HIGHLAND | The first crop of heirloom tomatoes grown by Planting Possibilities Inc. made their way into kitchens Saturday during the nonprofit group’s fundraising sale of mums at Sarkey’s Florist in Highland.
They won’t be the last varieties of tomatoes or other vegetables available for foodies to enjoy from the gardens of Planting Possibilities.
Founded in 2010 by Mark and Mary Anne Neiner, of Munster, Planting Possibilities has grown with the support of businesses and nonprofit organizations.
What the Neiners call "the grand plan" begins with building a commercial greenhouse to train and employ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome in Lake County.
The Neiner’s 23-year old son, Eric, has autism and has been the inspiration for the long-term project. Eric Neiner helped customers at the sale to pick out and load their purchases.
Tomatoes sold Saturday were grown outdoors in plots overseen by Planting Possibilities’ Mark Neiner and Brad Hemingway, one of the original board members of the organization.
“We have several lots down the street (from Sarkey’s Florist) and over by Taft School on U.S. 30 in Merrillville,” said Chris Eller Esparza, volunteer coordinator for Lake Area United Way, one of the partners.
Mary Anne Neiner said the heirloom tomatoes are also purchased by two area restaurants — Jelly Pancake House in Merrillville and The Cottage on Dixie in Homewood.
She also thanked Sarkey’s Florist for ordering the mums at its expense for the Planting Possibilities sale.
The first phase of the Planting Possibilities vision will be a reality soon, said Elena Dwyre, CEO of Campagna Academy.
One of Campagna Academy’s expanding services is working with children and teens with development disabilities, she said.
The two organizations are partnering to build a hoop greenhouse between the Hope Center and the Campagna Center on the academy’s Schererville campus. The structure will help extend the growing season.