The following post is being republished with permission from Autism Speaks. View the original post.

Check out this blog from one of our Community Grant recipients in Illinois! They have pioneered a working farm solution for adults with autism that teaches them agriculture skills.

Austism Speaks


The delicious tastes of newly harvested produce from an urban Chicago farm on a warm summer day is a rare but refreshing experience thanks to a unique group of individuals who work at Growing Solutions Farm. Operated by the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation (JMTF)/Urban Autism Solutions, the farm is designed to teach agriculture skills to young adults who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. JMTF operates Growing Solutions Farm as a vocational training model designed to change the trajectory of life outcomes for young adults with autism, especially as they age out of important educational systems during their transition into adulthood. The Farm’s workforce development curriculum operates behind the scenes in the growing urban agricultural space to combat both health and unemployment problems experienced in low-income communities in Chicago. As a new organization, JMTF has carved out a niche on the urban agriculture industry while communicating the need for critical resources and specially designed programs that assist individuals so they can experience workforce success.

Core Activities

The development of the farm was supported by generous grants from the Autism Speaks Community Grants Program, the Coleman Foundation, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Opportunity (DCEO) and New York Collaborates for Autism. Over thirty young men and women from the Chicago Public Schools, Easter Seals Therapeutic Autism School and JMTF residents have worked as paid interns on a site which is located on a once vacant lot in the Illinois Medical District on Chicago’s West Side.  Support from Autism Speaks provided the farm with staff for vocational development and curriculum implementation.


Our one-acre farm continues to grow hearts, minds and community here on the Near West Side of Chicago. We produced over 5000 pounds of vegetables, paid employment both on and off site as well as improvement across the board in skills related to farming, and feelings of confidence measured in our self-determination surveys. Our data on workforce development skills specifically showed improvements in the ability for participants to exhibit proper greetings at the start of the work day, exhibit proper behavior during breaks, follow a schedule, perform tasks at specific work stations, and the ability to effectively request help and follow directions.

We grew our community and employment partnerships while highlighting the value and need of meaningful work for the young adults we serve. With the success of the program’s operation in 2015, JMTF has been able to expand its operation of the farm by adding a new hoop house for the 2015 season. With this new addition, the Growing Solutions Farm is set to expand our growing season into the early winter months and increase our training capacity to assist more young men and women as they transition into adulthood. We are grateful to Autism Speaks for the support and confidence they have placed in us!

Your Dollars @ Work is a blog series highlighting the important work of past recipients of Autism Speaks grants to give you a glimpse into how your donations are changing lives of so many in the autism community! Check out previous entries here

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks’ beliefs or point of view.

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