Based in Malibu, California, Shemesh Farms hires adults with diverse mental and physical disabilities in its mission to teach employees life skills ranging from marketing strategy to beekeeping. Also known as Farm Fellows, Shemesh team members each take on a variety of roles at the farm.
“The Farm Fellows help maintain the farm and garden by learning how to mulch, plant, seed, and make sure irrigation systems are in place, in addition to harvesting, pruning, and composting,” says Michelle Cait, Director of Shemesh Enterprises, which operates the farm under the leadership of its parent organization, the Shalom Institute.
Shemesh Farms grows a wide array of herbs and produce year-round, including rosemary, thyme, lavender, oregano, horseradish, dill, parsley, basil, lemon verbena, curry, fennel, celery, green onions, and citrus. Farm Fellows then harvest these raw ingredients to make Shemesh’s proprietary salt blends, herb blends, and crushed herbs. Shemesh Farms is also home to animals and beehives all cared for by the Fellows, with beekeepers at the farm responsible for producing Shemesh’s Malibu Raw Honey.
In carrying out these responsibilities, the Fellows not only gain agricultural experience, but business savvy as well. Much of this education unfolds when the team congregates for weekly meetings, during which they discuss strategy, financial goals, and marketing promotions to boost sales. “The Farm Fellows learn a great deal about marketing, including vocabulary and concepts used in relation to media, sales, and branding,” Cait explains, adding that the skills they gain “can carry over into future jobs and provide them with an overall sense of confidence.”
Farm Fellows also have the opportunity to engage with the local community at area farmers markets. Products like Shemesh’s Culinary Table Salt (Himalayan pink salt with dried rosemary and lemon zest) and Sunrise Splash salt blend (dried mint, lemon verbena, pink peppercorns, a marigold blend, Himalayan salt, and citrus) can be often found at respective markets in Brentwood, Melrose, Topanga, and Encino, which Shemesh attends monthly.
The farm also welcomes volunteers to help with various tasks, including running the booth at farmers markets, working harvests at the farm, and assisting in Shemesh’s media department. For those interested in volunteering or joining the team as a Farm Fellow, contact Cait at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit shemeshfarms.com.