Growing Solutions Farm
Growing Solutions Farm is located on 1.2 acres in the heart of Chicago. Launched in 2013 by the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation (JMTF), as part of JMTF’s Urban Autism Solutions initiative, it was created to address the nearly 90% unemployment rate among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The farm brings together teachers, volunteers, farm staff and young adults with ASD to help develop the important vocational skills these young men and women need to succeed in the workplace. According to Julie Tracy, co-founder of JMTF, the idea for a vocational farm to serve young adults with autism grew from the high demand for locally grown crops in Chicago, a leading city in the urban agricultural movement.
Growing Solutions Farm currently employs 20 paid interns with autism who tend to the farm for three hours a day, five days a week, all while learning important, transferable job skills. John T. is one member of the Growing Solutions Farm who has already seen the immense benefits of the vocational garden program. Thanks to John’s experience on the Growing Solutions farm, he has learned to communicate with co-workers and maintain a daily work schedule. These soft skills enabled John to successfully interview with Trader Joe’s, who subsequently offered him a position as a crew member this past Spring.
Dan C. is also a member of the program who regularly gives tours of the farm as a paid employee of the Growing Solutions team. According to Dan's father, “He enjoys the sense of belonging, the friends he now has and the purpose this lends to his life.” His engagement with his peers over the course of the summer has improved dramatically. According to Julie Tracy, “There are dozens of jobs this young man can do…It is truly amazing!”
JMTF has future plans to create a greenhouse that will allow for the employment of young adults with autism on the farm year-round. The National Garden Bureau plans to continue to fund similar therapeutic gardens nationwide.
The Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation is one of nearly 50 organizations in 20 states across the country to receive a grant through New York Collaborates for Autism from the proceeds of Comedy Central’s 2012 Night of Too Many Stars benefit.
Click here to find out more about JMTF’s Growing Solutions Farm.
Save-The-Date for the next Night of Too Many Stars, Saturday, February 28, 2015.