AACORN stands for Adult Agricultural Community Options for Residential Needs. Currently AACORN provides a farm-based skill-building program for adults with intellectual and developmental differences.
“The mission of AACORN is to provide life enrichment opportunities and residential options for adults with developmental differences in a supportive, inclusive community.”
In 2011, parents of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) formed AACORN Farm, Inc, now known as AACORN. The group dreamed of appropriate housing, meaningful work and therapeutic activities for adults with ASD in Southwest Michigan. AACORN stands for Adult Agricultural Community Options for Residential Needs, and a residential option is planned. Driven by the need to serve adults no longer in the school system, a program was the first focus.
AACORN incorporated in 2011, and was awarded 501(c)3 tax-exempt status in 2013. In the summer of 2013, the program opened at Tillers International in Scotts, Michigan. It began with five young adults learning animal care, gardening, making arts and crafts, and participating in outdoor activities that emphasized fitness, teamwork, and positive responses to others. Dr. Liz Farner, who offered a rural experience for city children for several years, began working with an adult son of one of the founders. This connection drew her to AACORN, and she became the program director.
Needing more indoor space, AACORN moved to leased property in 2014. The program expanded to four days per week and grew to serve 15-20 adults and is open to adults with any developmental disability. Also, classes from the KRESA young adult program began participating. Culinary activities, sewing, and making goat milk soap and other goat milk products were added to the curriculum. Participants began to connect to the community, by making regular deliveries of fresh eggs and hand-tied fleece blankets to Kalamazoo’s YWCA. Over the years, AACORN has added additional full and part time staff, college interns and volunteers.
In the summer of 2018, AACORN purchased a 40-acre farm from Tillers International and moved to the new property around Christmas, 2018. We have been enjoying our new Activities building which allows flexibility in program during the less-than-ideal weather months.