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November 6, 2019

Seven Hills receives $110K to develop farm training for disabled workers

Photo | Courtesy Stearns Tavern

Worcester nonprofit Seven Hills Foundation has received a $109,903 grant to create a new job training program aimed at preparing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for a career track in sustainable farming.

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts awarded Seven Hills ASPiRE!, an affiliate of the Seven Hills Foundation, a 2019 Activation Fund grant, Seven Hills announced at the end of October. The grant will provide the seed funding for the The Sustainable Farming: Activating Health through Skill Building, Education, & Community Partnerships project.

The new program will be operated in partnership with the Regional Environmental Council, Town to Table (a local hydroponics consulting company) and the City of Worcester.

As part of the program, accessible raised garden beds and vertical hydroponic tower gardens will be used in six community-based day and employment support sites in Central Massachusetts, including a large-scale community garden at the new Seven Hills Café located at Coes Pond in Worcester. These gardens will provide part of the hands-on component of the program.

The Sustainable Farming program will focus on job readiness, garden planning and planting, food systems, and nutrition. It will prepare participants for a wide array of jobs including food service as well as agricultural businesses. The curriculum for the program is currently being developed.

The initial grant will run for one year, after that time the employment track will become a regular offering through Seven Hills and be supported through contracts with state funding agencies as well as private pay clients.

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