Prospect Meadow Farm offering a vocational program employing individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities



MONDAY, MAY 20TH, 2024

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Prospect Meadow Farm is harvesting shiitake mushrooms while getting their new operation in order.


It’s part of the nonprofit organization, ServiceNet, and runs a vocational farming program, working with people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder.

“Prospect Meadow Farm is a place where we are able to give folks with various disability options and opportunities to get paid work opportunity and also get their hands in some dirt, agricultural training, get them outside, things like that,” said Berkshire Prospect Meadow Farms program director, Bryanna Robbins.

There are 17 farmhands there.

ServiceNet works with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, who helps fund the farm program to help provide meaningful work opportunities to individuals living with a developmental disability.

“We want to make sure that folks have a place to be that they have community that they have socialization that they have an opportunity to work like everybody else does,” said Robbins.

Local schools’ special education departments can also send students.

Maribeth Ritchie works with the schools to bring in kids who are 16 years old and older. It’s a program she likes to call “Farm to School.”

“They come here and they do receive a paycheck, even if they are a part of the school program, so it’s not separate from our other group. They are intermingling, so they are working together, which gives them the opportunity to also meet some older people that are working and have that experience of just working with someone that’s been working for a few years, and they also can develop the skills that they really like,” said farmer and School to Farm program director, Maribeth Ritchie.

Pittsfield High School senior Jamie Spaniol says he loves landscaping and Maribeth can see helping him start his own landscaping business one day.

“It’s pretty good, it’s like a hands-on experience. lI like the hands-on most of the time as well. It’s fun,” said Spaniol.

Other farmhands like Sherry Barrie plan to stay on there. She enjoys helping out with whatever she can.

“Forever yes, I like this job. Three days a week, I’m not frustrated, you know? I love coming up here because it’s all outdoors,” said Barrie.

The program teaches skillsets including how to work with customers. A favorite of farmhand Irene Morrison is to irrigate flowers and keep them alive and healthy.

“When we take a plant, we put it in water, and we plant them and we stick in the plant,” Morrison said.

Starting this Friday May 24, the farm will be open for plant sales every Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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