Delivering Nutrition to Loudoun Families

In 2017, we have partnered with Loudoun Hunger Relief and Healthworks of Northern Virginia to deliver weekly healthy vegetable boxes to 25 low-income families that are struggling with obesity. This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved. We get to to work with two established non-profit "giants" in Loudoun County, local families get weekly fresh, organic vegetables, along with nutrition and cooking classes. And some of our Growers get to experience some interactions with community members outside of the farm. Here are some photos from today's delivery. This kid's smile brings a smile to our own faces!

 

 

Dirty, Creaky, and Tired: Why We Do It

I'm not gonna lie. Farming is hard work. Back-breaking work. Sweaty, stinky, dirty work. You definitely go to bed sore and wake up achy. And at this point, we are farming less than an acre of land. The commercial guys out there are farming hundreds and hundreds of acres using huge expensive machinery that allows them plant and harvest huge amounts of food each week, compared to what we manage, doing everything by hand.

Add to that the fact that many local grocery stores now offer some organic vegetables that are sometimes even grown by local, established farmers. And we're still hand-packing our vegetables into boxes and driving them into Winchester, Leesburg, and Washington, DC in our decidedly non-tractor-trailer cars.

Why do we bother? 

Because there are SO MANY teens and adults with intellectual disabilities who have empty hands, a lot of time on their hands, and a desperate desire to work. Once school is out for the summer or for good, these citizens have a lifetime ahead of them that they want to fill with something besides playing X-Box or hanging out with their parents all day. Not to mention the fact that one day, those parents will no longer be able to care for them...

Greg and I can see ourselves in that mental picture. We see our son, who is only 9 at the moment, sitting around at the age of 22, 35, 41, staring off into space, watching YouTube videos, snacking, and generally being bored out of his mind. Meanwhile, his sister will most likely have no trouble finding ways to fill her days with work and social opportunities, probably designing some crazy outfit out of her studio apartment in New York one day.

What a waste of my son's untapped health, energy, and time. What a missed opportunity to give parents like us a bit of a break for a few hours each day, and sense of relief that their now-grown children might have something productive to do during the decades of adulthood ahead of them.

This is why we launched A Farm Less Ordinary. We are not trying to compete with "The Big Guys". We are simply trying to create paid work for a group of people whose potential is often wasted, once they are out of the school system. Yes, we know that we are just a drop in the bucket, in terms of 1) creating enough jobs to satisfying the gaping need that exists out there, and 2) contributing food to a growing and already enormous organic food industry in the U.S.

A Farm Less Ordinary is definitely a labor of love that has probably added more grey hairs to my head than I care to admit. We are only in Year 2, as an official non-profit, and we do it in addition to our day jobs and parenting responsibilities. Each day is literally a trampoline bounce for us between all three of those things, each piece of which demands our time and energy...and love.

But we're doing something. We're not just wringing our hands, wondering what will become of our son. And that something makes the cracking knees, sun spots, and grey hair a little easier to ignore. 

And we've only just begun. We have such big plans.

But we're trying to grow A Farm Less Ordinary in a wise way. We not rushing to till more land before we have the staff and means to care for it. We haven't rushed to buy machinery or tools, until we are 100% certain that we will use these investments in a way that justifies their cost. And we have narrowed our sights and mission on causes and food sales outlets that we can actually manage. Of course there are tons of restaurants, grocery stores, and markets that we could approach to sell our veggies. And there are tons of potential events we could throw and people we should talk to. Indeed, the firehose of ideas and opportunities has been turned on for three years now, ever since we started farming in 2015.

But we can't say yes to every suggestion or idea that pops into our heads. So we say yes to what we can manage and complete successfully. 

That is why we are participating in the GiveChoose event today - a 24 hour fundraising event that draws attention to the non-profits in Loudoun County, Virginia (like ours) that are trying to turn a labor of love into something larger. These organizations usually sprout from an idea similar to the one we had - to begin filling in a hole with a small solution, shovelful by shovelful, with a hope and a prayer that this solution can thrive and grow into something sturdy and permanent, with deep roots and a beautiful flower at the top.

Our Segment on WUSA 9 News

Hey - Guess what? We were just featured on WUSA 9 news! We're so excited about this.

Here is the link with video and photos: http://www.wusa9.com/travel/open-road/a-farm-less-ordinary/274539691

BLUEMONT, Virginia (WUSA*9)--A Washington couple left their lives in the city and moved to the middle of nowhere.  They did it to save their son.  Millions of families in the United States are touched by someone who has autism or other special needs.   WUSA9 reporter, Scott Rensberger, takes us to a farm in Clarke County, Virginia where one family is trying to make a difference.  

At first, everything seemed normal; but, when Max Massucci turned three, his parents Greg and Maya knew something was wrong.

"It took me awhile to absorb that and accept it," says Maya Wechsler.

"He was late to crawling.  Late for talking," says Greg Masucci.

Max was diagnosed with autism.

"There is always some sadness when you're getting older and you're a parent of a special needs child and you have no idea what's going to happen to that child when you leave," says Maya.

Until recently, Greg and Maya lived on a busy street in Washington, DC.  They constantly worried about Max's safety.   They also worried about his future.  Intellectually disabled people often have a hard time fitting in and finding jobs.   

"The reality is the large percentage of this population remains unemployed," says Greg.

