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

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid