By Nicole Hegewald
On Saturday December 5, 2009, Eden Autism Services in Collier County, Naples, FL, hosted an open house. They were putting their new program, “Garden at Eden,” on display. This is the school’s urban-farming project created to provide older teens and adult Eden students the chance for future employment.
On Saturday, visitors to the school and volunteers were offered the chance to learn about growing tropical fruits and organic vegetables. They all worked together all day through the rain and shine to plant seeds that will help the program in the future.
“In a few years, we’ll have something to harvest every week,” said John Puig, president of the Collier County Fruit Growers Association. “This is not just a garden – we’re creating a multi-tiered training field, combining crops for a 12-month harvest cycle.”
The program teaches participants to plant, tend, cultivate, and market the produce they will create and then sell it to local restaurants and businesses. This raises money for the school as well as gives the students vocational skills.
“It goes straight from the farm to us. This is still nice and gritty from the farm. This is ideally what you want,” explains Executive Chef Peter Carl from the Jolly Cricket.
This week, the Jolly Cricket, purchased their first order of organic and locally grown produce through the program. Eden Autism Services Florida is headquartered in Bonita Springs, with services including early autism intervention, 12-month education for school age students and residential and employment services for autistic adults.