Greens Do Good
This six-part documentary follows the journey of farming expert Indy Officinalis as she connects farmers with industry experts to help maximize their potential. “This is a feel-good show about turning farm dreams into reality, and showcasing the unique ways we grow our food—from kelp farms in Alaska to hydroponic tower farms in New Jersey,” explains Indy. “By watching this show, you’ll be inspired by the dedicated hands and hearts that nurture our produce.”
The series is now streaming on Disney+ and @hulu. Don’t miss out on the Greens Do Good “Towers of Power” episode.
If you’re ordering a microgreens salad or buying basil at ShopRite in Bergen County, you just might be helping people with autism find work.
News 12 New Jersey’s Brian Donohue has a story about Greens Do Good, a program making the unlikely connection between people in need and people eating greens.
It’s a vertical hydroponic farm inside a Hackensack warehouse that employs teens and adults with autism to help them gain valuable job experience.
A Day of Golf and Giving Back: 3rd Annual REED Foundation for Autism Golf Classic Raises More Than $130,000
It was a picture-perfect day for the annual REED Foundation for Autism Golf Classic held on July 24th at the beautiful Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, NJ.
With an impressive turnout of nearly 200 guests, this year’s event was a resounding success. Together, golfers, sponsors, and attendees rallied to raise over $130,000 in support of REED’s impactful work serving children, adults, and families.
The event began with a $10,000 putting contest, setting the stage for some friendly competition before the shotgun start. Guests had the chance to compete for prizes throughout the day, including a hole-in-one to win a Subaru Solterra EV, courtesy of Ramsey Subaru.
Following 18 holes of golf, attendees enjoyed cocktails where they sipped on Greens Do Good Basil Lime Margaritas. The evening continued with dinner, during which REED CEO Chantelle Walker presented Dara Sblendorio, President of Sunrise ShopRite, with a Community Impact Award. As Chantelle explained, “Dara was the first grocer to take a chance on our team at Greens Do Good, and from the beginning, she’s been a champion for our work, a connector, and a changemaker for our program.” Jack DeSavino, former Farm Tech, also took the stage to share meaningful words about Dara’s positive impact on Greens Do Good and the individuals we serve through our Workforce Development Program.
The success of the REED Foundation for Autism Golf Classic would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors and attendees. A special thank you to our presenting sponsor, Ramsey Auto Group, for their ongoing commitment to REED. We also extend our thanks to our dinner sponsor, Manning, and all of our sponsors, including: Air Group, Ally, GDK Global, Mazda, Volvo, Susie Arons and Bob Augustitus, Cox Automotive, Northwood Construction, WABC, Withum, Ana Damnjanovic and Mladen Golubovic, Inserra Supermarkets, Inc., Christopher and Robyn Leitner, Parts Authority, Subaru, Banner Facility Services, Brookdale ShopRite, Columbia Bank, Concord Companies, James Conroy Family, Elkins Family, Engo Company, Favaro Family, Lakeland Bank, Chris Lorippo, McMenamin Family ShopRite, Nurminen, David Pinto, Robert Podvey, Redicare, The Shoprite of Newark, Tarpey Group, Titanium, UFCW, and Weiss Realty.
Ramsey Subaru Donates Over $850,000 to the REED Foundation for Autism Since 2016
Ramsey Subaru continues to demonstrate its commitment to the autism community by presenting the REED Foundation for Autism with a $100,000 check as a beneficiary of the Subaru Share the Love program. Since 2016 Ramsey Subaru’s total giving to REED now reaches an impressive $857,000.
Chantelle Walker, CEO, REED, stated, “We are immensely grateful for Ramsey Subaru’s ongoing support. Their contributions have been instrumental in fueling our organization’s growth and empowering us to launch innovative programs such as the REED Next Adult Day and Residential Programs, as well as our hydroponic vertical farm, Greens Do Good. These initiatives are creating lasting change and making a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals with autism throughout their lifetime.”
Beth Picciano, Principal, Ramsey Subaru, explained “It is thanks to our amazing customers and staff that we can continue to raise funds for the REED Foundation for Autism. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has contributed to making this donation possible. We firmly believe that with the support of the community and REED’s mission, we can continue to help change the lives of individuals with autism in our community.”
“Subaru places great importance on community, and we are thrilled to support the work of the REED Foundation for Autism. It has been incredibly rewarding for our entire team to witness the impact of our partnership,” added Michele Rygiel, District Sales Manager at Subaru Distributors Corp.
