Dirty fingernails, sweaty shirts, rain, snow, and sunshine. These are magical things.
For the last year, I have worked as the lead grower for the Urban Autism Solutions (UAS) Growing Solutions Farm. In this role I provide vocational training that includes landscaping, market sales, food saftey and sanitation just to name a few skills that are taught. I also teach and reinforce transferable jobs skills such as showing up to work on time and in uniform, how to behave during break and following directions.
I was initially connected to UAS by Laura Calvert of Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA). I knew of the UAS partnership with Apologue Liquors; the UAS team sold celery root which was made into liquor then sold to bars and restuarants as well as retailers. I knew of their partnership with Rick Bayless’ West Loop restaurants; Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca. I knew of the work UAS did with participants from their organization as well as Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago and various West Side Chicago Public High Schools.
I did not know the depth or breadth of the organization’s functions.
That’s the point.
Functions change to fit niche needs that are not met by traditional educational systems.
To say, however, that our program’s participants are the only beneficiaries of our work would be a half-truth. In the last year with UAS, I’ve listened as much as I’ve spoken and learned as much as I’ve taught.
This fall, as we officially close the farm for the season, I look behind me and see so many happy faces. Faces of our participants who learned new and better ways to communicate, who completed personal goals, and developed a renewed sense of self-esteem and determination.
As we look ahead to next summer, please consider stopping by and taking a tour of the farm. We’d love to see you!
Please consider participating in
#GIVINGTUESDAY by making a $175 donation to UAS which will be matched in full Nov. 1 – Dec. 3.