Our founder, Bettye Ruth Kay, was a public school teacher in Toledo, OH specializing in working with students with autism. As her students approached their high school graduations in the late 1970s, they were confronted with the lack of autism-specific services available for adults. Bettye longed for her students to live meaningful, active, and independent lives in a caring community. Together with the parents of her students, she founded Bittersweet in nearby Whitehouse, OH to fill this gap in services. The students in Bettye Ruth’s class were among the first residents to move onto the farm, and most of them, now in their fifties, still live and work here.
We credit this success to our unique farm setting and model. Here, participants have access to the meaningful and diverse activities of a working farm. Vocational offerings include agriculture, horticulture, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, grounds keeping, animal care, creative arts, and commercial culinary production.
Additionally, participants take an active role in the community through volunteering. The participants who attend the day program in Whitehouse volunteer regularly at Rover Come Over Doggy Daycare, Nature’s Nursery, Hope United Methodist Church, Nightengales Harvest, and the Northwest Ohio Food Bank. The participants who attend Betty’s Farm in Lima volunteer weekly at Our Daily Bread, Encore Theatre, and the Equestrian Therapy Program.
All of these community based and vocational activities are intrinsically meaningful, rewarding, and therapeutic for individuals with autism; planned and practiced within the structure of each person’s Individual Support Plan. These activities produce transformative results.