Hinckley farm to provide employment for individuals with disabilities

by Emily Canning-Dean

Tristan Griffin beamed as he showed off a photo of his daughter, Scout, interacting with a young llama. The 5-year-old girl in the picture was grinning from ear to ear.

Griffin explained that Scout, who has Smith Magenis syndrome, a developmental condition caused by a chromosome deletion, was his inspiration for founding Farming with Friends, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide employment opportunities on a Hinckley farm to people with disabilities.

“A few years ago, I brought Scout along to tend to my backyard flock of chickens and garden and she just came alive in that space,” Griffin said. “It provided her with such grounding and purpose and enthusiasm being in that environment.”

Griffin later learned that his friends, Brian and Alyssa Moore, had purchased an 87-acre farm at 1438 Center Road.

“We shared our vision with them and the rest is history,” he said. “They bought this farm wanting to use it for their family, but to also do something good with it. Back this spring we decided to make it a reality. They are both board members for Farming with Friends and will be heavily involved.”

The farm already boasts a wildflower garden and a pumpkin patch. There is also a 400-tree orchard on the property that will produce apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and tangerines.

“The orchard will likely take two to five years to be fully developed,” Griffin said. “We will also have a produce garden and a berry patch. In the back fields we will have chickens, turkeys, cattle and horses.”

Griffin said the current barn on the property will be demolished in the spring and replaced with a new barn that includes a storefront where employees will sell a variety of items including produce, meat, eggs, flowers, honey and pumpkins.

“I’m envisioning four different lanes of employment which includes garden and orchard management, livestock management, facilities and equipment management and the store piece,” he said. “At first we will look to hire higher functioning folks with disabilities who can span all four of those lanes, but once we become more developed, we will be able to hire people with more profound disabilities.”

Griffin said he plans to start hiring staff by late winter or early spring.

“We will start off with one farm hand who has a disability and an administrative assistant who is typically abled,” he said. “I think once we are fully developed, we will be able to employ 10 to 15 people.”

Griffin said Farming with Friends has already been in contact with the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Hudson Community Living to identify future employees.

“We always appreciate when organizations in our community step up and provide opportunities to individuals with disabilities,” said Patti Hetkey, public relations and communications coordinator for the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “This farm will add even more opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Griffin said he is excited to get started because there is something special about working the land as well as working with people who have disabilities.

“The world moves at this fast pace and we worry about all sorts of things and forget to slow down to provide opportunities for others,” he said. “But as we become more intentional and really engage in that space, we find that people with disabilities bring much more to the table than we could have imagined. They often end up teaching us how to live life and how to interact with others. I think in every human there is this innate desire to be productive and we want this farm to provide people with that opportunity.”

Griffin said the new barn should be constructed by May, however, there will be eggs for sale by February.

“We already have 62 chickens that will be laying eggs in late January,” he said. “Then we will have chicken for sale followed by beef and in the fall we will have pumpkins.”

Griffin said the meat, eggs and produce will be what he calls “organic plus.”

“This is what is called regenerative farming where we don’t use herbicides, pesticides or antibiotics,” he said.

As the farm continues to develop, Griffin said community engagement will be a very important component.

“The organization is called Farming with Friends for multiple reasons,” he said. “We want the community to feel comfortable visiting the farm whether it is to shop or just to get a tour of the farm. We plan to have events in the fall like hayrides and facepainting.” ∞

Tristan Griffin is the founder and executive director of Farming
with Friends, a nonprofit organization that plans to hire folks
with disabilities early next year. Photos by Emily Canning-Dean.

The farm boasts a 400-tree orchard which should be fully
developed in two to five years.

On our cover (photo): Tristan Griffin visits with some of the 62 chickens on the new Farming with Friends farm in Hinckley, which has been designed to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The chickens were expected to start laying eggs in January with the first dozens expected to be sold in February. Photo by Emily Canning-Dean.