Eat Well. Do Good.
A little over a year ago, Doug Sharp and his wife Julie put the best of their two worlds together to form a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that would help give young adults with autism fundamental job skills. Julie had experience working with autism and Doug knew business. Together, they formed Lettuce Work, a hydroponic greenhouse facilitated by a group of young adults with autism, who are there to learn transferrable work skills along the way.
Many of the trainees are vocational education students from a variety of neighboring high schools. Doug and Julie also partner with a county developmental disability group to employ adults with autism on their staff.
“We work with approximately a dozen trainees per week who fall on a wide range of the autism spectrum, from non-verbal to high functioning,” says Doug. “We give them a basic skill set that helps them make the school-to-work transition and prepares them to work in fields outside of agriculture.”
“Here, they learn to plant, grow, tend, harvest, clean, package and deliver our salad blend, but they also learn many completely transferrable socialization, time, focus, communication and behavioral skills. It is a joy to see them succeed, take pride in their work and move on, which many of them do.”
The product the trainees are growing is a pesticide-free, proprietary blend of eight gourmet lettuces that are nurtured hydroponically in approximately ¼-acre of greenhouses.
“Everything is done by hand,” continues Doug. “The harvesting, washing and packaging is all done the same day and then the blend is delivered to the stores the next. We all take great pride in the freshness and flavor of our greens.”
“It is a very rewarding way to work. In our first year, we have had students ‘graduate’ and get their own jobs. Watching these young people gain independence, self- sufficiency and confidence in their work is a tremendous pay-off. And the lettuce is really good, too!”
Eat Well. Do Good. Find local Lettuce Work salad blend in our refrigerated produce case in our Kingsdale store. For more information, visit lettucework.org.