Bittersweet Farms is a place where dreams come true. Founded in 1983 and located in Ohio, Bittersweet Farms provides recreational, transitional, vocational, and residential services that empower individuals with autism to redefine what is possible. Over the years, families and participants have found that the farm setting offers rich, varied, and abundant opportunities for self-paced, distraction-free activities that are meaningful and transformative for the participants. For many families, it’s been a dream come true to see their adult children leading successful, meaningful lives at Bittersweet. These are their stories.
One mother’s greatest hope was for her daughter, Jessica, to find happiness and security. At Bittersweet, she has found just that. Her mother says, “As a mom, there aren’t enough words that can truly express the gratefulness I have. For me, I can now leave this world knowing Jessica’s future is secure. And above and beyond that, with the help of so many, she’s so very happy! (After years of worry, I now get to see that!). A dream come true.”
And it is not only parents whose dreams are coming true at Bittersweet! Matt, whose Bittersweet journey began in the Summer Enrichment Program, always dreamed of moving onto the farm. When he started working in Bittersweet’s Day Program, he fell in love with working in the barn and caring for the animals. While he longed to be a part of the residential community, his family knew that openings were few and far between. Their best hope was that he could move onto the farm ten to fifteen years down the road.
Imagine their surprise when they received the news that there was an opening for Matt! Now, nearly a year after moving in, Matt still feels like he is living a dream. He says, “Every time I see Dustin [Bittersweet’s Executive Director], I tell him, ‘Thank you for letting me live on the farm!’ And he always says, ‘Of course! Thank YOU for living here!’” As Matt grows into adulthood as a Bittersweet resident, he has plenty of dreams for his life on the farm. He says, “My dream is to always do better in my work. My work on the farm makes me feel important.”
This sense of meaning and pride in one’s work is central to Bittersweet’s philosophy. Along with Matt, Gabe has found his place and his passion at Bittersweet. As a student in Bittersweet’s Transition Program, Gabe expressed an interest in working with animals. As his graduation from the Transition Program approached, his parents decided to explore the possibility of Gabe working in the Day Program.
The transition into the Day Program for Gabe proved to be successful. His warm smile and kind spirit helped him to flourish in his new environment. His dream of working on a farm with animals quickly came to life. He can now be found happily working in the barn, the gardens, and the creative arts studio. Gabe’s father says, “Gabe loves Bittersweet so much! As his father, I’ve witnessed Gabe transition from a teenager to a productive young man thanks to Bittersweet’s guidance, care, and love for him.”
Together, the individuals who live and work at Bittersweet develop a sense of community, pride, and ownership. This place is their home and their dream, and their dreams make this place extraordinary.