The Landscape Crew, a program of Life & Work Connections, is a vocational training program for people with developmental disabilities. It is designed to teach participants the skills they will need to find and retain jobs in the community.
The crew works primarily during the summer on grounds-keeping projects for the Boone County Family Resources buildings. The members range in age from early teens to early twenties. “While grounds-keeping is a byproduct of the Landscape Crew’s efforts, skills-building for future employment is the primary product we’re after,” says Mark Satterwhite, Director of Life & Work Connections. “From their experience on the Landscape Crew, participants take away skills portable to any job – such as teamwork, following instructions, and staying on task. Although the intent is not to prepare participants for careers in landscaping per se, one of the original participants on the crew now works at Stephens College as a grounds keeper, and cites his experience on the crew as a motivating factor in his career path.”
Early in its 5-year tenure, the Landscape Crew started a vegetable garden in the enclosed playground area at the main BCFR office building and this year, they expanded to a couple of raised beds in the adjacent lot where additional BCFR offices are located. “They are growing corn, cucumbers and some green bean plants in the beds,” says Maya Tarter, Client Services Coordinator I and manager of the crew. “For some of our crew members, this is their first exposure to gardening and their first exposure to the skills it takes to have a job such as communicating professionally, following instructions and staying on task.”
Participants are paid minimum wage and generally work part-time. The program is intended exclusively for participants seeking community employment, and it is hoped the critical “soft skills” they focus on while working on the Landscape Crew become ingrained as work ethic, strengthening their potential for success in future employment.
“Gardening is fulfilling for Landscape Crew participants, who get to practice stewardship in the cultivation of produce, and who connect with others by harvesting and sharing the produce,” says Mark. Earlier this summer, the crew hosted a “vegetable stand” in the playground area at the main office and handed out the produce they had picked to BCFR employees.