The Old School Farm in Bells Bend, TN, is an exceptional new non-profit that provides sustainably-grown fruits, flowers, vegetables, and herbs while simultaneously serving as an employment opportunity and job-training facility for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Co-founder Rowan Millar, along with his business partner Susan Richardson, formed MillarRich, LLC, a community-based employment services company in the Nashville area. This fully-functioning farm is an extension of their company that produces fresh, local food using organic methods. Therefore, by purchasing Old School Farm produce and herbs at the East Nashville Farmers Market, you are supporting a successful model for agricultural job-training and placement for individuals with disabilities.
Located ten minutes outside of Nashville, the Old School Farm consists of nine acres and a recently-renovated brick schoolhouse built in 1936. The schoolhouse provides a community and fundraising event space and will eventually contain a full certified kitchen and farm café open to the community. The farm broke ground in January of 2013 with an acre in vegetable production and a temporary greenhouse where they began all of the farm’s fruit and vegetable seedlings. Now the budding farm provides their own 20 week CSA program to the public and consists of almost a full two acres in production, an apple orchard, chicken house for egg production, farm office, and a new 900 square-feet permanent greenhouse — all designed and built together by the farm’s managers, job coaches, and employees.
“We’re providing sustainable jobs through sustainable agriculture,” Rowan says. Originally from northern Ireland, the entrepreneur has been a member of the Nashville community since 2000. He and Susan formed their job-placement company MillarRich, LLC, with the goal of bolstering the independence of individuals with disabilities within their own communities. In Tennessee, what better choice than to set this model in place through agriculture? Employees work alongside job coaches to learn skills and participate in a number of farm activities, including fence-building, greenhouse construction, animal husbandry, farm planning, maintenance, and more. It is where the livelihoods of under-served members of our community are improved and a setting to form friendships with their coworkers is provided.
“We should have over 40 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the field for this season,” says Ben Brown, one of the two farm managers. He and his co-manager, Rachel Stubbs, both have backgrounds in agriculture and work together for form Rowan’s “team awesome.” Rachel is a Nashville native who studied Biology, Ecology, and Conservation at the University of Washington at Seattle, where she ran the student farm. She was brought on by Rowan as one of the original farm managers, and still plays an important role both in the field and behind-the-scenes. Ben Brown studied Sustainable Agriculture at Sterling College in Vermont and moved to Nashville to work for Old School Farm. The two plus job coach David Scott and employee Josh can be found helping customers, smiling, and having fun together at the East Nashville Farmers Market.
The Old School Farm is rolling through their second season this year with no slowing-down to the infrastructure they are laying in sight. In addition to purchasing their fresh farm eggs and produce or joining their CSA, donation opportunities to assist them in growing their farm and community are available as well. Simply visit their booth at the East Nashville Farmers Market and learn more about how you can participate to assist individuals with disabilities gain sustainable jobs through sustainable agriculture.