4 Directions Farm gives people with disabilities a chance to interact with animals and work on a farm. File photo

News

County supes back area farm

By From page A1 | June 14, 2017

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed with planning commissioners in supporting 4 Directions Farm near Latrobe. Some neighbors of the nearly 60-acre parcel had appealed the Planning Commission’s April approval of a conditional use permit for the property.

Citing increased traffic concerns and narrowness of access roads, Thomas R. Schultz, representing other residents Willis Nelson, James Peroutka Jr. and Mark Wynne, told the board, “Improvements to Brandon Road would be necessary before development.” He also noted asbestos might be another issue of concern.

Overall, support for the project far outweighed opposition among the several dozen audience members at the June 6 board meeting. Most of the half-dozen speakers noted they are parents of children with special needs who already have or would benefit significantly from programs such as those offered by 4 Directions Farm.

The farm’s website describes 4 Directions Farm as a “nonprofit vocational farm for individuals with special needs. Our program is designed to provide an educational opportunity for special education students by infusing common core standards with agricultural and horticultural education as well as artisan practices.”

Planned for as many as 50 students and 20 staff, the classroom is the farm and the farm is the classroom. The school’s philosophy suggests that its students, “children and young adults with disabilities,” may not be best served in traditional school settings which may even be “counterproductive” to their educational development. Repetitive and unrewarding tasks within regular school programs may leave these students “finding themselves without purpose,” the website explains.

“Through our program, these individuals are able to participate in meaningful work that instills them with a sense of value. 4 Directions Farm was founded under the principle that everyone deserves the chance to find direction in life,” the site continues.

Community Development Agency documents further describe the scope of the project, “which includes a demonstration farm and the construction of five single-story structures (a market training building, an open gazebo, a general training building, a caretaker residence and a greenhouse) to be constructed in three phases.”

The documents add, “Agricultural activities will include the cultivation of lavender and flowers/herbs (Phase 1); pumpkins (Phase 2); Christmas trees (Phases 2 and 3); and vegetables and the grazing and raising of alpacas (Phase 3).”

While most of the agricultural produce will be taken to retailers in the region, small amounts will be sold on-site between normal hours of operation on weekdays. It will be open to the public during special seasons for Christmas trees and pumpkins, the documents note.

“The site is currently served by a private well and proposes the construction of a new septic system. No tree removal is proposed; however, minor tree trimming will occur. The proposed project will disturb 3 of the 56.8-acre site.”

The Planning Commission and staff included 57 items on the conditional use permit and advised that applicants Cindy Keller and Starranne Meyers have agreed to the conditions of approval.

Chris Daley

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