Deborah DeScenza laughs sweetly while one of her residents, Connie, wonders aloud whether she should remove her sun glasses. “I’m going to be famous,” she tells Deborah. Connie, a developmentally disabled adult, is posing for a picture along with some native corn, hot peppers, and garden-fresh herbs – all products she helped grow on Hillsborough’s Rosewald Farm.
Growing up in the suburbs, Deborah didn’t see herself becoming a farmer. But her son, Andrew, changed all that. He was the inspiration for Farmsteads of New England, a residential care facility for adults with developmental disabilities.
“As he became an adult, he would need to do real work that he could understand. A farm seemed to fit that bill,” says Deborah, who is now the executive director.
Since 2004, Farmsteads of NE has been providing services and meaningful work to 40 clients and 19 residents. Each has different challenges, but together they feed the animals, tend the garden and greenhouse, and sell their crops at the farm stand.
The demand for this holistic environment made it necessary for Deborah to expand their housing, but funds for the second phase dried up quicker than expected. Through the town of Hillsborough, Farmsteads was awarded $368,500 for a Housing & Public Facilities Community Development Block Grant from CDFA. The funds helped pay for infrastructure expansion and housing construction.
“It gave us the extra funds we needed to complete the new buildings,” Deborah says. “Without that grant we would have been in a hard place. I don’t know if we’d be where we are today.”
Back at the farm stand, Connie puts the sun glasses back on. “I don’t want to be too famous,” Connie confesses with relief.
Deborah just sighs and smiles. The former special education teacher knows life can take one in unexpected directions. If Deborah could end up running a farm, then someday Connie could be famous too.