John Dillencourt can claim something not many people can: He’s working his dream job.
“I’ve kind of always wanted to do gardening work all my life, and this is the first time I’ve been able to,” he states. “I like growing and working outdoors, doing gardening work.”
At a previous job, John had requested to work in a nursery department, but was denied.
Through Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children, Inc. (CSAAC), John was connected to Red Wiggler, and has been there since 2012. More than anything, John loves that the job (which he works Mondays and Fridays) lets him work outdoors. He also enjoys the social outings the Growers attend, including visiting the Damascus Community Fair and berry-picking at Butler’s Orchard.
Though very humble about his abilities, John enjoys every aspect of gardening, from planting and harvesting to preparing the produce for CSA customers. This year, his goal is learning how to wash, spin, bag, and weigh vegetables at the wash station.
John’s enjoyment is palpable; he smiles and laughs often when describing the work he does. Some of his favorite items to plant are tomatoes and squash, and very recently, John learned how to bunch flowers for CSA pick-ups.
Andrea Barnhart, Red Wiggler’s farm manager, affirms that “John is easy-going. He has a very good personality and is willing to work on anything that we ask him to do.”
In addition to their salary, Growers receive a weekly vegetable share on par with what CSA members receive. John is grateful for this benefit, and enjoys making salads at home using fresh lettuce from the farm.
“I take them in my lunch, and sometimes end up bringing them back here to eat,” he admits with a chuckle.
One of the principles behind Red Wiggler’s CSA is the need for people with developmental disabilities to eat better. Through working at Red Wiggler, Growers learn to cook with the food they grow, and pass on what they learn to customers who may know very little about cooking with fresh produce, or are being introduced to new vegetables.
Overall, John considers the steady work a good experience, and explains that “planting is something that you take pride in, something that you helped grow.”