The old adage "bloom where you are planted" rings true at Safe Haven Farms. Our horticultural program is growing as fast as bean sprout seedlings. The program has grown from 650 plants to nearly 3,000 in just one year.
They are all lovingly cared for by the farmers under the leadership of Bittersweet's farm specialist, Mike Rogers. Anyone spending time with mike in the expanded plant house sees the pride and excitement in his eyes as he tends the croups with an intensity of an expectant father. "It is a little piece of heaven," said Mike.
All plants start from seed, and no chemicals are used in the growing process. When strong enough to leave the protection of the plant house, they are sold or placed in two of the farm's large hoop houses and the outdoor 50 x 100 foot garden space.
Three teams of farmers rotate chores during week days, accomplishing such tasks as watering, soil preparation, weeding and transplanting. mike notes that the participants get a sense of satisfaction as their efforts literally harvest results. "It's amazing to have people with autism experience their work from planting to growing to harvesting," said Mike. "They are so excited to watch the process of farm to table and cannot wait to eat the fresh vegetables."
Day program participants, "farmers," learn so much more than productive employment skills. They are integrating into the community and making more human connections. Beginning this year, the farmers will supply the nearby McMonigle farm with 1,000 seedlings for planting and harvesting. Other exciting developments include partnering with local restaurants whose chefs want to support the farm while offering chemical-free local produce to their patrons.
The Pendleton Art Center in Middletown is developing a community within community partnership with the farm in their downtown art space, and Safe Haven Farms produce may be on the menu at the onsite gourmet café.