From Thursday, November 17, 2022, to Tuesday, January 3, 2023, Subaru donated $250 to the charity of choice for every new Subaru vehicle purchased or leased at any of their 630 retailers. Since 2008, Subaru and its participating retailers have donated over $227 million, supporting more than 1,700 hometown charities through the Subaru Share the Love Event.
The REED Foundation for Autism is part of the REED Autism Services non-profit family of programs, which provides support for individuals with autism so they can thrive and achieve their full potential throughout their lives. Learn more at reedautismservices.org.
In a world where every child’s journey is unique, Jack DeSavino, age 20, stands out for his perseverance, kindness, and incredible heart. In honor of Mother’s Day, his mom Kathy, shares his story, hoping to spread awareness and inspire others through Jack’s experiences.
From the beginning, Kathy was very open about Jack’s autism diagnosis, which they received at age six. She believed that understanding and awareness were key to creating acceptance and opportunities for Jack. During his elementary and middle school years, she educated his classmates about autism, allowing them to see beyond the diagnosis. Every lesson ended with a simple question: “How can you be a friend to someone with autism?”
From those early days, Jack’s friends always stood by his side, whether in the classroom or playing sports. Jack participated in rec baseball and basketball, and although he couldn’t always run as fast or entirely understand directions, he enjoyed playing alongside his neurotypical peers.
As Jack grew older, his compassionate nature and desire to help others became evident. On his 10th birthday, instead of presents, Jack requested that his friends and family donate to Autism New Jersey. When he turned 12, he invited his whole grade to his birthday party and again asked for donations, this time to the Northstar Foundation, to help raise money to provide a service dog to a boy with autism. In high school, he and Kathy also raised funds to help establish a New Jersey office for the nonprofit, Best Buddies, which creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, leadership development, and more for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
It wasn’t easy when Jack’s tight-knit friends went off to college, but he found his place working at Greens Do Good, a hydroponic vertical farm in Hackensack, New Jersey. After interning at the farm and learning about sustainable agriculture, he was offered a paid position that came hand in hand with new friends and coworkers.
Despite his challenges with communication, Jack possesses a heart of gold and sees the best in everyone. He has enjoyed the benefits of a close and devoted family, including his mom and dad, three older sisters, two brothers-in-law, plus nieces and nephews, and two golden retrievers. Jack also had a strong bond to his grandparents, Poppy and Grandma. Despite their recent passing, their impact on Jack’s life is profound.
Kathy has hopes and dreams for her son’s future like any other parent. Her greatest wish is that he can provide for himself, have an independent job, contribute to the world, and most importantly, find happiness.
Registration is now open!
Don’t miss the 3rd Annual REED Foundation for Autism Golf Classic on July 24th at the Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, NJ! Funds raised from REED’s Golf Classic will help provide meaningful job training and employment opportunities to teens and adults with autism, and support REED’s programs and services.
This year, we are thrilled to honor Dara Sblendorio, President of Sunrise ShopRite, with a Community Impact Award for her ongoing support of Greens Do Good, our hydroponic vertical farm in Hackensack. NJ. Dara opened her doors to us over three years ago and has been unwavering in her support ever since.
Get your golf clubs ready, and join us in making a difference in the lives of individuals with autism. Click here to register or find out more about sponsorship opportunities. Your support is greatly appreciated.
This story was originally posted on Vertical Farm Daily.
Neurodiversity in vertical farming: bringing an overlooked workforce to the forefront
“We want to demonstrate the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace, and now have 60 participants learning the process of agriculture. Our participants end up with excellent work experience setting them up for future employment,” says Jen Faust, Operations Director at Greens Do Good.
Lisa Goldstein and Jen Faust
The New Jersey-based vertical farm is part of the REED Autism Services family of programs that provides support to individuals with autism, according to their website. Through its Workforce Development program, the farm provides 800+ hours of work-based learning to teens with autism per year and offers paid employment opportunities to adults. The farm sells basil, micro greens, and lettuce direct to consumers, local restaurants, markets, and food service providers.
Four container farms have been added to the portfolio
Given the demand for the program, Greens Do Good is expanding to four hydroponic container farms supplied by Amplified Ag, with production on one side and education materials on the other side. The educational farm pods contain NFT and flood & drain systems to produce 1.200 plants, a proprietary IoT control center, full-spectrum LED lighting, water filtration, precision fertigation, HVAC, and a non-slip floor coating. The system is food-safe and meets USDA approval for incidental food contact.
“We are not trying to automate everything but are improving efficiency with remote capability. Even with this automation, we still provide enough labor opportunities and jobs,” Jen explains.
