PLEASANT HILL, Iowa -- It may not feel like spring, but at least it is beginning to look like it inside Iowa greenhouses.
You'll find fabulous flowers and plenty of produce plants inside The Homestead’s greenhouse in Pleasant Hill, and it's the farmers getting their hands dirty who make this operation so special.
Thomas Kroska has worked on The Homestead's farm for 10 years. He said, "I grow vegetables like carrots and peppers.”
This is Gary Pappacena's first season. He said, "I'm filling flats. I got to fill them, and then I even them out and punch a hole in the dirt."
About 10 people work at the farm on any given day. They all have autism.
"It's more important not what we're growing here, but we're trying to help people grow themselves," said Angela Book-Glynn, Campus/Youth Home Services Director at The Homestead Autism Resource Center.
The Homestead serves adults with autism on an 80-acre campus in Pleasant Hill. Ten acres are used to grow food for its Community Supported Agriculture Program.
Book-Glynn said, "We start our crops in here. They go out to the field, they go to the boxes, and then they go to the community."
For 20 weeks from May through October, workers fill up the fresh, in-season produce. Community members buy a share and can pick it up at the farm or have it delivered to a drop site.
Book-Glynn said, "Every bit of that money goes right back into the farm itself and the person's served wages. So there is no profit, actually all of that money is to provide that sustainable income for our persons served to have that opportunity to work."
Like any workforce, they have different interests, skills, and goals, but because of the way their brains work, they may need a little help from specially trained associates.
Vice President of Adult Services Dr. Scott Atwood said, "We understand the interventions that are used and then can apply those interventions based on the support needs of the individual."
The farm has provided Thomas a steady job and Gary is using it as a stepping stone to learn skills for other work.
"Coping skills and how to do a task with listening to people, listen to my bosses,” he said.
A weekly share of produce costs $475. Half shares are also available. Visit thehomestead.org for more information.