their own program using what they felt was the best model.
Quincea works with both adults with autism and veterans from Iraq. (What a perfect blend of people helping people.) As a social enterprise they strive to create economic and social opportunities for their participants. They are still in the developmental stage but have secured land and begun development to offer a variety of products and services such as:
- 15 greenhouses
- Incredible Edible Healing Gardens
- Therapy dog park
- Native plants and fish propagation
- Habitat restoration program
- An onsite classroom facility for vocational training/job development programs
Jon Hall, one of Quincea's founding members, has extended his hand and offered to collaborate and help Legacy Farms get off the ground. He understands how we are all here to serve those in need, even if it's from 2300 miles away.
Pine Acre Farms Therapy Center is a nonprofit organization, with a goal to enhance the lives of children and young adults with autism and other related developmental disabilities through the power of animals. They specialize in "Animal Assisted Therapy" and use miniature horses and dogs to draw children with autism out of their shell and reinforce positive behavior.
What makes them special is their off-site service. Instead of coming to Pine Acres, they bring the Miniature horses and therapy dogs to places like:
- Nursing Homes
- Assisted Living Centers
- Hospice Care
- Rehab Centers
- In-Home for the home bound patient
Everywhere they go, they make a positive and lasting impression on those they visit.
Therapy pets provide emotional and spiritual healing to everyone they encounter and are being used now more than ever. Research shows some of the health benefits include:
- Improved human cardiovascular health
- Reduction in stress,
- Decreased loneliness and depression
- Increased social interactions
Pine Acres provides this service for free and operate solely on donations.
Aquaponics is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks with hydroponics, cultivating plants in water in a symbiotic environment. In South Bend, Indiana a new social venture, Green Bridge Growers is providing skill-matched employment for underserved young adults on the autism spectrum, and creating jobs in the field of aquaponics.
Green Bridge not only provides jobs for adults with autism, they are also very involved with the community. Indiana imports 90% of their produce from out-of-state and coincidently 905 of adults with autism are unemployed, so they figured, "Why not put these two 90% problems together and develop a solution that also contributes to our local community?" and that's what they did.
They also use organic growing methods and materials to grow year-round, allowing them to employ aquaponics as the basis of our system.
Lettuce Work is by far one of the best models for success in the industry. This non-profit 501c3 organization is dedicated to serving young adults with autism and training them for the future. They have a very simple operation, but the work they provide and the people they help is far from child's play.
Lettuce Work operates a commercial greenhouse that provides a platform for seamless transition from school-to-work than offers job training and employment opportunities for young autistic adults. And what is it they do at Lettuce Work, they grow lettuce of course, and tons of it.
The Lettuce Work brand is well known throughout Ohio and is seen in local schools, grocery stores and restaurants and provides a steady stream of income that allows them to continue to help those in need. They grow hydroponically which allows them to grow pesticide free produce year round.
Located right in our backyard, Loudoun Therapeutic Riding has been helping to empower and improve the lives of people with cognitive, physical and psychological disabilities through the benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies, while serving our industry through training and education since 1974.
LTR provides 8-week sessions where skills are developed that address each participant’s specific challenges. These include areas such as balance, posture, strength, mobility, sensation, gross and fine motor functioning. Each instructor at LTR are PATH Intl. certified, which is one, if not the most respected therapeutic training certification in the country. They specialize in working with people with disabilities and teaching methods that assist individuals with physical, cognitive, and mental health challenges to learn horsemanship skills and benefit from the equine environment.
Recently, we visited LTR and planted a “Pony Garden”, so they could grow carrots, spinach and beats to hand feed the horses. We are very impressed with their organization and hope to one day be looked up to with as much respect and admiration as they are by the community.