Family starts garden program for special needs adults

Anna Lawson

Bill Greer and his wife, Carol, have always been involved in their daughter’s life. While she participated in Special Olympics, they saw her reach her fullest potential, make new friends and learn new skills. However, when they would go home, they noticed that she didn’t have as many opportunities as she wanted. 

Together, the Greers created a solution for their daughter and many other special needs adults just like her. They have organized Top Crops, a community garden for special needs adults. The duo thought of the idea as a way to offer an opportunity for these adults to show off their skills and learn something new. 

“The garden is all about learning. They learn about gardening and responsibility. They go out and harvest Friday then sell the vegetables and herbs on Saturday,” Bill Greer said. “They are learning how to garden, and they are selling a product that leads to better health for the community.”

Top Crops has been around for about a year now, but it took almost two to get it organized and running.

“It started out as lots of small conversations,” Bill Greer said. “Then we took the simple idea and made it better and better.” 

The special needs adults in the program work hands- on by preparing soil, planting seeds, growing the plants and then selling the plants in farmers markets. The garden is located on the WKU farm on Nashville Road. 

Top Crops sells their produce on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community Farmers Market on Nashville Road. They also have a Facebook page available for the public who want to be involved. 

The Greers make it a top priority that the special needs adults are interacting with the community and that the garden benefits the community in many ways.

“The community gets to be around people who may have challenges but don’t let their challenges stop them from doing their best and accomplishing their goals,” Bill Greer said. 

Alex Embry, a 25-year-old with Down Syndrome, has been working with Top Crops for about a year. His father, Rod Embry, has been able to watch his son grow through the program. 

“He enjoys being with friends and other people,” Rod Embry said. “He likes being with people who have a common goal.” 

Rod and Alex Embry have a special connection to the crops they grow.

“One of my favorite memories was when we brought crops home and cooked them in our meals,” Rod Embry said. “Seeing the plants grown and using them at home was really great.” 

He hopes to see Top Crops grow and get more people involved, both in the planning and in the growing.

“There is a high level of work involved in the planning and preparation. Having more people would reduce some burden that is on the Greers,” he said.

Bill Greer hopes to see Top Crops grow and incorporate more special needs adults. 

“Students who are studying nutrition could come in and teach a class. Students who are majoring in special education could get some hands-on experience,” he said.

   At the beginning, the Greers wanted to keep it small to work out any problems. 

“I would love to start selling to local restaurants. However, I want it to stay focused on being a learning environment,” Bill Greer said. “It’s all about helping them be the best they can be. They remind us that everyone is capable and that the community isn’t just folks around our neighborhood; it is all of us.”