News / USA

Community Farm Harvests Hope Among Developmentally Disabled

Red Wiggler offers work, sense of purpose

Multimedia

Audio
Susan Logue

On a recent overcast morning, workers at Red Wiggler Community Farm in Germantown, Md, walked up and down the rows of plants, looking for elusive peppers.

“I found one!” shouted one of the workers enthusiastically, holding a shiny green pepper up high for all to see.  

“That’s a good one, Craig,” a younger worker, one of four support staff replied.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) has gained popularity in the U.S. since it was first introduced about 25 years ago.  People invest in CSA farms by buying shares, which entitle them to a percentage of the harvest. It’s a way to get healthful, local produce on a regular basis.

Founded in 1996, Red Wiggler - a CSA farm near Washington, D.C. - supports the community not only by growing vegetables, but also by providing employment for the developmentally disabled.

“Red Wiggler worms create fertile soil where plants are likely to be successful," says Woody Woodroof, founder and executive director, explaining how the farm got its name. "We are a place where we help our community become successful.”

A meaningful job with a paycheck

From the very start, employing the developmentally disabled was part of the mission.

Developmentally-disabled residents of group homes in Maryland help prepare the fresh vegetables - from Red Wiggler Farm - for dinner.
Developmentally-disabled residents of group homes in Maryland help prepare the fresh vegetables - from Red Wiggler Farm - for dinner.

“I come in in the morning and take care of the chickens, and after I finish taking care of the chickens, we’ll harvest vegetables,” says David Ruch, one of the 15 growers who work here.

Woodroof says farming has become fashionable since he started Red Wiggler. “These guys are doing something people care about, and that self-esteem that is developed there, alongside the paycheck, is the most meaningful thing.”

The growers are all paid minimum wage or higher. They also get lots of exercise working outside in the fields. And they get to eat the food they grow here, not only while picking it, but also at home. At least once a week they take a box or bag of vegetables with them at the end of the day.

Sharing the bounty

Other developmentally disabled adults in Montgomery County get to eat the food as well. About once a week throughout the growing season, fresh produce from the farm is delivered to more than 450 adults who live in group homes.

Dinner at one Maryland group home features greens and turnips, salad with radishes and peppers, and sweet potatoes - all grown at Red Wiggler Farm.
Dinner at one Maryland group home features greens and turnips, salad with radishes and peppers, and sweet potatoes - all grown at Red Wiggler Farm.

Woodroof says the seeds to start Red Wiggler Farm were planted years ago, when he was working in a group home for developmentally disabled adults. “I noticed the food they were eating was not as healthy as it could be. And we had yards in the back, and I thought, ‘why don’t we start gardening?’”

Today, instead of just a backyard garden, Woodroof oversees six hectares of farmland. Seventy-five percent of the food goes to 120 customers, who support the farm through shares and collect their organic produce once a week from the farm.

Shareholder Dennis Luther leaves with his weekly supply of fresh, organic vegetables: beets, turnips, peppers,sweet potatoes and greens.
Shareholder Dennis Luther leaves with his weekly supply of fresh, organic vegetables: beets, turnips, peppers,sweet potatoes and greens.

“We grew right around $100,000 worth of produce last year,” Woodroof says.

With a budget of about $500,000, Red Wiggler still relies on additional funding from other sources, mostly private grants and donations.

“And as we increase our business slowly, we find that donations increase, too.”

Next year, thanks in large part to those donations, the farm will expand its season from 9 to 12 months, providing year-round employment for the workers here.

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More