Horticultural Program: Our participants have mild to moderate disabilities and are from the age of 14. As a team, supported by trained staff and volunteers (e.g. Master Gardeners, 4H, Landscape Architects), the participants learn skills of all phases of organic gardening, viticulture (vineyard) and landscaping, enabling them to create competence in a variety of jobs, if they chose to work in the industry. Some of the skills include, preparing soil, learning to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers from seeds, growing and harvesting grapes, pruning and trimming, mowing lawns, weeding, and weed abatement, watering, fertilizing, hedge trimming and flower arranging in conjunction with behavioral and social skills components. As our program develops, in order to be self sustaining and to integrate our participants into communities, participants will learn the skills necessary to sell the harvest/produce, flowers and baked goods to the public at local farmers markets, stores etc at fair market value or lower if possible. Skills learned will include packaging, sales, marketing and administration. All of which, not only rely on the skills listed above but also incorporate social interaction, social thinking and problem solving in a fun unique supportive manner.
Culinary Program: Besides the opportunities to learn the skills necessary to obtain a job, the participants also learn about nutrition, eating healthy and preparing their own meals. Together with our trained support staff and volunteers who are experts in the field which include chefs and nutritionists, our participants learn how to prepare their own meals using healthy recipes, work in a kitchen, cook for larger groups and bake goods which will be sold to the public as the program grows. Our goal is to use our own produce in the culinary program.
Animal Husbandry Program: The natural connection and understanding between the animals and our participants is indescribable. Our program gives our participants the opportunity to be caregivers and not just the ones receiving care. It empowers them and builds their self-esteem. For those who want to have a career in animal husbandry they learn skills like feeding, grooming, equipment and tack care and maintaining the barn and corrals.
In addition to our weekly programs, we also have groups from other 501c3 organizations visit us during their field trips. They take part in all three pilot programs but not on a regular basis. In the short time of operation, a few of the participants have already been successfully hired into the community. The above pilot programs will be continued and integrated into the following programs. Our programs will be conducted Monday through Friday with some programs on weekends and some holidays.
After School and Summer Programs: These programs will be conducted during non-school hours, in the afternoons, on holidays, and during the summer months. The activities supported by trained staff will include, farm and animal interaction and education (horses, alpacas, goats, sheep, chickens, dogs, cats, pigs, bunnies, etc.), learning about gardening, help with homework, developmentally and age-appropriate arts and crafts, music, simple cooking, yoga and nature walks. The nurturing, structured environment coupled with the individualized program, aid in the development of behavioral and social, life and self-advocacy skills.
Transitional Post Secondary Educational/Work Programs: The transition from school to adult life brings new challenges to those with developmental disabilities. Fortunately they are protected under Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act ( ADA) as well as the Lanterman Act, which incorporates education, employment and public accommodations. Our transition programs will provide instructional training and support, which will include career guidance, social and self-advocacy skills and exposure to job, career and business options. This will give the participants the information and tools needed, to empower and help them through knowledge, to make the appropriate decisions for their own employment goals. In a least restrictive environment, we will collaborate with families, school personnel, employers and outside agencies in order to support the participants with maximizing the success of their transition process. During our first phase of operation we will offer School–to-Work Programs and School-to-College programs to students from 14 years of age with mild to moderate developmental disabilities and as we expand and our support staff grows, our goal is include students with severe disabilities also. Our programs will be conducted on-site and in the communities. Through the Farming Independence Programs, participants will be learning the skills necessary to help them transition to an independent living environment for college and work.
Activity Work Program: In addition to our current pilot programs, there will be additional adult Vocational programs created and conducted on the farm and in the communities to create job and work experiences helping our participants build their vocational, independent living and social skills. According to individualized need, the participants will receive support by qualified staff, interns/volunteers and mentors. The Program will include instruction and training, volunteering in the community, community integration, guest speakers and workshops on different job choices and business opportunities.
Support Group and Individual Work Program: Once our participants move into this program, additional support and services and training will include utilization of public transportation, micro-enterprise skills, money management, interview process, self care, self advocacy and employment seeking skills. With supported staff (job coaches), groups will work for pay in the communities. The pay they receive will be established by utilizing comparable compensation of other similar organizations and guidelines of State and Federal agencies and fair employment regulations. If the participants together with their counselors feel they are qualified and they have the skills necessary, Farming Independence will help with individualized, independent employment and also with the development of their own business if that is the direction they have chosen. Support will be offered for as long as there is a need and in accordance with Local, State and Federal agency requirements.
Community Outreach Programs: We will offer resources, training, workshops, forums, recreational events and support for parents, families, volunteers, companies and the public. Integrating our participants with the communities will be planned through special activities on the farm and within the communities, field trips, shopping, patronizing restaurants and places of entertainment, host business opportunities and internships, job mentoring and guest speakers. By selling the produce, products and providing services through Farming Independence to the public visiting the farm, farmers markets, Farming Independence’s farm stand and to other businesses, the participants will be integrated into the communities where they will continue gaining knowledge and experience and further acceptance by the public.
Job Placement Programs: A separate marketing and research department will be established to create jobs and small business ownership opportunities tailored to the participants’ individualized abilities and goals. Our strategic vision is to become the leading provider of high quality employment services and career and business opportunities that are individualized, choice driven leading to greater independence and happiness for those we serve. We will have job fairs, computer literacy and technology training, specialized guest speakers from different industries, customized staffing solutions for employers and ongoing consultation, on-site coaching, information and training to support long term employment of our participants.
Independent Living Program: For those who can live independently, our participants will receive assistance in their homes depending on their individualized need. Our trained caregivers will teach a full range of skills to maintain a self-sustaining, independent living environment in their communities, as well as supporting the development of individual self-advocacy skills. Some of the training will include safety, money management, personal empowerment, effective communication skills, cooking, health and nutrition and housekeeping.
Volunteer/Internship/Mentor Program: As one of our goals is to integrate the communities with our participants, we will have volunteer, internship and mentor opportunities supported by training where needed. The opportunities will be available to those who want to help and be involved with those with developmental disabilities to help them become independent, self directed and happy. Our volunteers and interns will work side by side with our participants and staff onsite and in the communities. Opportunities that will be offered will include instructor assistance, fundraising assistant, respite care volunteer, art and music mentor, exercise/fitness instructor, yoga instructor, helping in the organic garden and culinary program, animal care assistant and instructor, to name a few.
Housing and Services: In the future, the goal is to offer a safe, loving and caring supportive home environment through affordable and accessible housing both on the future farm and in the nearby communities. When Farming Independence does acquire a farm, housing on the farm will be available to employees working on the farm. The farm will be located in close proximity to recreational, social, community resources and public transportation. Farming Independence will also offer its own transport to encourage and facilitate integration into the communities.
Recreation Program: The goal is to incorporate this program into daily programs for all participants to take part in and enjoy. Some of the recreation activities will include: the arts, crafts, music and dance appreciation, sports and games, exercise, yoga, computer literacy and safety and other social interactive activities integrating the participants and the community.
Farming Independence has positively impacted and changed the lives of some very special people, both with developmental disabilities and the general public. We are excited about the future and extremely grateful for the opportunity to help in making life changing differences in the lives of many people.