Brookwood Community and We Grow Dreams Enrich Lives Of Employees

Brookwood Community and We Grow Dreams Enrich Lives Of Employees

 

Most garden centers have goals such as increased profit, retailing quality plants and even enhancing the lives of customers by providing beautiful plants.

The Brookwood Community in Brookshire, Texas, and We Grow Dreams in West Chicago, Ill., are two garden centers with those same goals, but they share an additional goal that differentiates them from the average garden center. They strive, above all, to enhance the quality of life of disabled adults by providing meaningful job opportunities.

The Brookwood Community and We Grow Dreams share many commonalities. They were both founded by parents of disabled individuals who were faced with few opportunities for a work life after they passed school age. They are both not-for-profit organizations, raising operational funds largely from plant sales and donations and neither accepts government subsidies.

The Brookwood Community

Founded in 1985, the 475-acre Brookwood Community is a God-centered educational, residential and entrepreneurial community for adults with functional disabilities located just west of Houston. The community includes 110 full-time residents and 60 adults who participate in a day program.

One foundational aspect of Brookwood is to build self-esteem and self-worth through job training. The community supports several entrepreneurial enterprises including a café, candlemaking, garden statuary, food products and horticulture, among others. The horticulture enterprise is the largest, generating $1.5 million in revenue.

Joel Kempfer, horticulture manager, oversees production. Kempfer has a horticulture degree from Texas Tech and previously managed a retail garden center. Brookwood currently has 47 greenhouses on 5 acres, but is in the process of gathering quotes for six new Quonset houses to increase production of annual flats for landscapers.

Citizens are involved in numerous greenhouse tasks like planting, vegetative propagation, moving and spacing plants, cutting back overgrown plants, attaching barcodes and inserting water tubes, just to name a few examples.

“In horticulture, there is something for everyone to do,” Kempfer says. “If adults are in a wheelchair, they can work at a propagation bench, or if they are low functioning, they might attach bar codes.” A staff of 15 full-time growers and assistants are employed to “finish” the plants, handling day-to-day maintenance such as irrigation and pest control.

Their largest crop is poinsettias, with 42,500 planted this year. Ninety percent will be sold to Houston area churches, businesses and school fund-raising groups. The remaining 10 percent will be sold in the three Brookwood retail stores.

The horticulture “shop” tries to grow and sell everything customers would find in any other garden center. They do outsource some bread and butter shrubs to local growers to offer the full complement of landscape options. While citizens don’t work in the garden center, Kempfer hopes customers realize their dollars are not only getting them the highest quality plants but the revenues are supporting Brookwood’s mission.

There are two special education teachers in each shop. In the horticulture department, the teachers have developed templates and tools that help the citizens meet the production goals. For example, they might use a template with a ruler at each propagation station to illustrate the correct cutting size, or use a tool to create a hole that is the proper planting depth.

“Here, there is no thought of ‘oh, that poor dear.’ These citizens are friends and co-workers; they become a second family,” he says, adding the environment provides an improved quality of life. “Our residents are far-exceeding the life expectancies associated with their disabilities.”

We Grow Dreams, Inc.

Donna Jarmusz is president and chairman of the board for We Grow Dreams, Inc. She is also a parent of a disabled adult and one of three founding families that turned their dream into a reality. The founders considered several industries that might provide job opportunities for disabled adults who were too often left with few opportunities that accommodated their special needs, including the fact that it is difficult for many to work 40 or even 20 hours a week.

They settled on horticulture because it was labor intensive and was still relatively low-tech. In December 2004, We Grow Dreams became a non-profit and purchased a greenhouse facility in their community. In April 2005, they opened the greenhouse and plunged into their first season.

Though the cofounders were avid gardeners, they had no professional horticultural training. They do employ a small, full-time staff year-round, but they largely rely on volunteers. By coincidence, We Grow Dreams shares the same ZIP code as Ball Horticulture. Jarmusz says: “Ball has been very supportive, providing technical expertise as we were getting started, donating used plant benches they no longer needed and running in the first We Grow Dreams 5K.”

There are currently 50 team members who work a minimum of 10 hours per month and are paid minimum wage ($8/hour in Illinois) during their job training. Two individuals have transitioned to become regular employees of We Grow Dreams, while others have gone on to work for landscapers or greenhouses in the area.

The We Grow Dreams facility is 5 acres with 23 greenhouses. The peak season is mid-May through late July when they sell annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs. They create mixed containers and specialty hanging baskets to differentiate themselves from the big box stores.

