Indiegogo campaign supports autistic, organic farmers

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Baby lettuce plants growing in aquaponics bed. Photo and caption by Flickr user Lori Greig, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thanks to a post at The Atlantic, I learned about a venture to provide jobs in organic agriculture to young men and women with autism spectrum disorders. As Green Bridge Growers CEO Jan Pilarski describes at HuffPost,

my oldest son, Chris, who has autism, graduated from college with degrees in chemistry and environmental studies. Chris is a highly capable young man, but the social challenges of being in a traditional job were very hard for him. After only several months as an environmental researcher, he was asked to resign despite his best efforts at self-advocacy. Clearly, he needed a different path to apply his talents in the world of work.

When he returned home after losing his job, we thought and dreamt and talked. As we helped Chris transition back home, we made a sobering observation: nearly all of his peers with autism were chronically unemployed despite having post-secondary degrees. Our world seemed small and bleak, and Chris’ future quite uncertain.

It was food that slowly brought us back to life. Meals shared, cooking lessons, tastes savored in the kitchen. Food became our saving grace during difficult, soul-searching days. And then we considered the place food played in Chris’ life, and saw a pathway to his future.

As she details, that pathway has been an aquaponics program, in the Growing Power model. As Pilarski notes elsewhere,

Our way of addressing the problem of unemployment [among people with autism spectrum disorders] may not be perfect. Traditional employers need to step up and hire people with autism because of the outstanding assets they bring to their work. But for us, creating Green Bridge Growers was what we needed to do right now to benefit Chris and others in our community.

For more details (and a video), check out the links above, then contribute to their fundraising efforts here. There’s some swag to be had at various contribution levels, so consider making a donation in someone’s name for the holiday gift that will keep on giving!

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