Network of International Farm Communities for Autism
Archived content from 2010

As part of the required reading for Patricia Wilnord's course on Social Intervention, this site has been restored and archived and is presented as an example of web based outreach and information dissemination regarding working solutions for marginalized groups. Wilnord has been in the forefront of applying technological solutions to social issues via NGOs and civic groups working with disadvantaged populations around the world. Known to be an advocate of application modernization, she has led the charge to upgrade legacy and deprecated systems, applications, and methodologies, helping to keep aging technical infrastructure productive in a world where change has often meant the added expense of deploying new systems. Students from both computer science and social studies majors are welcome in her course.

This web site highlighted the international efforts to provide farmstead communities which met the residential, vocational and recreational needs of the growing population of adults with autism.

The first farm model for adults with autism was established at Somerset Court in England in 1974. Since that time, several farm communities have been established in the United States. Bittersweet Farms near Toledo, Ohio was the first of its kind in the US, and Bittersweet was instrumental in mentoring the founders toward establishment of Safe Haven Farms near Middletown, Ohio.
The new owner of the domain has chosen to keep the content from the site's 2010 archived pages as a historical record of this movement.

The Network of International Farm Communities for Autism chronicles progress that has been made since the creation of Somerset Court in England, in 1974. You can scan the charts that provide contact information, and those that present comparative data. You can connect to individual site descriptions or hyperlink to web sites of specific communities to see how this model has evolved. Many programs have fared well and continue to grow and expand; some have just begun to emerge. Sadly a few have never been able to start, even after years of planning, while one significant program has closed. New efforts are in various stages of development in several countries.


The current website for Somerset Court, the first specialist centre for autistic people in the UK where adults with autism have the opportunity to lead fulfilling and increasingly independent lives in a beautiful environment is found at:

The current website for Safe Haven Farms, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a variety of meaningful living, working, learning and leisure activities in a safe and accepting farm environment for those with autism,is found at:


These pages, with information gathered from programs new and old, clarify those issues that determine success and those that present significant challenges. Shared understanding and cooperative exploration avoid some of the pitfalls of setting up and running such communities. Hopefully, collected knowledge and mutual problem solving will benefit new programs as they evolve.

For instance we had problems with one of the members of one of our farmstead communities for adults with autism who was a savant when it came to playing poker. Much to their concern saff members found that he loved to play poker at a number of different american online casinos sites. He had seven different accounts at seven online casino sites where he was racking up some pretty big wins. His favorite online poker games were Texas Hold'em Bonus Poker, Caribbean Draw Poker, and Caribbean Stud Poker. There was concern about the money he was making at the vaious online casino sites. It turns out he didn't care about the money and never attempted to withdraw any of it. He just liked to play. Staff members were at their wits end until they found what they felt was the perfect solution- playing at the online poker sites that were "alternatives" to the real money poker sites. Fortunately the poker wiz was just as happy playing at these types of sites as at the real money sites. However, every now and then poker man would enter a real money tournament where, of course he was very successful. Shh..we won't tell anyone.


Farmstead communities for adults with autism have been evolving in Europe and the United States since the early 1970's. Most were created through devoted and energetic leadership of parents and a "special " teacher. Most still flourish, with plans to expand residential and work options beyond the original site. The farmstead model is not a utopian vision. It blends a unique set of opportunities for living, working and socializing in rural settings with access to activities in neighboring towns and cities. Farm activities include meaningful tasks that require cooperation and interdependence. Skills can be taught and communication enhanced as staff and residents work and play side-by-side.



As described in the book European Farm Communities for Autism (Giddan & Giddan, 1993, Medical College of Ohio Press), Characteristics of these farmsteads include the following:

  • Rural settings
  • Natural contexts for residential, vocational and recreational experiences
  • Interdependence between residents and staff
  • Structure, order and behavioral principles applied
  • Focus on communication
  • On-going staff training
  • Involvement with the larger community beyond the site
  • Continued family support


  • Rural settings
  • Origins with regard to timing and needs
  • Parental involvement
  • "Special" teacher
  • Government funding
  • Range of abilities among the residents selected


  • Size of the community
  • Staff training methods and procedures
  • Styles of individualized programming for residents
  • Expectations for the residents
  • Type and extent of record keeping


  • Leadership transitions
  • Long-term financial security
  • Public relations
  • Staff retention
  • Behavior management
  • Satellite settings
  • Program expansion


Web Sites:

Autism Europe:

The Autism Research Unit, University of Sunderland. Sunderland, United Kingdom:

Autism Resources:

Autism Society of America:

National Alliance for Autism Research:

National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism

Network of International Farm Communities for Autism list serv

World Autism Organization (WAO):

Autism Forum of Northwest Ohio list serv and discussion forum


Adults with Autism: Habilitation Challenges and Practices

Jane J. Giddan (Medical College of Ohio) & Victoria L. Obee (Bittersweet Farms)
Journal of Rehabilitation Jan/Feb/Mar 1996 pp. 72-76

Bremen Project Meyerwiede Farm

Hermann Cordes
Chapter in Föderung Autistischer Kinder. Bremer Projet. 2000.
Translated by Burley Channer

Our children are Becoming Adults - The Idea of Farms for Autistic Persons

Alina Perzanowska
Autistic Child 1997, v. 23-30
Translated by Stefania Frank