CARE FARMING NETWORK BLOG
Orkestai Farm was founded at Planting Fields in 2014 by Alethea Vasilas, Joshua Marcus, and Erin Staub. We are a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to promote the creative participation in society of people with differing abilities (neuro-divergent individuals whose lives have been affected by Autism, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities) through practicing ecological agriculture and expressive arts. Since our inception, we have created opportunities for our neurodivergent community members to be impactful within our local food system and community. We have strived to address the issue of ‘aging out' of the school system, which often leads to lack of support services, isolation, and fear for the future given the challenges of living with a (dis)ability.
Farm Philosophy and Practices
Orkestai Farm believes that human beings can have a regenerative relationship in reciprocity with our shared Earth when our ways of being take into account the interconnectedness of ALL things. This conception of interconnectedness leads also to the striving for an inclusive community and culture. At the farm we intend to create a sanctuary where an inclusive and embracing community can come together to slow down, unplug from the latest technology, delve into embodied and experiential learning and exploration, be buoyed by a sense of belonging, develop an awareness of our interconnectedness, renew the spirit, honor our ancestors, celebrate over good food, share our harvest, and cultivate diversity (biodiversity, neurodiversity, cultural diversity, etc.)
What’s in a name? OR - KESS - TIE
Our name derives from the ancient Greek word "orkheisthai", meaning "to dance or to set in motion, to stir up, to raise", and refers to the space of the ancient theater where choruses of dancers moved together to interpret the non-verbal aspects of the play being performed. It beautifully describes how we envision a farm; as a community collaboration that needs an orchestra of farmers who work together to grow healthy food and merry people.
Little Otter Flower Farm was started by and for Max, a young adult with Autism, to grow flowers, people and community. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate among people with Autism is around 85%. We use growing and selling flowers as opportunities to work with people with Autism to develop job skills and integrate into the community. We also provide opportunities for the community to learn about and interact with people with Autism.
We sell cut flowers in bunches and arrangements at our local farmers market, weekly subscriptions, and special orders such as DIY weddings and small events. One of our favorite activities is delivering Random Acts of Kindness arrangements throughout Bedford County. We practice no-till regenerative agriculture using cardboard and brewing our own indigenous microorganisms and weed juice. These are short-term labor-intensive activities with long-term benefits to our soil. We have a passive-solar seed-starting greenhouse and currently grow on about an acre. We plan to grow to about two acres with half perennials and flowering shrubs and half annuals.
In 2022, the Bedford Chamber of Commerce awarded the Little Otter Flower Farm Agri-business of the year!
The Care Farming Network celebrated our "virtual launch" on October 6th! We shared our history of how we began, heard from four Care Farms throughout the country, and hosted an open forum to hear from members about how we can offer support to farmers and grow a robust national network. Special thanks to Desert Survivors, Old School Farms, Urban Autism Solutions, and Little Otter Flower Farm for sharing your knowledge with members!
Our next member gathering will occur on November 3rd at 3 pm (ET.) Find out more here, and we look forward to seeing you!