New Rockford business provides fresh-farm produce, jobs for those with cognitive differences

ROCKFORD, MI – A new Kent County business, New Growth Project, is offering nourishing vegetables for the community and jobs to individuals with cognitive differences.

On a sunny May 7, around 200 people showed up for the grand opening at the farm, located at 8605 Peterson Street in Rockford, and enjoyed live music, plants sales and yard games.

The farm’s mission is to deliver farm-fresh produce, specialty grains and seasonings to the public while providing job opportunities to people with developmental disabilities who may struggle to find and maintain employment, according to a news release.

Christine O’Driscoll, director of the engagement community for the New Growth Project, said that 81% of individuals with developmental disabilities are unemployed.

“Disengaged from the community this way, these individuals are isolated leaving them lonely, anxious, and depressed,” O’Driscoll said. “New Growth Project supplies inclusive job opportunities and farm-fresh, chemical-free vegetables for our community. That way, individuals with cognitive differences can develop job skills, grow in confidence and experience being a part of the community. ”

Since last fall, the New Growth Project has been breaking down barriers and creating a more inclusive workforce with its hiring practices, according to a news release.

“Typically, getting and keeping jobs can be a challenge for this population.” Carly VanDuinen, Director of Programming, said. “Everyone wants and needs to be a part of something that uses their skills and develops new ones. We provide opportunities for success through our peer-mentor program, and this program helps our employees develop workplace skills. ”

The farm works to grow a variety of delicious vegetables while employing individuals who are neurodiverse and plans to hold more events in the future.

“Every parent’s dream is to see their child succeed as an adult,” O’Driscoll said. “Some adults just need a little support to experience success on the job. We are honored to provide that working environment and hope to share this model with other local businesses. ”

To learn more about the mission at the New Growth Project and find opportunities to get involved, visit www.thenewgrowthproject.org.

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