What wouldn’t a parent do for their child?
A D.C. couple easily answered that question when they became concerned about their son’s safety and peace of mind living in the fast-paced city.
Their answer led them deep into Loudoun County, where tree-canopied roads ramble along the Shenandoah River. That was in 2015.
In 2016, Greg Masucci and his wife Maya became farmers. They moved their two small children from Capitol Hill, bought 24 acres in Bluemont, stepped back from careers and started A Farm Less Ordinary.
What makes this farm less ordinary is that everyone working there has an intellectual or developmental disability — just like Greg's 11-year old son Max.
"He's very far from any major street and so it's a safe place for him. So, that drove the original decision,” Masucci says.
Max is severely autistic and non-verbal.
"What they know about autism could fill a thimble and what they don't know could fill an ocean,” Masucci said, choking back tears. “So, this something that we feel like we can do. Something that we feel like we can do that's important for this community, important for people like my son, to give them a place where they're welcome, where they're accepted."
A Farm Less Ordinary is on track to employ 20 people this year. They will manage livestock and work the growing season from start to finish.
"They're putting the seeds in the seed trays in the greenhouse, turning those into little baby seedlings then planting those in the fields,” co-founder Maya Wechsler explained. “Then weeding them and keeping them alive."
Masucci says the unemployment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities sits somewhere around 80-percent. That’s more than 20 times the national unemployment rate. Masucci and Wechsler are on a mission to lower that number. They hope the skills they’re teaching their employees can eventually lead them to the larger workforce.
Max's autism likely won't ever allow him to work at the farm, but the farm is still a bright spot in Max's new life.
"Our plans were for our son to come outside and basically see people just like him and feel like he had his own little community, that he wasn't so different," Maya said.
A Farm Less Ordinary is a non-profit, so employees are paid from money raised by Masucci and Wechsler.
Next month, they're having their first big fundraiser, "Feast in the Field." Click here for more details.