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ACRES Project Awarded $100,000 Centre Inspires Grant for Aquaponics Greenhouse

by on November 08, 2019 4:22 PM

Centre Foundation on Thursday awarded the $100,000 Centre Inspires grant to the ACRES Project to build an aquaponics greenhouse that will provide opportunities for adults with autism.

Founded in 2014, the nonprofit ACRES (Adults Creating Residential & Employment Solutions), is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with autism, with a particular focus on serving adults over the age of 21.

The community aquaponics greenhouse will provide employment and workplace readiness skills for individuals served by ACRES while also creating multigenerational community connections and lifelong learning.

“Thank you to Centre Foundation for believing in our project,” Bella Bregar, ACRES executive director, said in a news release. “We want the greenhouse to be filled with people, plants, and produce – a place where everyone has a seat at the table.”

The greenhouse will be located at the ACRES facility on Bernel Road in Patton Township.

Aquaponics is a method of efficient, sustainable indoor farming uses 90 percent less water than conventional agriculture and can grow more food per acre, without the use of chemicals and with a faster harvest time. It grows both fish and food, with waste produced by fish fertilizing the plants 

"ACRES will employ adults with autism in all facets of its aquaponics program, from care and maintenance to harvest and sales/donations," according to the ACRES website. "We believe that aquaponics is a great match for the unique skills and interests of these individuals because the precision, accuracy, and rational skills required to operate the systems match the job-related strengths of many adults with autism -- several have already expressed interest in the project.

"The scheduled procedures and daily routines that aquaponics requires will provide these adults with the stability and structure that they find reassuring, while volunteers from Penn State and the community will enjoy learning and working with them through the horticultural therapy that aquaponics provides."

Several local businesses have already agreed to purchase produce from the greenhouse once it is established. It also will be sold at farmers markets and through direct sales, with revenue supporting the aquaponics program.  

After starting with one person in an adult support group and two people in a day program, ACRES has grown significantly, offering workplace readiness training, independent living skills, social gatherings and a parents support group. In addition to adult social and day programs with more participants, it also has opportunities such as a weekly cooking class, creative Sundays, job support programs, a women's book club, a "Get Your Move On" program for children in third through fifth grade, and biweekly groups for boys and girls in middle school.

Centre Foundation has awarded the Centre Inspires grant since 2014 to nonprofits for innovative projects that engage the community. Previous recipients have included Strawberry Fields' Good Day Cafe and Discovery Space's The Rivet makerspace. 


Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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