Roses for autism

The purpose of this post is to tell an interesting story, about a fascinating place, at which something truly wonderful has happened. The story is about the mutually beneficial relationship which has developed between an agribusiness, struggling to survive in an ever-more-competitive global marketplace, and a very special segment of society which is struggling to find its voice.

The place: Gilford, Connecticut

The agribusiness: Pinchbeck’s Farm

The segment of society: Individuals on the autism spectrum

The symbiosis: Roses for Autism

This story begins in 1929 when the grandfather and great-grandfather of Tom Pinchbeck got into the business of growing roses. To that end they built two colossal greenhouses (I saw them – they’re huge … 1200 X 81 feet … each with a footprint of more than 97,000 square feet) to house nearly 100,000 bushes each. The business thrived until 2008 when competition from both home and abroad nearly forced the Pinchbeck Farm to close its doors. At about that time one of  Pinchbeck’s friends, Tim Lyman, approached him with an idea. Lyman’s son was on the autism spectrum and Tim was concerned about his son’s employment prospects as he made the transition between programs of state support and his future as a working, contributing, member of society. Lyman’s vision was to bring together Pinchbeck’s Farm and the group Ability beyond Disability whose vision involves  … creating opportunities, services and supports that enable people with a wide range of disabilities to succeed in all aspects of community living. Roses for Autism is the result of this collaboration – it provides vocational therapy and training for people on the autism spectrum. The nonprofit business sells more than one million roses each year on the commercial market.

In closing let me reflect upon a t-shirt one of my daughters had when she was small. It showed a large school of fish swimming to the right and one very colorful fish swimming to the left. The lettering on the shirt said, It’s OK to be different. We may espouse that sentiment on our shirts and even express the feeling in polite conversation – but, you know, I don’t believe that many of us truly live the belief that it is OK to be different. It pleases me to know that there are some who appreciate those that swim the other way. I applaud Tom Pinchbeck and Tim Lyman, and all of the folks at Roses for Autism, for putting words into important, meaningful, and lasting action.

[Click the link to migrate to a recent CNN story about Roses for Autism.]

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