Building the greenhouse was a huge development for Watch Us Farm, thanks to expert Cisco Lunsford and a team of volunteers. Submitted photo
Building the greenhouse was a huge development for Watch Us Farm, thanks to expert Cisco Lunsford and a team of volunteers. Submitted photo
In 2018, Janice and David Agarwal launched the nonprofit Watch Us Farm with the goal of finding employment opportunities for adults with special needs.

They partnered with the Town of Zionsville, painting, clearing trails and working on the Watch Us Farm microfarm.

As word got out and people in the community and beyond began to connect with the Agarwals, the opportunities skyrocketed to something leaders in the organization had only dreamed of.

“We were able to receive a greenhouse, donated from land Witham Health Services owned,” Janice Agarwal said. “They allowed us to take the whole thing down and bring it to our property, but then we had to find someone to help us build it.”

Cisco Lunsford of Zionsville just happened to have experience building botanical gardens across the country.

“Cisco is in his 80s and has a grandson with autism,” Agarwal said. “He is simply amazing. He took this heap of stuff and made a greenhouse.”

In the meantime, staff at Watch Us Farm has been growing lettuce and have a booth at the Zionsville Farmers’ Market every Saturday and the Market Wagon on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

They have staff from Purdue Extension coming out at the end of the month to help evaluate and show the group what they are doing right and where to improve.

“Purdue works with the USDA, so instead of trying to figure out what we don’t know, we reached out to them. They have bent over backwards for us – there’s just a list of people who have dropped everything to help us out,” Agarwal said.

In addition to developments on the farm, Watch Us Farm opened Watch Us Weave earlier this year at 45 S. Elm St., Zionsville.

“We have 10 floor looms for weaving and they are creating amazing stuff. We’re currently looking for someone who wants to take this niche market and offer classes and other events,” Agarwal said. “Our adults are amazing. They are making rugs so beautiful; people are calling for custom rugs and dimensions.”

The adults are creating custom cards as well.

“We’re slowing getting into wedding invitations and do custom Christmas cards,” Agarwal said. “You can find them at Back to the Bricks in Zionsville and we’ll be putting them in additional shops soon. We’re in a big transition right now and a lot of it is just a matter of putting everything together.” Watch Us Farm recently became Medicaid waiver providers, allowing the nonprofit to provide vocational training, physical therapy, occupational therapy and much more on the farm property.

“I’m trying to develop a really firm foundation,” Agarwal said. “I want to see this go beyond me, and when I’m gone, this is still running. The farm, the shop … all of this can be replicated again and again. Imagine across the country, creating jobs, not just for those with special needs, but for everyone. You need everyone to make this work.”

As parents to a special needs adult themselves, the Agarwals have dreamed of a community where everyone belongs, regardless of ability.

“When I was pregnant with my child, I thought about his school, his career, who he was going to marry,” Agarwal said. “Just because he has special needs, why would that change? I still want him to have beautiful housing, a career. The job may be different, but that’s okay. These adults have value; they work hard and there’s a pride there. We want to be a community that is invested in a place that has special needs.”
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