PLEASANT HILL, Iowa — You’ll find geraniums, lantanas, and lots of petunias inside a greenhouse off University Avenue in Pleasant Hill.
Thomas Kroska said, “These are petunias, these are all flowers.”
Kroska has been getting his hands dirty planting seeds at Balance Autism’s greenhouse in Pleasant Hill. Farm Manager Julie Beougher said, “Everything is seeded by hand by people with autism.”
Kroska and his colleagues are getting ready for Balance Autism’s Annual Plant Sale and the Community Supported Agriculture Program. They clock in for shifts from eight to noon.
Beougher said, “They are paid minimum wage, or at least minimum wage. That helps them take money back to their homes and spend it on food, clothing, or if they want to go to a special outing.”
The job teaches them to follow directions and work as a team. It serves as training for future work.
“They work with us and then once they build those skills where they can work in the community and be successful, then they go into our employment services program that will get them a job coach that will work with them in the community,” said Farm Hand and Autism Associate Joni Brown.
The program was previously called The Homestead. It opened in 1994 on land off University Avenue in Pleasant Hill. The organization has grown significantly in 25 years, offering services for adults and now children with autism.
“And, The Homestead no longer represented what we actually do. So, we have our new name is Balance Autism, and that really captures what we do at a much better level,” said Balance Autism Campus Home Youth Service Director Angela Book-Glynn.
Brown said it’s heartwarming to see how the people working on the farm grow in their skills from season to season. “Because we see the seeds grow into something big and strong, but to see these guys change into something big and strong and live their lives disability or not is completely worth it, every single day.”
The Balance Autism Annual Plant Sale is May 3rd and 4th and May 10th and 11th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Balance Autism Farm and Greenhouse at 8272 NE University Avenue in Pleasant Hill. You’ll find a variety of hanging baskets and assorted flower and vegetable transplants.