Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Growing mulch and potential

Bonny Lea Farm For David Outhouse and his team at Bonny Lea Farm in Nova Scotia, the connection between growing business and growing community is as organic as the products they make to support greener living.

And now, thanks to popular demand for their garden mulch product — a blend of hemlock bark, composted chicken manure and super fine mulch — their mulch-making Bark Barn will soon be expanding, growing opportunities for people with special needs in the process.

For more than 40 years, the Chester-based operation has been helping young people with intellectual disabilities develop their potential. As one of the biggest employers in the town, the Farm has built its life skills program on several non-profit business ventures, from herb garden products to custom packaging and wood-working.

Now, the Bark Barn, one of the farm’s most successful businesses, is expanding from 135 sq. m to 450 sq. m, allowing the production line to run inside, rain or shine, all year long.

“Our mulch is very popular throughout western Nova Scotia,” says David who serves as managing director of the Farm, more formally known as the South Shore Community Services Organization.

“We can’t keep up with the demand, so we’re looking forward to this expansion.”

Of the 45 trainees involved in the program, more than half live at the farm. The others come in every day from their homes in surrounding communities.

“Some of the people we work with have more challenges than others,” explains David.  “Some can only work an hour or two a week, others gain full-time employment and move into their own accommodations.”

In addition to helping them produce more garden products, a bigger barn brings the possibility of expanding the whole operation to include more potential clients on their waiting list.

“Increasing our mulch line means employing more people with disabilities who need work and opportunities to build their confidence so they can achieve other successes like moving into their own accommodations, or in some cases, other kinds of jobs,” David says. 

David says the expansion has been possible thanks to generous private donations and a $143,000 investment from ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund.

“This is our first time dealing with the Agency and the whole process went very smoothly. We are fortunate that the people we work with understand our unique purpose. That makes all the difference,” David says.

By integrating good business and good training, Bonny Lea Farm continues to grow opportunities to include everyone in local life and economy.  After all, that’s what community is all about.

Published May 6, 2011