“Ninety-nine percent of what is sold on-site is grown on-site,” Jarmusz says. While they’d like to expand the retail operation, they sell wholesale to other retailers, landscapers and fund-raising groups.

A key part of their mission is to find a place for any disability–mental, physical or both. Family members of team members are also required to volunteer 10 hours each month at the garden center.

Jarmusz adds: “I could tell you countless stories of team members whose social skills have blossomed as they’ve learned interaction and recognized they are a part of this process of growing a plant they can see from start to finish.”

These communities are just two examples of horticulture making a difference in the lives of individuals. And both are exceeding their goals.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Brookwood Community and We Grow Dreams Enrich Lives Of Employees

  1. would you please tell me the price range of the lunch menu and do you take reservations at the Brook shire location

More From State of the Industry...
Bees on flowers

October 11, 2016

Bees Endangered? Here’s The Rest Of The Story

Recently, mainstream media reported that certain bee species have been placed on the endangered species list, but the situation isn’t as dire as one might think.

Read More
cuttings-facility

September 27, 2016

How Global Suppliers Of Unrooted Cuttings Are Working To Improve The Pipeline

The world’s top vegetative producers discuss how they continue to evolve to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities to help growers and the varieties supply chain.

Read More
OSU ATI Greenhouse

September 21, 2016

Your Support Is Essential For Current And Future Students

September is back to school time, and that means renewed opportunity to support the young people who are electing to pursue careers in horticulture. I continue to hear from growers of all sizes, from all over the country, that there just are not enough qualified graduates of two- or four-year horticulture programs. We also need to be active in promoting careers in horticulture to those who are not aware of the opportunities available. There have been some great success stories in this area recently. At University of Florida (UF) last fall, Anna Ball and Dr. Marvin Miller of Ball Horticultural Co. joined UF’s Dr. David Clark in an introductory environmental horticulture couse that’s open to any major. After the class, the line of students waiting to talk with Ball, Miller, and Clark was out the door. It is so important, Ball says, for each of us, individually and collectively to […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Bees on flowers

October 11, 2016

Bees Endangered? Here’s The Rest Of The Story

Recently, mainstream media reported that certain bee species have been placed on the endangered species list, but the situation isn’t as dire as one might think.

Read More
cuttings-facility

September 27, 2016

How Global Suppliers Of Unrooted Cuttings Are Working T…

The world’s top vegetative producers discuss how they continue to evolve to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities to help growers and the varieties supply chain.

Read More
OSU ATI Greenhouse

September 21, 2016

Your Support Is Essential For Current And Future Studen…

September is back to school time, and that means renewed opportunity to support the young people who are electing to pursue careers in horticulture. I continue to hear from growers of all sizes, from all over the country, that there just are not enough qualified graduates of two- or four-year horticulture programs. We also need to be active in promoting careers in horticulture to those who are not aware of the opportunities available. There have been some great success stories in this area recently. At University of Florida (UF) last fall, Anna Ball and Dr. Marvin Miller of Ball Horticultural Co. joined UF’s Dr. David Clark in an introductory environmental horticulture couse that’s open to any major. After the class, the line of students waiting to talk with Ball, Miller, and Clark was out the door. It is so important, Ball says, for each of us, individually and collectively to […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More

August 13, 2016

Plants Sales Are Up For Fourth Straight Year, According…

Growers declared spring 2016 to be a success in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry: Spring Crops Recap Survey.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More
State of the industry 2016

February 23, 2016

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry…

A year of growth in 2015 also had its share of challenges, and as a result, growers and suppliers were a bit more guarded going into 2016. After a few years of extreme weather and drought, a massive ongoing labor shortage, a shaky economy, and increased government regulation, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows growers and retailers are moving forward with cautious optimism. Despite their many concerns, growers are ready to tackle another spring season in 2016, and many have reported that investments they have made within the past year are helping to drive their operations into the future. Further, rising consumer confidence indicates good things for 2016, growers said. Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons of 2015 sales to past years, details on how 2016 production volume and prices will compare to 2015, crops that […]

Read More

February 18, 2016

Poinsettia Survey Shows Strong Sales For Greenhouse Gro…

The year 2015 might have been one that many were glad to see in the rear view mirror, but for poinsettia growers, it was a good sales year — perhaps the strongest in quite a while. Compared to 2014, which was also widely deemed a success among growers for its seasonal cold at just the right time, good weather for shipping, and a good holiday spirit, the 2015 season was solid for a number of reasons. The weather, a rebounding economy, and increased demand all contributed to what growers said was a “very strong” sales season. “It was a strong year beginning to end due to great weather and quality product as the market demanded,” said Dan Chaney of Ivy Acres, in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Poinsettia Survey.     “Sales were strong. Demand was better than the previous two years,” said Larry Windham of Windham Greenhouses Inc. “Very good. The […]

Read More
Pot Mum Combos (Syngenta Flowers)

February 8, 2016

Syngenta Has A New Buyer, Will Not Divest Flower Seeds …

Syngenta has announced that it will likely approve an offer from ChemChina to acquire the company, which means it no longer plans to divest its flower seed business.

