VIA to Build a New Greenhouse Thanks to Local Restaurants

December 4, 2013

The adult students at the Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) could soon get the opportunity to grow their own produce thanks to a "Go Green for VIA" campaign.

Two restaurants along the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Petit Pois and Fleurie are a part of the campaign and plan on donating one dollar per every meal sold in the month of December to the institute.

The proceeds raised will go towards a new outdoor classroom and greenhouse for the post high school and adult services program at VIA.

“This greenhouse and this outdoor classroom will enable us to develop opportunities for them to learn valuable skills and create a profitable small microenterprise that can pay them minimum wage or better,” says Matthew Osborne, director of adult programs.

The program at VIA supports adults 18 years and older and with the new greenhouse students will be able to sell whatever they grow.

“We're hoping to grow produce, spices and herbs,” says Osborne. “We're hoping to produce compost that we can make available to local organizations, whether donating it or potentially selling it.”

The owner and chef of Fleurie and Petit Pois, who is helping raise money for the greenhouse, grows wheatgrass for the restaurants and understands the importance of learning how to grow your own produce.

“Farming and gardening is something that I've personally benefited and learned a lot from on the process of growing your own food, “ says Brian Helleburg. “So I'm just hoping to share that with others.”

Once the greenhouse is up and running, Helleberg hopes to buy some of the VIA produce in his own restaurant.

“I would love to, that would be a great end goal for us,” says Helleberg. “I know it's a difficult process, but it's that process that's the enjoyable and educational part of it.”

VIA wants to raise $3,500 dollars to go towards the new greenhouse and hopes to have it completed next year.

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