New Rockford business provides fresh-farm produce, jobs for those with cognitive differences

 New Rockford business provides fresh-farm produce, jobs for those with cognitive differences

ROCKFORD, MI-A new Kent County business, New Growth Project, is offering nutritious vegetables for community and jobs to individuals with mental disabilities.

On a bright May 7, about 200 people showed up at the grand opening of the farm, located at 8605 Peterson Street in Rockford, and enjoyed live music, plant sales and yard games.

The farm’s mission is to deliver fresh farm produce, specialty grains and spices to the public while providing employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities that may be difficult to find and maintain. at work, according to a news release.

Christine O’Driscoll, director of community engagement for the New Growth Project, said 81% of individuals with developmental disabilities are unemployed.

“Separated from the community in this way, these individuals are isolated leaving them alone, anxious, and sad,” O’Driscoll said. “The New Growth Project provides inclusive job opportunities and fresh farm, chemical-free vegetables for our community. That way, individuals with mental disabilities can develop work skills, grow in confidence and experience being a part of the community.

Since last fall, the New Growth Project has broken down barriers and created a more inclusive workforce in its hiring methods, according to a news release.

“Often, getting and keeping jobs can be a challenge for this population.” Carly VanDinen, Director of Programming, said. “Everyone wants and needs to be part of something that uses their skills and develops new ones. We provide opportunities for success through our peer-mentor program, and this program helps our employees to develop workplace skills.

The farm is working on growing a variety of delicious vegetables while utilizing the individual neurodiverse and plans to create many events in the future.

“Every parent’s dream is to see their child succeed in adulthood,” O’Driscoll said. “Some adults just need a little support to experience success at work. We are honored to provide that working environment and hope to share this model with other local businesses.

To learn more about the mission of the New Growth Project and find opportunities to get involved, visit

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