As part of the Fiscal Year 2022 federal budget and among a list of New Jersey community projects supported by U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Ramapo College of New Jersey will receive $455,000.
The funding will support a special environmental sustainability program that will create a vertical hydroponic farm and allow for the creation of jobs for young adults with autism, as well as a valuable learning experience for Ramapo College students.
“We are so grateful for this funding, which will provide valuable work experience for young people with autism as well as Ramapo students,” said Angela Cristini, professor of biology at Ramapo. “The vertical farm will help prepare the workforce for this growing industry in New Jersey.”
Ramapo College and the REED Foundation for Autism entered into a partnership that provides job training, volunteer opportunities and paid employment for adults with autism so that they can live a more independent, fulfilling life. The college will work with REED to incorporate existing courses for the certificate program, which will be open to both higher-functioning young adults with autism and currently enrolled Ramapo College students. Funding will also be used to pay up to 10 adults with autism to participate in paid job training in the farm.
Ramapo will use the funds to:
- Purchase and installation of repurposed shipping containers that have been converted into pods for vertical farming;
- First year’s operating costs (seed, growing medium, fertilizer, utilities and salary and fringe benefits for the farm manager); and
- Incorporate existing Ramapo College courses to create a certificate in environmental sustainability, and to pay up to 10 participants with autism who will work in the farm.
“The projects funded in the government spending bill will provide major benefits to communities across our state,” Booker (D-N.J.) said in a release. “I fought to ensure this funding was included and am grateful for the organizations, community leaders and elected officials who joined together to advance these vital initiatives. As these projects all across New Jersey move toward becoming a reality, I look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have on local and regional economies and the improvements they will bring to the quality of life for New Jersey residents.”