Join us in congratulating the finalists for the 29th Annual Loudoun Small Business Awards! Legacy Farms is a finalist in the Nonprofit Organization of the Year category. Get your tickets for the big event before they’re sold out, Friday, November 10, 2023. Event Details Here
Tell us the story of your business/nonprofit and how it’s evolved.
Legacy Farms was founded in 2012 and ran for many years as a summer camp program. In 2019, Laurie Young and Billie Jo Bevan designed a pilot mentor/apprentice program for neurodivergent individuals that officially launched in Spring of 2020 during the Covid shutdown. Because our program was outdoors, we were able to provide educational training and paid apprenticeships to individuals who might otherwise have been sitting at home.
Over the past three years, the organization has expanded to offer year-round opportunities both in the garden and in associated entrepreneurial assignments including: writing, photography, design, garden planning, inventory management, sales at farmers markets, product delivery, and customer service. Our main focus in the vocational program is to support each neurodivergent apprentice in learning about themselves and their unique strengths, as well as areas of challenge. We offer a strong mindfulness program, with trained mentors and daily practices that are sometimes led by apprentices themselves. This supports increased awareness—for all of us—in how to regulate our nervous systems for better communication, problem-solving, learning, and leadership.
This year, we launched our Legacy Blooms pilot providing specialty cut flowers for bouquet subscribers, wholesale partners, local business partners, and events. In our first year, we have delivered over 2,500 bouquets, vases, and other floral products to market. And we also donated flowers to Simply Be Coffee Shop and to Loudoun Hunger Relief to be delivered to their clientele by Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers.
Legacy Blooms is staffed by a 50:50 neurodivergent/neurotypical team that farms, harvests, designs, and delivers up to 150 bouquets per week at peak season, bringing in revenue that over time will self-fund the vocational program while providing expanded career options to neurodivergent folks and serving as a successful model of a neurodiverse business.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your team?
We work together as equals, side by side. We establish strong bonds, communicate with one another, and ensure that everyone is in a position that plays to their strengths. In our organization, staff and apprentices work together with shared goals. In fact, we rely on apprentices to complete customer deliverables. In this context, their capacity for self-organization, vocational skill, and leadership is strengthened, furthering all our contributions as members of the community. Everyone who is a part of Legacy Farms honors the power of neurodiversity and recognizes that we are more powerful as a truly neurodiverse organization where each member makes a unique contribution to the whole.
In what ways do you give back to the Loudoun community?
We are deeply committed to developing a successful model for neurodiverse businesses, both locally and nationally. We are advocating for societal change in which neurodivergent individuals are recognized as equal members of our community who offer unique and powerful contributions in the workplace. We’re members of the Loudoun Human Services network, are active in DEIA initiatives, and collaborate with partner nonprofits on shared missions for advocacy and betterment of the Loudoun community.
Some examples include donating produce and flowers to Loudoun Hunger Relief and partnering with Tree of Life Ministries’ program at Simply Be Coffee (where several of our apprentices hold second jobs) as a location for customers to pick up Legacy Blooms bouquet subscriptions, giving both organizations’ workers experience in partnership exchanges. We have an ongoing partnership with A Place to Be with whom we develop programming, share resources, and support neurodivergent individuals in our partnered programs.
Our gardens are located on two properties: Temple Hall Regional Park and The New Ag School at Fabbioli Cellars. Both partners provide land, farming expertise, and partnership on projects that help joint programs thrive.
What would it mean to you and your business to win a Small Business Award?
Winning a Small Business Award would raise awareness of the commitment that our neurodiverse staff and apprentices have shown in helping grow our model. It would be an honor and one of our first, most significant steps in effectively demonstrating that thriving neurodivergent individuals can empower Loudoun businesses and the community as a whole!
Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?
Laurie: I’m going to highlight two people who have contributed to my thinking and belief system in building this nonprofit: Martha Schonberger, who founded the nonprofit and always led with love. And Nikki Daruwala, whose impressive nonprofit leadership in Loudoun County and beyond is ever inspiring!
Billie Jo: My dear dad influenced my career in working with the land. He believed in farming the old fashioned way, the natural process and trusted the time honored traditions his mentors taught him in agricultural school. He maintained a farm, grew & preserved his own vegetables, and raised livestock up until his 80s!
What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?
Laurie: My parents always taught me to follow my passions, to be mindful and dive deeply into the areas I was committed to so that I could be of service in the world. In school, I naturally gravitated toward literature and philosophy. My master’s degree in literary analysis served as an excellent foundation for stepping into the fast-paced start-up world of Silicon Valley, where I became an online executive launching new products and programs. When my son was young, I became deeply immersed in the world of neurodiversity advocacy. I’ve managed to combine my experience as a business executive with a mindful approach to program design based on the poetry of nature, community, growth, and flowers.
Billie Jo: I wanted to be a famous country singer. My dad must have had the same vision, that’s why he named me Billie Jo!
If you’re not in the office, where can we find you/what is another passion you have?
Laurie: Growing, picking, and designing flowers! You’ll find me in the fields, alongside our staff and apprentices. And in our floral design workshop coming up with new ideas to delight our Loudoun and Fairfax community!
Billie Jo: I enjoy spending time in nature; admiring its beauty and observing the natural process. It teaches me how to grow and connect in my own life. I also enjoy spending time in the kitchen with my family curating healthy meals with the vegetables and herbs that we grow!
How do you see your business evolving in the next 5 years?
Certainly, we’ll increase the volume of products we offer while serving more neurodivergent individuals as they transition into the workforce. But most importantly, I believe our organization will transition from a nonprofit focused on program offerings to a fully neurodiverse and collaborative working organization and nonprofit business with increased representation and leadership by neurodivergent individuals advocating for societal change that empowers everyone.
Check out the Legacy Farms website here.