Aquaponics & Gardening
The ACRES Project uses aquaponics and gardening to produce sustainable, local food while providing horticultural therapy, employment opportunities, job skills training, and community integration for individuals with autism and other disabilities. Our greenhouse is overflowing with people, plants, and purpose!
Fish & Plants in Harmony
Our Farm Stand
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a highly efficient and sustainable method of indoor agriculture where fish and vegetables grow in tandem without the use of soil, artificial pesticides or fertilizers. Fish grow in tanks in a miniature closed-loop ecosystem. The waste produced by the fish fertilizes the plants, which in turn filter the water for the fish. This short video explains how it works:
Compared to conventional agriculture, aquaponics uses 90% less water to sustainably grow 5 to 20 times more food per acre, with zero pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or runoff. It's better than organic!
The efficient indoor system also reduces time to harvest by one-third and produces a steady supply of fresh, locally-grown produce year-round!
Adults with autism often have difficulty finding, keeping, and achieving success on the job. Impairments in social skills and organizational abilities leave many of these adults without employment, or working at jobs they cannot sustain. Acres Aquaponics provides individuals with an employment opportunity that fits.
The different skills and procedures required to operate an aquaponics system allow for many different job opportunities. Planting, data entry, fish care, chemistry, and sales are just a few of the job skills that can be developed through aquaponics. Our greenhouse program is an approved Vocational Training Program for Pennsylvania's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).
Caring for plants and fish and watching them grow is also therapeutic for neurodivergent individuals who struggle with anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health challenges. Our greenhouse is a quiet, rural environment where people can relax and be themselves. The ACRES Project is a member of the Care Farming Network, a nonprofit initiative advancing the therapeutic use of farming practices.
Outdoor Gardening, Farm Stand, & More
Aquaponics is not the only thing growing at ACRES! In 2023, we added an outdoor vegetable garden near the greenhouse to grow additional tomatoes, peppers, and other produce. We also restored a roadside farm stand, allowing entrepreneurs in our Acres Artisans program to sell their products and local produce from our front yard during the warmer months. Stop by to pick up local food and support a great cause!
Our gardens and greenhouse also host ACRES' popular Gardening and Growing group each summer. This daytime program gives high schoolers with disabilities the opportunity to connect with others through gardening, games, and creative activities.
Meet our diverse team making Acres Aquaponics possible!
What We Grow & Where to BuyAcres Aquaponics currently focuses on producing herbs, lettuces, and microgreens. As this program is still in the start-up phase, opportunities to buy limited amounts of our produce will be posted on our Facebook page as they arise.
Every purchase from Acres Aquaponics supports the program and those who benefit from it!
Steven Sidorick • Frank & Ann Peno • Adam & Heather Fernsler • Community Volunteers