Greens Do Good

85 Oak Street

Hackensack NJ 07601

https://www.greensdogood.com/

https://www.reedautismservices.com/

Chantelle Walker CEO (Reed Autism Services): cwalker@reedfoundationforautism.org

Lisa Goldstein-sales director: lgoldstein@reedfoundationforautism.org

Jessalin Jaume-workforce development coordinator: jjaume@greensdogood.com

Matt Ravetier–farm manager

Jen Faust, Director of Operations-Workforce Development program, contact jfaust@reedfoundationforautism.org.

From Website:

vertical hydroponic farming for people with disabilities, one of innovative programs of REED Autism Services of New Jersey. Farm supplies fresh greens to groceries, restaurants and food bank. Grads of REED’s teen internship program have access to placement in “green collar” field.”

My Visit:

I initially met Jake through his participation on an Israel trip where I served as group leader. As I got to know Jake during the trip, I learned that he is an entrepreneur and an incredibly interesting young mI was eager to visit Greens Do Good after a colleague mentioned their work. I had previously visited Vertical Harvest in Jackson, WY. It is not easy to find Greens Do Good as they are located in an industrial area of Hackensack, New Jersey in a complex of warehouses and garages. Behind the garage doors is a most impressive operation where people with disabilities are trained in hydroponic farming. Every aspect of the training, farming and distribution are carefully thought out and clients learn valuable work skills.

The tour started with work force development specialist, Jessalin explaining the training and showing state of the art visuals displayed on the walls (to serve as reminders of every step of the process) and a large computer screen displaying other relevant coaching tools. The workplace has various stations for each aspect of the work. There are two work slots per day of anywhere from one to three hours each. Three training semesters are offered per years.

Matt, the farm manager, provided a tour of the plant and described the technical aspects of watering, lighting and harvesting in detail. Microgreens and four main greens including basil, lettuce, kale and arugula are grown. Greens Do Good has many community partners and participates in the Bergen County Food Security Task Force.

LFrom Website:

Our mission is to transform the way our local community sources healthy produce by providing the freshest ingredients in a sustainable and socially responsible way. The program utilizes hydroponic farming, an innovative method of growing plants in a controlled, indoor environment. We use energy-efficient watering and lighting systems to nurture our crops, which are planted in stacked trays.

When you walk into Greens Do Good, among the stacked trays of basil, microgreens, and lettuce, you’ll see teens and adults with autism hard at work. Each person takes on tasks that match their interests and abilities, including crop maintenance, packaging, and inventory.

Through our Workforce Development Program, we provide more than 800 hours of training each year to teens with autism, teaching them environmentally sustainable practices along withessential job skills. This helps them build their resumes and lays the foundation for future employment. For our adult participants, we offer paid employment opportunities, valuable work experience, and meaningful community integration. To amplify the progress we’re making, we’re also working to grow our employment pipeline in partnership with other “green” businesses.

Our environment-friendly farming methods allow for year-round growing, using less space, water, and energy than traditional farms. We sell our products through home delivery and to local restaurants, country clubs, supermarkets, and food service providers — raising autism awareness as we go. We partnered with the Bergen County Food Security Task Force to provide surplus produce to families in need, right in our community.

Greens Do Good is part of the REED Autism Services family of programs, which provides support for individuals with autism so they can thrive and achieve their full potential throughout their lives.

Workforce Development:

Through our Workforce Development Program, we provide pre-employment training to teens with autism, teaching them environmentally sustainable practices and offering hands-on experience.

With the anticipated growth of the global hydroponics market approaching 22.5% through 2025, Greens Do Good provides a unique opportunity for job training within an expanding industry and works with many area schools and programs including:

Lessons Learned:

-I think first of all, we’ve learned that the demand for novel employment settings and experiences is significant. We were shocked by the response we received from a few press pieces after we launched the program.

-Employing the autism community continues to require a very individualized, methodical and supportive approach. Our interns who have lower support needs often work quickly and may want tasks of increasing responsibility, but in some cases don’t know how to advocate for that. Instead they may become frustrated when the work isn’t meeting their expectations, but perhaps cannot articulate the ‘why’. It’s required our team to hone a different set of skills that we are still refining.

-My third, and favorite lesson, is really just how we’ve observed the farm as its own ecosystem – and I’m not talking about the produce! On any given day you tour the farm and you see people with autism working alongside their neurotypical counterparts, talking about music, or politics, or life in general and I’m reminded that this is why Greens Do Good is so important. It’s work, yes, but it’s also fun. There’s a sense of accomplishment, belonging, and camaraderie. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career – I’m grateful to the team who had this wild idea many years ago to start an indoor hydroponic farm with the goal of employing adults with autism.

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