By Pat Loeb
VOORHEES, NJ (CBS) — A South Jersey farm has become a job training site for an unlikely group of growers: adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities.
Members of Bancroft’s vocational program visit the privately-owned “Maggie’s Farm,” in Voorhees several times a week to till, plant, weed and water.
And they are reaping more than vegetables.
“I like it very much because it’s soothing and something you can learn from,” says Jessica, one of the participants.
“It is really fun and enjoyable,” agrees another, Dan, “and helps clear my mind up.”
Program manager Matt Roach says the beauty of the program is that it’s both therapeutic and vocational.
Participants relax and enjoy themselves, he says, but they also gain skills needed for jobs in garden centers and even supermarkets:
“You wouldn’t think a supermarket is like a garden but we go to the farmers’ market, bring our produce and show how well we work with the public, we work on that while we’re there.”
He says the students also learn life skills, like dealing with frustration when a groundhog steals their products, and working with others.
“Some people in this population tend to want to just go off alone and they have trouble interacting but, at the farm, it’s always a team.”
Program manager Thom Kent says the program got started about two years.
“This is a perfect environment,” he says, “because it’s safe and we discovered quickly that they really enjoyed watching things grow and planting things and taking things home to their family that they grew.”