The Terravine Growers are starting a community-supported agriculture program this year where people can buy shares now and get fresh vegetables every week this summer and fall.

The Terravine Growers is an Ellensburg company created by four men with autism and other intellectual disabilities. They own a 20-acre vegetable and herb farm in Ellensburg and receive support from the Trellis Center, which works with adults with autism.

Since 2012, they’ve been learning vocational-agriculture skills by maintaining the farm and are now bringing fresh produce to the area this summer.

Farm manager Zachary Johnson said the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is new to the center, though it’s not an original concept.

“Somebody buys a share from a farmer at the beginning of the season before they receive anything… they give you the money,” Johnson said. “The farmer has money then to buy things like seeds and fix equipment and upgrade. In exchange every week during the summer they get a share of vegetables.”

Johnson said he’s excited to try the concept in Ellensburg. The Terravine Growers have 70 raised beds and two greenhouses on their property.

Working

The four men who live on the farm work for a couple of hours each day.

“They can choose whether they want to come to work or don’t,” Johnson said. “Nobody ever chooses not to.”

Everyday Johnson comes up with tasks that need to be completed, like watering plants or planting seeds, and gives them to the workers.

The Trellis Center hired Johnson to get the CSA up and running.

“This farm is something meant to give these guys lives’ meaning,” Johnson said about the farm and why it’s growing the program.

The four founders are assisted at the farm by four interns who also have disabilities; they live off-site.

Johnson said the goal would be to eventually create a complementary business with the others, like an orchard or commercial goods business selling something like salsa.

The state also is looking at the Terravine Growers and the Trellis Center to see if it’s a model that could be replicated around Washington.

Trellis Center program coordinator Daniel Ortega said it’s rare to see a business owned by someone with autism and that the model in Ellensburg is unique.

Buy produce

The community-supported agriculture program at the Trellis Center has 25 share openings this year and some have already been filled.

Each share consists of seven to 12 freshly harvested, in-season items each week, which should serve two to four people. Shares will be available for 22 weeks, starting the first week of June through the first week of November.

“The theory behind the CSA is that you’ll get all of your money back in the product essentially,” Johnson said, adding that the prices are comparable to organic produce from local grocery stores.

The CSA will be seasonal, meaning vegetables vary based on what grows best at the time of the year.

In the spring, the box might include lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, scallions, kale, peas, broccoli and cabbage. A summer share might include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and zucchini, while fall would have root vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins.

Email farm manager Zach Johnson at zjohnson@terravinegrowers.com for more information, or go to terravinegrowers.com. The cost of a share is $41 a week.

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