VersAbility’s Able Acres Market Garden Offers Another Way for Adults with Disabilities to Flourish

A woman wearing a black apron stands behind a table of plants in plastic pots.

An idea rooted in goodness has blossomed into expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.

Lara Zawacki and her husband, Danny, founded the Super Local Food Project 11 years ago, aiming to connect local farmers and the food they harvest with the Hampton Roads community where they reside. They advocate for sustainable agriculture and provide education to help others grow and sell their own.

A man wearing a purple t-shirt and a black mask holds up a packet of Carolina Reaper pepper seeds.

VersAbility Resources, where Zawacki works as Grant Manager, is a new partner in the volunteer-led program that offers individuals with disabilities two enrichment opportunities.

The nonprofit committed to ensuring people with disabilities enjoy dignified, productive lives of their choosing started its own market garden on the grounds of its Hampton headquarters. Able Acres Market Garden will be primarily led by adults with disabilities attending its Day Support programs. Three raised beds were created in May 2023 and filled with young vegetable plants and edible flowers. The adults in VersAbility’s Day Support programs who have identified an interest in gardening and plants will do the initial planting in addition to sowing and harvesting.

Two women wearing masks pose in front of a plastic plant container filled with dirt.

The vegetables grown at Able Acres will be donated to the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank and THRIVE Peninsula.

Additionally, several adults from VersAbility accompany Lara to the Peninsula Farmers Market held at the Jewish Community Center in Newport News on Thursdays. The weekly market from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., sells fresh produce in addition to honey, homemade crafts and baked goods. The Super Local Food Project booth contains young plants and seeds — basil, tomatoes, cucumber, among them — that community members can take home to start their own garden.

A man wearing a purple shirt and black mask waters a plastic container of plants inside of a bucket.

“They love coming and have really taken ownership of what they’re doing,” Lara said.

Charmaine Miller, Events Specialist for the Peninsula Farmers Market, the partnership. “This is an incredible opportunity for us to bring a unique diversity to our weekly event and to help give back to the community in a valuable way from day one of our season,” she said.

A group of people pat down dirt into a plastic plant container.

Donations of $4 are welcome for the plants with all funds collected going toward VersAbility’s Project Independence program, which helps underserved adults and seniors with disabilities to reach their highest level of independence and community engagement through personalized life skills classes and virtual reality simulation.

A group of people sit in lawn chairs in front of plants in plastic pots.

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