Read More
State of the industry 2016

January 21, 2016

Green Industry Is Set For Continued Growth In 2016

Economist Charlie Hall says the outlook for the green industry is promising despite the havoc wreaked on plant sales by the downturn in housing.

Read More
How will growers' production in 2016 compare to 2015

January 18, 2016

2016 State Of The Greenhouse Industry Numbers At A Glan…

Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here’s a look at the greenhouse market for 2016, in graphics.     For a more in-depth analysis of where the industry stands, read Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry article, “Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimism In 2016.”

Read More
Top Concerns sidebar

January 18, 2016

Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimi…

A year of growth in 2015 also had its share of challenges, and as a result, growers and suppliers are a bit more guarded going into 2016. After a few years of extreme weather and drought, a massive ongoing labor shortage, a shaky economy, and increased government regulation, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows growers and retailers are moving forward with cautious optimism. Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey included separate questions for growers and for suppliers. Of our 358 respondents, 103 were suppliers, 111 were grower-retailers, 109 were wholesale growers, and 35 were young plant growers. Among growers, 57% indicated their operations were small (less than 100,000 square feet), 21% were medium-sized (100,000 to 399,999 square feet), and 22% said they were large growers (400,000 square feet or larger). Sixty-eight percent of the grower respondents said their sales grew in 2015 over 2014, down […]

Read More
State of the industry 2016

January 14, 2016

Craig Regelbrugge Says 2016 Will Be A Year Of Waiting F…

The 2016 presidential election will make for slow progress on critical regulatory issues like health care, pollinator health, and immigration reform.

Read More

December 29, 2015

The Home Depot Says No To Neonics

The Home Depot plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2018, according to a recent statement on the company’s website. The large home improvement retailer stated that its live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, and now more than 80% of all flowering plants sold at The Home Depot are not treated with neonicotinoids. The retailer said it will continue this decrease unless: Treatment is required by state or federal regulation, or Undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on live goods does not have a lethal or sub-lethal effect on pollinators Aside from these exceptions, the retailer has implemented a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on live goods by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, The Home Depot has required all of its live goods suppliers to label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. “The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the […]

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

December 9, 2015

Pollinator Gardens Are On The Rise, Provide Opportuniti…

Thanks to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, enacted in June 2015 by the National Pollinator Garden Network, scores of new pollinator gardens to be planted over the next year and beyond will provide growers with ample opportunities to produce, promote and sell plants that are ideal for pollinator forage and health. And with research underway within the industry, we’ll soon have more knowledge about which plants are the most beneficial and attractive to pollinators. At Bayer’s Bee Care Center, the level of consumer engagement and interest in planting pollinator gardens is very high, Bayer’s Sarah Myers says. Bayer now has 73 local and industry partners and counting in its “Feed A Bee Campaign,” launched in March. Educating consumers about what they can plant to attract bees, and the impact they can have with even the smallest amount of space, is highly important, Myers says. It’s worth explaining to them that […]

Read More
foodscaping at epcot - Foodscaping Goes Big At Disney

December 9, 2015

Foodscaping Challenges Conventional Ideas About Landsca…

Conventional ideas about what a landscape should look like are being challenged left and right, from young homeowners like Sarah Baker of Baker’s Acres, who are standing up for their right not to mow their lawns, to Brie Arthur’s passion to start a movement to incorporate food with flowers throughout suburban and urban landscapes nationwide. As younger generations step up as consumers and industry leaders, these changes are likely to continue, and the horticulture industry, which has the most to gain, would be remiss not to embrace and influence them. Well known for her personal foodscape, which she has promoted across social media, and her annual tomato-tasting fundraising event benefiting the nearby J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C., Brie Arthur has also been working with schools and her local Homeowner Association (HOA) to challenge the traditional idea of the landscape to one that incorporates the growing of food with mainstream, […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]