Approximately 80 percent of adults with developmental disabilities are unemployed. To some that's a staggering number that seems impossible to tackle, not to all though.
Thanks to the company Smile Farms Inc. and their partners Community Bridge Builders Inc., those with disabilities around Stanislaus County have been given the chance to contribute to their community once again.
A new farm began to take shape on the outskirts of Turlock earlier this year. This three-acre plot of land is part of the Smile Farms’ overall goal of reducing unemployment rates among developmentally disabled adults from around the Central Valley.
“We love Turlock so why not make Turlock the place for our new farm,” said Cindy Yoder, president and founder of Community Bridge Builders. “Our community is built on agriculture, agriculture is our identity. We needed a place for people of all ages and abilities so Turlock was a natural fit for what is now only the second Smile Farm in the nation.”
With over 4,000 adults with developmental disabilities in Stanislaus County alone and farming being such a vital part of the culture here in the Valley, there is immense untapped potential for those choosing to come work on the farm.
“This farm gives the benefit of rubbing shoulders and working side-by-side and growing together to establish relationships with people with these disabilities,” said Yoder.
Those working for the farm are there on a volunteer basis for the time being. With only a few months of operation under their belts, it’s only a matter of time until the proper measures can be taken and upgrades made to the farm to turn them into employees.
With the help of these volunteers, along with other knowledgeable and experienced members of the valley’s agriculture community, the farm has been churning out produce often enough to begin selling back to local businesses.
“We want to grow flowers eventually, but right now we have a lot of different produce growing on the farm,” said Yoder. “We actually recently installed a greenhouse and are growing so much we have begun providing wholesale to restaurants.”
The Smile Farms at Community Bridge Builders project has generated interest and support amongst many members of the Turlock community and is looking for other partners. For more information, visit smilecbb.org.