Farm Gives Adults With Autism A Chance To Grow
CHICAGO — On a 1.2-acre plot of land on the Near West Side of the city, young adults with autism are getting invaluable lessons — lessons that may soon be replicated around the country.
Growing Solutions Farm teaches the 20 or so students, ages 18 to 26, all aspects of farming, from planting and harvesting vegetables and herbs to cooking what they grow.
But it’s much more than that.
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“This is a vocational farm, so we’re teaching job skills,” says operations manager Gwenne Godwin. “How to work with others, being on time, how to dress, how to do a resume. Those skills translate to any job. We’re using the medium of agriculture to teach here.”
A variety of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown on 28 raised beds at the farm, at the intersection of two streets.
“I created the kitchen garden as a sensory experience,” Godwin says. “When we’re harvesting, the one rule is they have to smell and taste what they’re harvesting. They’ll smell the mint. ‘Oh, (it’s) gum!'”
The farm donates 75 percent of its crop to local food pantries.
The farm, part of the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation’s Urban Autism Solutions program, has caught the attention of the National Garden Bureau, which plans to fund therapeutic gardens across the nation. Growing Solutions is the first beneficiary of its fundraising effort.