I used to dread all of the “The Best of the Year Lists” but now I look forward to them – perhaps because they are so concise.

I thought that I would pass along my personal “Best of 2012 in Autism.” list. These are the 6 ideas, people, initiatives and organizations that inspired me this year.  Please note that they are posted one at a time and this is the third in the series.

#3 Sage Crossing Foundation

SAGE is dedicated to providing a replicable model of sustainable farmsteads for adults with autism.  The concept is that there should be small farms and orchards throughout the state to serve the growing population of adults with autism and other cognitive disabilities.  As with every segment of the population, there are those who prefer the city and those who prefer the country.

The country offers fresh air, contact with animals, exercise, and the opportunity to be productive.  The SAGE website captures the spirit of their mission:  “By making ours a green-model farmstead, with energy-saving structures, organic farming, and an environmentally friendly lifestyle that includes recycling, we will be setting an example for the community….SAGE is conceived not as an island that isolates the disabled from the community, but as a bridge to the community; a place where people can purchase fresh produce, crafts and foods made at the farm, share recreational facilities, and attend fairs and other events.”  The ideal is meaningful work co-located with residential facilities.

Founded in 2007 by families who have kept their autistic children at home, they are all too aware that there aren’t nearly enough good options for adults in Massachusetts.

SAGE programs to date have operated out of Drumlin Farm and Elm Hill.  Their chicken coop project at Elm Hill was particularly successful.  The video tells the story!

http://www.sagecrossingfoundation.org/videos.shtml

Their vision for the near-term is to occupy leased (or owned) properties in order to run full-time day programs. This is the next step towards creating a residential program.  Bittersweet Farms in Ohio is a well-established program that serves as a training ground for other non-profit foundations who would like to start their own farmsteads and is a terrific resource for SAGE.  They are also part of the organization, Agricultural Communities for Adults with Autism.

I was able to spend some time recently with Board Members Chuck Yanikoski and Carol Fernandez and I was pleased to spend time speaking with Linda Davis on the phone.  The genesis of SAGE originally came from an understanding that their children and many other children with autism, will need safe and productive places in the world in order to function to their highest potential and enjoy rich adulthoods.

These folks guiding SAGE and running their current programs are dedicated, energetic and forward-thinking in their work.

I am inspired!

Nancy Harrod

Links:

http://www.sagecrossingfoundation.org/index.shtml

http://ac-aa.org/