Bittersweet Farms: A small farm with big heart for the autistic

Faces of Bittersweet Farms

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Beth. The first Bittersweet Farms resident. For the final project of the fall 2016 Visual Storytelling course at Owens Community College, we traveled to Bittersweet Farms in Whitehouse, Ohio. The students worked together to create a multimedia story on the adults and adolescents with autism who live and work there. All students were required to shoot at least one portrait photograph each, and then given different tasks: create a podcast, a video, portraits, and a photo slideshow on the farm. (Photo by Bailey Bullock)

By Kyle Benner 

Ever since its creation in the late 1970s, Bittersweet Farms has been a safe haven for autistic people where they can live and perform different tasks and activities.

Jamie, a worker at Bittersweet Farms since 2007, said, “The staff that work here understands our disability and are able to help us.”

The farm includes an art studio, a kitchen, greenhouses, and an animal barn, where residents can work on tasks. Bittersweet Farms also hosts recreational community events that give residents and workers a chance to communicate and work on social skills. However, the residents and workers aren’t the only ones who benefit from this facility. Shannon Solt, Development and Marketing coordinator at Bittersweet Farms, described Bittersweet Farms as “a very unique and magical place to work, and everybody who’s here wants to be here and loves what they do.”

One resident who lives up to this statement is Beth. Beth was the first resident to move into Bittersweet Farms in 1983. Beth’s parents helped found the organization. As Beth spoke, she was crafting a handmade placemat, and she explained that Bittersweet Farms has its own online Etsy shop, and they complete various orders every day.

interactionBeth seemed very proud of her work, including some of her glass art. Along with working in the art room around two mornings a week, Beth participates in other activities, as well. Some of her other duties include taking temperatures in the green room, groundskeeping, and gardening.

Though she enjoys performing these duties, her favorite activity is mowing the lawn. Beth raved about the new zero-turn mower, and her face lit up as she explained how the process calms her, and how she believes that it helps autistic people use the dual function of their brains. Beth said she cannot wait until the weather warms up again so she has another opportunity to use the mower.

While Beth was very vocal with the class, some residents and workers had much more trouble connecting to people and socializing. Though some did not speak as much, everyone the class spoke with had one common aspect they enjoyed; the people. From staff, to workers, to residents, the community is undoubtedly the driving force for its success, and the success of the autistic people who participate. For this reason, Bittersweet Farms plays a vital part in helping autistic people develop social skills and putting them with other autistic people who share in the disability.

Because of Bittersweet Farms’ creation in the late 1970’s, autistic people like Beth and countless others now have a community where they can express themselves, work toward goals, and make friends that help them all develop social skills.

This little farm is making a big difference for those who may not otherwise have a voice.

Podcast: Bittersweet Farms podcast via audioBoom by Kyle Benner

Video: Bittersweet Farms: A small farm with big heart for the autistic via YouTube by Anastasia Baker

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Faces of Visual Storytelling students

Faces of Visual Storytelling students:

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