It was an idle Wednesday morning when Ashely Grubb, who was minding her five-month old daughter Charlie, anxiously awaited a scheduled conversation she had been looking forward to for days.
This was her opportunity to express how sometimes the most worthy efforts begin with a mustard seed of inspiration. At the very least, that’s what’s happening in the Grubb household in Richmond.
When her phone finally rang, Grubb shared that she and her husband were thrilled to announce their creation of Mustard Seed Farm & Market, a newly-formed nonprofit in Fort Bend County that serves as a work program for adults with disabilities.
“This has been 10 years in the making,” said Grubb, regarding the efforts she and her husband Derick have put forth over the years. And founding a nonprofit that would directly benefit adults with disabilities “has been a lifelong passion for us, both individually and as a couple,” she added.
The Grubbs, who met in 2008 and married in 2011, initially crossed paths while working at The Brookwood Community in Brookshire. The couple also helped start a group home in Colorado and were the first set of live-in houseparents for four young men who had various disabilities.
And it was through their experiences in these settings — as well as Derick’s work as an elementary special education teacher in Katy ISD — that a figurative mustard seed was firmly planted into the core of their being.
“We realized that we shared very similar dreams in terms of what we hoped to accomplish with our lives,” Grubb said.
“The vision for what we hoped Mustard Seed could be someday was always a fun topic of conversation and speculation.”
But speculation has grown into a reality for the Grubbs, who said Mustard Seed Farm & Market is open to adults who live in Fort Bend County.
As a horticulture-based organization, Mustard Seed Farm & Market will provide participants with skills and knowledge that will further benefit them in their lives. Grubb added that once participants graduate from the program, they can even go on to work at other nurseries within the community.
“I think that there just can’t be enough resources for people who have disabilities and their families,” Grubb said. “We both feel like we have been blessed with a great compassion and ability to work with the special needs community. On top of that, we’ve managed to gather experience along the way that gives us the appropriate tools to really make a difference.
“It’s our calling,” she said.
‘HELP US GROW’
Mustard Seed Farm & Market is settled on 11 acres in Richmond off FM 723 and currently features greenhouses, with plans for future construction on the main building where the work program will be held.
“This way our program participants can work year-round away from Houston’s weather extremes,” Grubb said.
The plan is for Mustard Seed Farm & Market to open in Spring 2020, so the Grubbs are in the middle of a capital campaign — cleverly named the “Help Us Grow Fund.”
“All money raised right now will go towards the construction of our work program building, outfitting our greenhouse with the appropriate equipment and paving pathways to make everything wheelchair accessible,” Grubb said.
The Grubbs currently have three grants in process, but as of press time, none were official.
The couple is also accepting additional partnerships and donations through their website. Anyone who wants to donate to Mustard Seed Farm & Market can email firstname.lastname@example.org or donate through the nonprofit’s website www.mustardseedfarmers.org.
“The sky is the limit,” Grubb said. “We would love to talk to anyone who wants to get involved.”
Once the nonprofit opens, it will have a paid as well as a volunteering staff.
“We are hopeful that we can partner with garden clubs and other organizations within the community as well,” Grubb added.
GROWING GREAT PLANTS, PRODUCE & PEOPLE
As a day program, Mustard Seed’s objective is to provide its participants with a safe, encouraging and engaging environment that will teach valuable life and work skills, Grubb explained, adding that the nonprofit’s motto is “growing great plants, produce and people.”
“When our program starts, we will first be primarily focusing on teaching basic techniques that people who work in the greenhouse and plant-growing industry need to know,” Grubb said. “For example, planting seeds, filling pots with soil, weeding, watering, et cetera. These are all very teachable skills, and working with your hands in the dirt can be very therapeutic.”
Adults with any disability, who have aged out of public school and are no longer eligible for those services, are welcomed to participate. There is a monthly tuition fee to attend the work program.
Grubb added that eligible adults are welcomed to participate in Mustard Seed Farm & Market “as long as they want to, or until they have learned the necessary skills to build a resume and apply for other horticultural jobs within the community.”
The program, however, is also designed to operate in a self-contained manner.
“We not only wanted to have a program that teaches skills, but also we needed to develop a business model that would allow for us to produce something that could generate revenue and allow Mustard Seed to keep growing and operating successfully,” Grubb explained. “That’s where the idea for growing native butterfly milkweed came into play.”
Grubb, who graduated from Texas A&M University with a BS in conservation biology and biodiversity and a second major in entomology, explained that native milkweed plants require multiple steps in the growing process to successfully produce a crop — and this is what made native milkweed perfect for the nonprofit’s training program.
“These steps and the repetitive nature of the process can be great jobs for people who have disabilities,” she said. “In addition to creating jobs, once the milkweed plants are sold, they will also help the environment by restoring lost habitat for monarch butterflies.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN LIVES & THE COMMUNITY
Through their nonprofit, the Grubbs are also trying to set an example of how a community can support itself.
Grubb said once she and her husband finalize the process and procedures of Mustard Seed, they plan on expanding into heirloom vegetables and other crops.
Those organic crops, she stressed, will be sold to the public with 100 percent of the proceeds returning to the nonprofit to continually develop Mustard Seed’s program.
“Mustard Seed is the culmination of a dream we have had for years and countless hours of work,” said Derick Grubb. “It will be a place of opportunity and acceptance. We hope someday Mustard Seed becomes a place where people with all different backgrounds, skills and abilities can work together and create products that people want and will travel for.”
The Grubbs already have a trial garden growing in their Richmond home, which is where Ashely and Derick are testing potential Mustard Seed crops.
“In addition to our primary focus on native milkweed, we also have a list of great tomatoes, beans, squash, cucumbers, and some other fruits and veggies that have grown really well for us,” she added excitedly.
A portion of the crops will be donated to local parks, gardens, churches, retirement communities and schools, and, Grubb added, the participants will be involved with the delivery and/ or the planting of all the donations.
“We want to find ways where our participants can be involved in the community and feel good about the work they are doing,” Derick explained. “I think it’s important to give back and try to have a positive impact on the lives of others.”