The pioneering work of Smile Farms in making employment opportunities in agricultural settings
available to adults with developmental and intellectual challenges is vitally important given that almost 80% of this population nationwide is unemployed.
As we all know, work helps define a person’s identity, builds self-worth and self-esteem and connects the individual to his or her community.
At the League Education and Treatment Center, ten of our day habilitation clients have totally embraced their part time jobs as farmers raising produce in the urban farm we constructed on the site of a dilapidated playground on the grounds of one of our schools. Michael, a Smile Farms at LETC employee, made the following exclamation when interviewed about his job for the Smile Farms newsletter, “It makes me feel good, it makes me feel important and makes me feel like I’m somebody!”
LETC is extremely grateful for the startup support we have received from Smile Farms. Still, we are very aware that in a short period of time we must generate sufficient revenue to pay the wages of our clients ourselves and should not be solely dependent on grants from the Smile Farms organization.
Our business plan for the farm is to specialize in growing “hard to source” hot chili peppers during the summer months, which we will market to local restaurants and at greenmarkets. We will grow micro-greens in our hoop house during the winter months to sell to restaurants and health food stores. These activities also offer our clients experience in marketing and retail sales.
Yet, sale of produce alone will not supply all of the revenue we require. With some entrepreneurial
vision it seems to us that we can increase income by building on our farming activities and spinning off new related ventures.
The most obvious one is to create a hot sauce with our peppers (outsourcing production to a
commercial kitchen) and market the sauce throughout our community. Hot sauce and dried peppers
may also be marketed through the Internet as well as locally.
In addition, growing heirloom organic tomatoes and sweet peppers (combined with chilies) offers an opportunity to create and sell bottled salsa; growing heirloom tomatoes might lead to the production of a boutique tomato sauce product as well.
Most significantly, the Smile Farms model of creating a revenue generating business to employ clients who earn a real wage from the proceeds might suggest utilizing that approach beyond an agricultural setting. LETC’s next venture using this business model may be the production of artisan handmade pasta (a really good opportunity for individuals who like repetitive tasks) with the recommendation to cook and serve the pasta with Smile Farms at LETC tomato sauce.
League Education & Treatment Center
Visit the Smile Farms Take Action page to learn how you can get involved.
CREATING SMILES, ONE JOB AT A TIME