This feature on Farmer Maisie is part of Loudoun Economic Development’s award-winning Farmer Trading Card series, spotlighting farmers as heroes to our community. For more information on the Farmer Trading Card 2023 starting lineup, please visit Loudoun Farms.
Farmer Maisie Eastman is still a relatively new farmer, and View of Heaven Farm is only in its third growing season this spring.
However, the experience has already been life-changing, as Farmer Maisie and her fellow farmhands are people with disabilities, empowered by this unique employment opportunity.
“We are a nonprofit that employs people with disabilities and pays them a living wage,” she explained. “I really like working here because I have learned a lot such as that not all bugs are bad, and some of them are really cool.”
View of Heaven Farm is appropriately named for its scenic setting, overlooking the Loudoun Valley in Round Hill, Va. The mission of the farm is simple, yet profound: to provide meaningful employment to people of differing mental and physical abilities, paying a living wage and growing food using environmentally sustainable processes. They are also unique in their ability to pay workers year-round, not just during Loudoun County’s nine-month growing season.
The opportunities provided by the farm couldn’t come at a better time for the community of workers that it serves.
Before COVID-19, people with disabilities had the lowest unemployment rate in history at 7.8%. Between February 2020 and April 2020, that number surged to 18.9%, erasing years of gains.
The ensuing economic uncertainty and rise of hybrid work has caused many of those jobs to not return, creating a lingering pandemic of unemployment. This creates undue economic hardship and a lost sense of purpose for the individuals, as well as a less diverse and inclusive workforce.
Creating a place of belonging is essential for equitable economic recovery, and View of Heaven Farm has done just that.
“We all love having a place to belong, a place where we can make a meaningful contribution to our community, a job that we love,” the farm’s website reads. “Neurodiverse individuals are no different. They have the same wants and needs as the rest of us, but may need some help getting there.”
Once they get there, the personal and professional growth abounds. Just listen to the menu of produce!
“Some of the fruits, vegetables and flowers that we grow here are tomatoes, squash, peppers, potatoes, carrots, garlic, strawberries, raspberries and peonies,” Farmer Maisie explained. “Our farm chose these popular fruits and vegetables so we can plant them in an environmentally friendly way, without the use of nasty chemicals such as pesticides.
“That way, they will be healthy for everyone who eats them and they won’t hurt our environment.”
Farmer Maisie hopes you enjoy her Farmer Trading Card, and invites you to support View of Heaven Farm in their booth at Endless Summer Harvest, Wednesday – Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, as well as their springtime booth at the Valley Energy Parking Lot Saturday Farm Market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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