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One farm employing those with cognitive differences

The New Growth Project in Rockford building an inclusive community
Posted at 7:21 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 09:59:02-04

ROCKFORD, Mich. — Farm to table has a whole new meaning at one local farm in West Michigan. The New Growth Project in Rockford employs neuro-diverse individuals giving them the opportunities they deserve. Farm, work, belong... it's what The New Growth Project is all about as nearly 81% of individuals with cognitive differences are unemployed and now this farm is working to change that while providing a community and teaching valuable skills.

"It was super exciting. Love coming in here every day. I was one of their first employees and it's been a lot of growth, " said Brayden Wildey, The New Growth Project worker.

Growth is the true purpose of the farm not only regarding the food they grow but the people they employ.

"New growth in the farming world means that you have a stem coming off of a plant that's actually going to produce fruit. That's called new growth. And that's what we're doing for the individuals that we work with and employ is we want to develop new fruit or new skills and help them experience success in the workplace," said Christine O’Driscoll, The New Growth Project co-founder.

Cognitive differences shouldn’t limit anyone from getting the job they deserve. The new growth project helps their workers identify their existing skillset and works to grow a whole new set of skills.

"I love working in with nature and animals and I also love like greeting customers and helping checking them out and stuff, I like the cashier," said Meghan Beggs, The New Growth Project worker.

Their peer mentoring program helps their employees learn and master an array of skills from getting their hands dirty in the fields, working retail positions in the market or even making homemade goods. It's gaining the all-around sense to be a great worker.

A barrier may be communication skills, knowing how to advocate for themselves, or employer is just not knowing how to bring someone on that may need accommodations," said O'Driscoll.

It's those needed accommodations that will empower these workers to succeed as most people that are neurodiverse have been told they can’t do this or that for most of their lives. The new growth project is there for that helping hand and positive reinforcement to make them truly believe in themselves.

"If we give them the room and the chance to really show their character and be able to shine, I mean, that is what is amazing about this place," Carly Vanduinen, The New Growth Project co-founder.

An amazing farm that goes above and beyond giving an inclusive community to those that need it most. The New Growth Projectcontinues to grow itself and is in need of volunteers while always accepting new employees into their family. We can also support them by shopping their market of chemical-free produce every Tuesday from 2 to 6 and Saturday from 9 to 1 in Rockford off of Peterson Street.