“Food production is the industry of this century”
According to Jen, the public interest in Greens Do Good has been astounding and has led to various partnership opportunities. For example, this CEA is working with other farms to accommodate individuals on their waitlists and increase their capacity. Greens Do Good also partners with the Head Start program to provide food and nutritional education to kindergartens.
The organization will also be presenting its concept at a conference at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. If Greens Do Good’s concept is well received, the goal is to trademark their curriculum and bring vertical farming education for neurodiverse people even further.
“Food production is the industry of this century, and we want to be part of the solution and help others build vertical farms and grow healthy produce,” says Jen.
nspired by Her Brother, Tate Ban Is Raising Awareness for Greens Do Good
Growing up with an autistic brother has been a journey of learning and growth for high school student Tate Ban. As she’s gotten older, she has come to understand the challenges and barriers that exist for individuals like her brother Finn as they transition into adulthood.
Many young adults with intellectual disabilities “graduate to the couch,” as Tate puts it, and do not go on to college or establish careers.
Finn has been fortunate to work at Greens Do Good since 2021, where he’s thrived as an assistant coordinator taking on tasks like seeding, harvesting, and packaging.
As Tate explained, “Finn is extraordinarily proud of being a hydroponic farmer.”
This passion and purpose Tate saw in her brother inspired her to start the Greens Do Good Club at her Ridgewood, New Jersey, high school. Tate, along with a friend and a teacher sponsor, founded the club with approval from the school administration. With more than 30 members, the club has been actively involved in community events, including the Ridgewood Daffodil Festival, and has generated awareness about Greens Do Good and its mission.
Now a high school senior, Tate inspires others to support Greens Do Good by buying their produce and encouraging local restaurants and grocery stores to do the same. She hopes students from other high schools will start similar clubs and help create positive change in their communities.
“Having a brother with special needs has made me more aware of people’s unique qualities, and I think it has made me a better person,” said Tate. “I’ve learned from Finn that we all need to help each other.”
Learn more about Greens Do Good and our mission at greensdogood.com.
At Greens Do Good, We’re Preparing Students with Autism for the Workplace
Five days a week, Greens Do Good Workforce Development Coordinator Jessalin Jaume stands at the farm entrance, ready to greet students. These young people, ages 16 to 21, are transition students with autism who come from surrounding schools to receive job training at the indoor farm in Hackensack, New Jersey.
First up is a review of their individualized work plan. Accompanied by job coaches, the students start working on any number of skills, including inventory, seeding, measuring nutrient levels, harvesting, packaging, post-harvest cleanup, and more. In total, there are 84 different skills that students can learn at the farm. Each works at their own pace and ability rotating through tasks as they are mastered.
Greens Do Good Workforce Development Coordinator
“At the farm, there’s a job for everyone,” explained Jessalin.
High rates of unemployment among adults with autism are startling. In fact, nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job. Our services are designed to prepare these individuals for employment upon graduation from school. Greens Do Good is an approved provider of Work Based Learning Experiences, part of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) of the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (NJ DVRS).
The hydroponic, vertical farm is located in a 3,500-square-foot warehouse space using sustainable farming methods, including energy-efficient watering and lighting systems to nurture the crops, which are planted in space saving stacked trays. The farm grows 30 varieties of microgreens, plus basil, baby arugula, baby kale, butterhead lettuce, and spring mix. Produce is sold to regional grocers, small local markets, restaurants, country clubs, and direct to consumers.
Core to the program is a customized curriculum developed in collaboration with board-certified behavior analysts. Each skill is broken down into prerequisite skills, targeted goals, and overall skill mastery, and independence. The practical skills learned on the farm are just one benefit of the Workforce Development Program. Working alongside neurotypical peers, students receive additional opportunities for social interaction, learn how to communicate in the workplace, and practice self-advocacy and workplace readiness.
One of the highlights of the job for Jessalin is watching the students’ progress.
“They often come in reserved and timid, and over time, I watch them flourish, gain independence, and engage with the Greens Do Good team. Our greatest hope for these students is that this opportunity provides a pathway to a job,” she said.
With nearly 60 students coming through our doors each week, the Greens Do Good program currently has a long waiting list. “Given the high unemployment rates among adults with autism, it’s no surprise that demand for our program is so strong.
With future expansion plans in place, our goal is to open our doors to more students,” said Jen Faust, Director of Operations, Greens Do Good.
Students take on tasks like seeding and measuring nutrient levels.