Hannah & Friends greenhouse gives residents work experience - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Hannah & Friends greenhouse gives residents work experience

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A new greenhouse at the Hannah & Friends campus, is giving residents a chance to learn a unique way of farming and work skills. 

"A couple times a week we come out here to feed the fish and also to test the PH and levels of nutrients in the system," says Chris Tidmarsh, Hannah & Friends participant.

The residents are learning how to maintain an aquaponics system. It works in a cycle, the fish fertilize the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish.

"Aquaponics is a system that requires a lot of monitoring, a lot of testing. People with autism do that really well," says Jan Pilarski the co-founder of Green Bridge Growers.

Green Bridge Growers is a new South Bend business that produces organic food and employs adults with autism. "This is a fantastic match for their set of skills."

That's why she partnered with Hannah & Friends to get this greenhouse going, she teaches residents how the system works and they take it from there.

Hannah & Friends day program director Maureen Parsons says they are catching on fast. "Some of them help with the seeding, some of them help with the water testing, others come and feed the fish. I'm actually surprised at how many participants have really gotten excited and interested in the system."

Right now they're growing kale, lettuce and basil and residents are happy to help out. "Making sure all the plants get their exact nutrition in there to grow them and so we can eat them," says Matt Coleman.

"This is a great opportunity for us to learn more exciting things about what the fish will do for us," says Brandon Hudson.

And knowing these skills could lead to jobs, has residents excited.

The residents planted this first crop a few weeks ago and they will be ready to harvest by the end of the month.

While Green Bridge Growers usually sell their produce to the community, everything grown at Hannah & Friends will be for the residents to use.

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