US (NJ): Hydroponic farm helps adults with autism find jobs

On Autism Awareness Day, one nonprofit is helping adults with autism find employment, one head of lettuce at a time.

REED Next, which helps people with autism improve daily life skills and offers pre-vocational and vocational training, unveiled a hydroponic vertical farm named Greens Do Good in Hackensack on Tuesday. Their mission? Growing “produce with a purpose.”

All the proceeds from selling produce from the farm will go toward funding REED Next’s autism programming for adults age 21 and over, while also giving these same adults a chance at employment. The group plans to hire up to five adults with autism to carry out tasks such as harvesting, packaging, labeling and sorting.

The hydroponic farm, which was partially funded by grants from the New Jersey Department of Health, grows 18 different types of microgreens, or smaller plants that grow up to 3 inches in height such as arugula, dill, parsley and wasabi mustard. The farm also has larger leafy greens, such as lettuce and kale, and vegetables such as tomatoes, shishito peppers and cucumbers.

The people who run Greens Do Good hope their model will inspire other nonprofit groups, such as those that help individuals with Down's syndrome or veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, to provide work for underemployed populations in a similar setup.

Read more at the North Jersey Record (Stephanie Noda)

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