In 2008 a dedicated group of parents and professionals came together to fulfill a dream. This group is working to make this dream a reality for many families in Portage County and the surrounding area that need this service.
After 18 months of planning and fundraising, the Hiram Farm program opened in June of 2009 on a 120-acre organic farm under lease from the Couch Farm Trustees. Six adult workers with autism were served by the program at that time. In the first year, a one-acre organic garden was planted, twelve small garden plots were made available to gardeners living in the Hiram community, the livestock program began and a small greenhouse was constructed.
2010 saw the program grow to serving 16 workers, a second, larger, greenhouse was built and construction began on our barn. The livestock program grew to include chickens and pigs in addition to the sheep and goats that were raised the previous year.
By our second anniversary, June of 2011, the program expanded to include 22 adults with autism. Construction work on the barn is nearly complete and the organization was fortunate to be able to purchase a house adjacent to the Farm property which will serve as office and program space. Meanwhile, our community garden project has more than doubled in size and the Hiram Farm participants and staff have developed a number of craft projects and grown seedling plants to sell to the public.
2012 brought many changes to the farm. The new Barn was completed, the Farmhouse received it’s occupancy and we increased our farm animals by adding 2 therapy cows along with our pigs, chickens, sheep and goats. The farmhouse houses our art therapy program, our weaving program and we recently added a ceramics program. This space also houses the administrative offices and the gallery where the participant’s crafts are sold.
By our fourth anniversary, June 2013, we moved our old hoop house and had it rebuilt, purchased a new greenhouse to have a year round growing program to sell our produce to local restaurants and are in the process of adding a new pavilion for permanent shade. We have expanded our program to 27 participants with 12 full time and 8 part-time staff members.
This period of rapid growth has been challenging and rewarding. Our hope is that the Hiram Farm Living and Learning Community will be able to provide the employment opportunities and therapeutic activities that people with autism so desperately need for many years to come.