So, the couple chose a different path for their son's life.  These two city people bought a farm in a remote part of Virginia.       

"If you would have told me when I was my hip urban self 20 years ago in Chicago that I would be a farmer, I would have told you that you were crazy," says Greg.

"I've never grown anything.  Not a thing," says Maya.)

So, after uprooting their family they started a non-profit organization called A Farm Less Ordinary.  With the help of volunteers and other non-profit groups, Greg and Maya only employ people with special needs.

MORE:  A Farm Less Ordinary

Together they thrive right next to the squash.

"We'd like to fill all this land for farming," says Greg as he motions to the land surrounding him.

Greg and Maya are growing a community and a future for their son.

"If you don't like the story you need to change the script," explains Greg.  "We realized that in order to create a happy ending we had to change our script drastically."

Their hope is that this special farm will be here long after they're gone.

 

 

A Farm Less Ordinary in Bluemont, Virginia   (Photo: Scott Rensberger, WUSA9)

 

"We're trying to create a permanent community here.  Where he can walk out the door and see people like him and feel welcome," says Maya.

"This will probably be my son's forever home.  He's not likely to leave here, ever," says Greg
MORE:  Legacy Farms Virginia

 

Each week, Greg and Maya hand-deliver their organic produce to customers in the DC-area as part of their CSA-Community Supported Agriculture program.  Next year, they hope to expand to farmer's markets.  

Consider Making Us Your Amazon Smile Donor Organization!

Hi there,

We finally got around to setting up a link through the Amazon Smile program. This is a nifty little program that allows you to donate to us without even trying. You buy whatever you need on Amazon.com, and if the purchase is eligible (and I have found that most of mine are), we will get a tiny portion of your payment to Amazon. If everybody we knew were to select A Farm Less Ordinary as their Smile organization, those small donations would add up into something that we could use to...put up a shade area over our employee picnic table, or buy more landscaping fabric that keeps those annoying weeds under control. The possibilities are endless, when you're running a farm, honestly. 

So go here and register A Farm Less Ordinary as your organization of choice on Amazon Smile.

https://smile.amazon.com/ch/81-1191778

And make sure you type in smile.amazon.com each time you go to Amazon's site to make sure that you are donating to us with your purchase.

Thank-you so much!

Maya and Greg

Online Donation Campaign: Help Us Grow

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/a-farm-less-ordinary-jobs-pride-disability/x/13480898

We have launched on online campaign, where we hope to collect enough donations to build important stuff we need to grow more food and hire more people with developmental disabilities. But we need your help. Starting a farm from scratch is an expensive undertaking.

We have funded everything thus far from our own personal bank accounts. We have launched a small CSA this year, which we will expand next year, once we have worked out all of the kinks in crop and yield planning, and delivery. But we need to look to other sources to take this farm to the next level.

This is where we ask you to consider a donation of any amount to throw into the "jar". Click here to visit our online campaign. And after donating, please spread the word!

We thank-you so much for your kind support of our mission to create employment for an underemployed population and to grow healthy food!

 

Kicking Off Our First CSA Season in May 2016!

Putting On Our Big Kid Overalls this year

We are introducing our first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) option this year, offering a select number of memberships or "shares" to folks on Capitol Hill - our part-time home in the city. We have priced our shares with our experience level in mind (it's only our second season of growing). We hope that our first customers will be understanding of any hiccups along the way. We admit that we are new at this, and have therefore limited our offerings to friends and family this year. Yes, we are "practicing" on you. You are the beta testers. We really value your input, as well as your patience and understanding.

With that said, here are the details:

Price: $300 for 15 weeks of 100% organically grown vegetables; $20 for each additional week

Dates: Late May (~May 16th) through end of September (~September 26th). Pick-up will be on Monday evenings from our home on Capitol Hill. 

Your Choice: Your basic membership ($300) entitles you to any 15 weeks you select out of the 20+ week season. You can also choose to receive up to five additional weeks of produce for $20 per week.

What to Expect: We aim to give you a selection of 5-8 organic veggies each week (at a value of $20+). This season, we will be growing 2-4 varieties of butterhead and red lettuce, spinach (Bloomsdale & New Zealand), cauliflower (Early Snowball), green beans, purple beans, snap and sugar peas, carrots (orange & purple), Brussels sprouts (Catskill), squash (winter and summer - Thelma Sanders, Kikuza, Burgess Buttercup, Burpee's Butterbush, Costata Romanesca zucchini, a gazillion heirloom tomatoes, potatoes (red, gold, & purple), okra (Alabama Red), corn (four different varieties of super sweet and sweet), cantaloupes (Emerald Gem & Petit Gris De Rennes), watermelons (Halbert Honey, Moon & Stars, & Oh So Sweet), pink celery, cucumbers (Early Fortune & Edmonson), eggplant (Casper/white & Diamond/purple), onions (red & white), broccoli (Romanesco & Calabrese), leeks (Giant Musselburgh & Blue Solaise), artichokes (Imperial Star), a bazillion peppers, radishes (China Rose), and beets (Chioggia & Burpee's Golden). We have worked hard to select heirloom varieties that are not commonly available at your average grocery store. You will recognize familiar varieties alongside some less "ordinary" ones. 

Members will be notified of more specific details closer to the beginning of the season.