While the harvest season has wrapped up at Farm in the Dell of the Red River Valley, the organization continues to grow with season-extending greenhouse updates. Farm in the Dell received $1,000 from the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation to renovate the greenhouse on their property, allowing them to use it for seed starting. With the updates, Farm in the Dell will be able to extend their season and employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
Transforming Disabilities into Abilities
Fresh vegetables. Getting your hands dirty in the garden. Providing purposeful work and life experiences in a community farm setting. Farm in the Dell is more than a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. For individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, it offers a chance to learn, grow, and earn a regular wage. The organization serves adults, young and old, who were born with autism, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, etc.
“These individuals were dealt a hand in life that no amount of money, hours in the field, or boxfuls of tomatoes will ever erase,” said Executive Director of Farm in the Dell of the Red River Valley Anna Sather said. “We can’t change that, but we can ensure that they feel seen, heard, valued, respected, and celebrated every day on the Farm through a paycheck, prayer, and conversations between rows of peas in the field on a sunny day.”
During the 2023 growing season, Farm in the Dell supported a record 25 garden engineers with employment between May and October. The program has operated in the Red River Valley since 2012, growing year over year.
“Saying goodbye to our employees every fall is hard,” Sather said. “We hope and pray that they return the next spring, but more importantly, that they find other places to belong, other sources of income during the off-season.”
New Opportunities for the Growing Season
In the future, Sather and the Farm in the Dell team look forward to offering longer employment contracts and even more learning opportunities for their garden engineers. With the Awesome Foundation grant, the organization will renovate the greenhouse on the property. The new space will allow them to start their own seedlings in the spring, a task currently outsourced to local nurseries. This will also give them the opportunity for successive planting to expand their produce offering.
“We are excited for the opportunity to have our garden engineers involved from the very beginning,” Sather said. “Because we didn’t have a usable structure on the farm to grow produce outside the regular growing season, we had to stall onboarding our employees until we were ready to transplant seedlings into the ground. They missed out on being part of the initial planting process and one of the great joys of gardening.”
With the renovations, Farm in the Dell will be able to extend the growing and employment season by one or two months and provide new experiences for their garden engineers.
(Left to Right) Dave, Farm in the Dell Board Member; Anna Sather; Farm in the Dell Executive Director; Heather Nesemeier, Awesome Foundation Trustee
How can you help?
Farm in the Dell plans for continued growth with the goal of offering year-round employment in the future. With the greenhouse renovation, the 2024 season will be the next step to achieving this goal. But sustaining the organization’s forward momentum will take continued support from the Fargo-Moorhead community
“We wouldn’t exist without the support of community programs and our amazing volunteers,” Sather said. “The community has rallied together to help us get this far, and we appreciate the generosity in time, skills, and funds from our friends in the Red River Valley.”
For those looking to help this important resource grow, there are many ways to get involved. Visit the website for information on 2024 CSA enrollment. Like many agricultural operations, Farm in the Dell’s CSA program helps with revenue upfront to defray early-season costs until the crops come in. Additionally, the organization continues to look for opportunities that will bring their garden engineers and the public together. They will also continue to set up shop at the Moorhead Farmers Market and provide wholesale produce to local schools and restaurants.
The Cass-Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a nonprofit. Applications can be made at awesomefoundation.org/en/chapters/cassclay