Eventually, the bus stops coming. And then what?
As parents of children with developmental disabilities, we spend years preparing for that day when the school system no longer provides programming and services for our children--usually around the age of 22. What will our children do all day? Who will care for them while we are at work? Can they get a job? How will they be treated? Will they be happy?
A Farm Less Ordinary provides employment and a welcoming community to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, while sustainably growing organic food for the metropolitan DC area.
Maya Wechsler, Greg Masucci, and their children, Max and Delilah, were self-proclaimed "city people", struggling to find balance in their lives in Washington, DC. Their son, Max, is autistic and non-verbal, and has serious sensory and attention challenges that require him to be with a caretaker at all times. Eventually Maya and Greg decided to stop moving against the current, and took a giant leap, moving out to Bluemont, VA in the fall of 2014 in an attempt to create a simpler, safer, and happier home for their children.
Somewhere along the way, Maya and Greg decided that they were creating their son's "forever home", which would be a farm where he and other adults with developmental disabilities could find paid work, acceptance, and meaning. They spent their first year trying to figure out how to master country life -- a goal that appears to be a life-long project for people who reluctantly gave up their broadband Internet connections when they left the city. Greg and Maya eventually decided to step away from an increasingly complex life for a "special needs family" in the high stakes District of Columbia. Instead, they chose to create a simpler, more fulfilling, but less ordinary life in the country. They launched A Farm Less Ordinary (a 501(c)3 non-profit organization) in the spring of 2016.
A Farm Less Ordinary produces vegetables grown using organic and sustainable methods, including the use of organic compost, cover crops, minimum tillage, companion cropping, and a focus on attracting pollinators and "good pests". We also enjoy growing varieties of vegetables (have you ever tried a purple carrot or a foot long green bean?) that are a little less familiar, but just as tasty, to the average grocery store shopper.
In 2015, Maya managed to grow more vegetables than she could possibly give away. In 2016, we launched a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. 2016 was the first growing season when we worked with employees - adults with developmental disabilities from the surrounding area. Our primary customers will always be our employees (or "growers"), focusing on the development of skills related to agriculture, communication, and teamwork.
Where we're headed
In 2017, we are expanding our CSA membership to include a partnership with Loudoun Hunger Relief, providing CSA boxes to low income families, in addition to our old community on Capitol Hill.
We plan to expand each year in terms of employees and distribution of our produce. Of course, we have a long list of medium and long-term goals to work toward (buildings to construct, staff to hire, tools and equipment to buy, consumers to reach). In the meantime, we are focused on realistic and slow growth, as we figure out who we are and how we can build a tight-knit community and right-sized employment solution for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.