Farm Grows Jobs – And Hope – For People With Developmental Disabilities

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Amanda Athman helped pick up the mobile chicken coop at 21 Roots Farm in Grant and move it to a fresh patch of grass just south of the farm’s apple orchard.

Athman knew just how fast to push the coop so that the squawking chickens could keep up. She then found a spot for the chickens’ “dust bath” — a blue plastic tub full of dirt. A regular dust bath, she explained, helps keep their feathers clean by controlling parasites and preventing oil buildup.

Athman, 22, of Lino Lakes, is part of a pilot program this summer at 21 Roots, a nonprofit hobby farm that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She and five other interns — all of whom have been regular attendees of programs at the farm — have been tapped to be part of a 20-week work-experience program where they are being “trained to be trainers,” said Brittany Wiitala, one of the co-founders of the farm.

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