Red Tomato Farm: A New Initiative for Adults with Autism

When it comes to providing creative, meaningful outlets for individuals with Autism, new initiatives are constantly on the rise. Red Tomato Farm, located in Newville, Pennsylvania, gives adults with Autism the chance to gain social skills and realize their full potentials by engaging in farm-related work.

In an article in The Sentinel, Red Tomato Development Officer Deborah Shaffer describes how “Red Tomato Farm is a great place for our individuals on the Autism Spectrum,” as it “provides them with work through farm tasks and it creates opportunities to interact with the general community. It is a new concept as far as adult training facilities go. They get the opportunity to work with gardening, towing, and with animals.” Rather than learning skills in a more traditional workplace, the program design encapsulates sustainability, volunteerism, and ecology, to provide applicable, skill-enhancing opportunities for people with Special Needs as well as the local community.

Farm work is constant, and relatively demanding; participants have set work schedules throughout the seven-day week all year long. Whether they have the enriching opportunities of planting seeds in the greenhouse, tending the gardens, harvesting, maintaining farm equipment, or feeding and caring for animals, participants not only gain practical skills, but attain feelings of accomplishment, determination, teamwork, and self-sufficiency.

Because the Autism Spectrum is based on a level of individualization in terms of the impact of a disorder, every experience is unique and involves each individual’s specific needs and characteristics. A variety of different outlets in the farm environment can provide adults with ways to combat anxiety, stress, and avoidance associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Depending on an individual’s personal interest and unique experience, he or she might excel in certain activities over others. The farm is an ideal location to explore these specific outlets.

“Unfortunately, as a person ages, services are more limited,” says local psychologist Dr. Bernadette Cachara. “Although services exist, the adult then must work to initiate services; however, because of their avoidance (and) difficulty of social interaction, this becomes very difficult and overwhelming for the individual. Many times, these adults do not present for services but rather isolate themselves.”

By having these types of opportunities in their local communities, adults with Autism have the capacity to hone in on beneficial life skills and cultivate new relationships with their peers.

“A lot of friendships are made (at the Red Tomato Farm),” Shaffer says. “There is a huge social aspect to it. I think it’s a great opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities because it allows them the opportunity to work and it also provides them an opportunity for physical activity and exercise. They can sleep better at night.”

This entry was posted in Autism News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.