Confidence, Self-Expression, and Mindfulness at Legacy Farms
Guest blog by Legacy Farms
There are very few jobs where employees are not only learning new job skills, but are also learning about their capabilities, their worth, and how to bring peace into their own lives; yet this is a daily occurrence at Legacy Farms for all our apprentices.
Legacy Farms’ mission is to empower neurodiversity in the workplace, which we accomplish through our signature mentor / apprentice program, Growing Together. Through Growing Together, neurodivergent apprentices are hired, beginning as volunteers receiving educational training and advancing to paid positions working alongside mentors in our garden. During the program, mentors coach our apprentices on job skills, social awareness, and self-advocacy. Apprentices work in the garden or on special projects that further their talents, such as doing videography for social media, developing relationships with our garden’s distributors, and coordinating events or other projects.
Our apprentices are individuals who are 16 years or older and identify as neurodivergent. Our apprentices are individuals with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, PTSD, and anxiety — neurotypes that vary from perceived norms and affect an individual’s ability to achieve independence in the current job market. Many of our apprentices are in the process of transitioning beyond the educational system and have difficulty finding and maintaining employment. Our program primarily serves individuals in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, but is open to any neurodivergent individual who can commute to our gardens for weekly work responsibilities during the growing season.
We focus on teaching work responsibilities and competencies while increasing personal awareness and self-regulation as these are foundational capacities that lead to improved employment and job retention. Through relational modeling, we mentor and support our apprentices to be their authentic selves by engaging their talents and capabilities. By working as equals who are all focused on the same goals and by relying on our apprentices to complete customer deliverables, our program strengthens apprentice capacities for self-organization, initiative, and leadership. It isn’t just about building their skills, but more importantly about increasing their confidence; apprentices achieve a higher level of personal adjustment and can further their contributions as members of society.
“He feels so confident and comfortable that when he was talking with professors during college seminars and asking questions about their programs, he was able to have a really great conversation and sound very professional,” Angela said about her son, Colin. Not only is Colin one of our apprentices who has worked in our garden, but he also lent his talents as an entrepreneurially focused Writing Apprentice, creating a blog for Legacy Farms called The Green Thumb. Speaking to Colin’s participation in Growing Together and how it has made him more confident and self-assured in the world outside of the farm, Angela elaborated, “He could actually talk about what he was doing at Legacy Farms. He felt really proud about it, just being in the professional work as a writer.”
In 2022, Legacy Farms served 32 neurodivergent individuals in apprenticeship, garden team lead, mentor, and committee/Board roles, while also providing support for over a third of those individuals in secondary jobs and/or outplacement. Our goal in 2023 is to expand our farm space as well as expand the number of CSA’s that we are able to offer. This GivingTuesday, help Legacy Farms raise $10,000 so that we can expand the number of apprentices we are able to serve in 2023!