Credit: Amanda Andrews / GPB News
Gwinnett County farm offers independence for farmers with disabilities
In Gwinnett County, Peachtree Farms is providing job opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to work with produce and animals.
Joe Twiner started the farm in spring 2021 to create jobs that are accessible and engaging for people of all abilities, including people like his sister Qwen. After she graduated from the Warren Technical School agriculture program in Chamblee, Ga., in neighboring DeKalb County, Joe said they were looking for options.
“You know, independence is something that we all want,” he said. “And to be independent, you really need to be able to move where you want to move, live where you want to live, and do what you want to do with your life.”
Right now, he has four employees on the farm and 32 students in vocational training from nearby Norcross High School.
The farm has a greenhouse and 16 garden beds where they grow tomatoes, squash beans, peppers, and, of course, peaches to sell at nearby farmers markets. Farmers also tend to several chickens to produce eggs and a group of beehives for honey and beeswax.
Twiner said he wanted to create jobs that would be engaging and accessible for disabled people.
“Agriculture is a job that can be made accessible very easily with a variety of tools — and, also, the slower pace,” Twiner said.
The United States Department of Agriculture could help Peachtree Farms expand its sustainable growing practices and hire more farmers via federal grants.
State Executive Director Arthur Tripp said he’s focused on supporting producers.
“It doesn't matter if you've been in farming for 30 years or for three days," Tripp said. "You know, everyone has an opportunity to engage and to benefit from agriculture.”
In the next 10 years, Twiner plans to expand to adjacent land and add 45 beds for people with disabilities to live and work independently.