Growing lavender in the mountain state has allowed us to open new doors and create new opportunities that we never imagined. There’s one in particular that we’re especially excited to share; Appalachian Botanical Co. is excited to partner with HRDF, the Human Resource Development Foundation of West Virginia, to provide training and full-time employment to their clients via growing lavender.
We sat down (virtually) with our President and CEO Jocelyn Sheppard and the CRP Coordinator at HRDF, Danielle Ellis, to talk more about what they do at HRDF and why we decided to partner together to provide valuable work-based learning experiences to people with disabilities, both physical and cognitive, in West Virginia.
Pictured: Former HRDF's client now regular employee at ABCo. Eric
HRDF''s mission is "Empowering diverse populations to achieve independence through training, education, and employment."
What is HRDF?
The Human Resource Development Foundation of West Virginia is a Community Resource Provider under the WV Division of Rehabilitation Services (WV DRS). HRDF operates the Community Rehabilitation Program for those with disabilities, along with various other programs that serve disadvantaged youth, the ex-offender population, and dislocated workers and veterans, throughout West Virginia. Their mission is “Empowering diverse populations to achieve independence through training, education, and employment.”
HRDF seeks a community partner that is a good match for the skills and interests of each client. For us at ABCo, this meant coaching HRDF clients at our lavender fields! To date, HRDF and ABCo have been a perfect fit. On our side, we couldn’t be happier with the clients HRDF introduced us to, the work they’ve done, and how they have flourished since their initial training.
How Our Partnership Began
We asked Jocelyn and Danielle to share more about this partnership and the opportunities to come out of it and this is what they said:
Danielle, what does HRDF look for in a potential partner?
We look for opportunities that allow our clients to gain new skills and independence. HRDF chooses a job coach for our clients to accompany them throughout the working day. We typically look for opportunities and workplaces that are supportive, flexible, and encouraging with plenty of patience and programs to help our clients succeed. Repetitive work allows our clients to build upon and sharpen their skills until they are able to do it independently, which is the ultimate goal.
Danielle and Jocelyn, what are some common barriers to employment your applicants/clients often have to overcome?
Danielle: It can be difficult to find accommodating employment that provides any necessary extra training, transportation, support, patience, or consistency to ensure that our clients succeed in their roles.
Jocelyn: In the nearly two years we’ve had the farm going in Ashford, we’ve experienced a lot of worker turnover. For a variety of reasons, people have a hard time making it to work regularly, and focusing on their work when they are on the farm.
Pictured: Former HRDF's client now regular employee at ABCo. Zach
The coaches and Dani Ellis provide great insight into how we can make Appalachian Botanical Co. a welcoming place for their clients. It turns out that we don't have to do much all that differently!
Jocelyn, what made you decide to partner with HRDF?
HRDF offered to place with us HRDF clients who came with job coaches, transportation, and liability insurance–it was an offer that was too good to refuse! The HRDF coaches do a great job one-on-one and that takes some of the stress off our crew leads and managers. The coaches and Dani Ellis provide great insight into how we can make Appalachian Botanical Co a welcoming place for their clients. It turns out that we don’t have to do much all that differently!
Jocelyn, what does the typical day at ABCo look like for HRDF clients?
The clients work with us on some of the most important parts of growing lavender, including lavender propagation, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. They are also helping with cleaning, painting and refurbishing the building we leased in Foster.
Danielle, what have been some of the positives for your clients by partnering with ABCo?
Our clients have enjoyed working at a comfortable pace doing repetitive tasks until they become completely independent, and they’ve enjoyed working outdoors. We are happy that Appalachian Botanical Co. provides special programs and accommodations like transportation to and from work to make sure our clients succeed even after their training with HRDF has ended.
Jocelyn, how do you help train HRDF clients to succeed even after leaving ABCo?
So far, we’ve hired three HRDF clients as regular employees, so that’s a good example of success! I’d like to think that all of the HRDF clients learned skills and built confidence while they worked with us.
Pictured: HRDF coach Caitlynn and her client Scott with his painting of our fields
One former HRDF client names Scott actually surprised us with his painting skills -- he did the sponge painting on a couple of our interior walls -- and he did a fabulous painting of our lavender fields that we hung in the Foster building.
For instance, Scott actually surprised us with his painting skills — he did the sponge painting on a couple of our interior walls — and he did a fabulous painting of our lavender fields that we hung in the Foster building.
Working with the HRDF clients has reinforced my belief that almost everyone has to overcome barriers of one kind or another to get and keep a job. And with the right kinds of training and support, people can indeed get and keep a job that is rewarding and meaningful to them.
Jocelyn, are there things learned from working with HRDF that you’ve since incorporated into how you hire/operate?
Working with the HRDF clients has reinforced my belief that almost everyone has to overcome barriers of one kind or another to get and keep a job. And with the right kinds of training and support, people can indeed get and keep a job that is rewarding and meaningful to them. What’s important from the employer’s perspective is to be a good listener, be clear with expectations and instructions, and know that people need to learn by trial and error–which calls for a little extra patience.
Jocelyn, how would you like to see your partnership with HRDF grow in the future?
We have really enjoyed the opportunity to work with HRDF. The dedication and quality of support they provide to their clients, both professionally and socially, is inspiring. We would certainly welcome more HRDF clients and we would like to expand the variety of training opportunities for them.
To learn more…
If you want to learn more about HRDF, their success stories, and the other amazing support programs they have available, you can check out their website! Special thanks to Danielle Ellis for sharing her expertise and connecting us with their amazing clients!
Want to learn more about working for Appalachian Botanical Co? Read more or apply here! Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about our amazing team members that make growing lavender look easy!
MEET THE AUTHOR / ELIZA TALVOLA is a writer from Pittsburgh, PA who considers herself to be a conscious consumer and traveler, slow fashion advocate, and devoted foodie. She is a firm believer in creative reuse and putting people over profits, and is a long time lavender enthusiast. Her favorite product: Lavender Hand Sanitizer Spray