'Smile Farms' in Moriches staffed by adults with developmental disabilities, plans for more across country

MORICHES, N.Y. (WABC) -- The motto here is they're not just growing plants, they're growing people.

It's called Smile Farms in Moriches on Long Island.

It's staffed entirely by adults with developmental disabilities.

"I like to work with customers and I like to be friendly," said Alex Berchin, a Center Moriches resident.

Behind the effort is Jim McCann, you may know him as the CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS which is based on Long Island.

His younger brother Kevin has developmental disabilities.

"I come here. I plan my day and I do greenhouse work," said Kevin McCann, an Eastport resident.

"When you think about the fact that 80% of the people with development disabilities are unemployed in this country, that's sad," Jim said. "I'd like to knock that 80% number down a whole lot."

The employees, a rotating group of 35 of them, come from Independent Group Home Living on Long Island.

"They work together, they socialize together, they interact together, and they have successes. They see these plants as a success in their life," said Walter Stockton, of Independent Group Home Living.

They get paid a fair hourly wage.

"How does it feel to have a paycheck at the end of the week?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Really good," an employee said.

"You have to buy furniture and pay bills," another worker said.

Smile Farms isn't stopping there. Their next plan is to open up another one of these on the North Fork and then across the country.

"Detroit, Medford, Oregon, California, really anywhere there's a strong source of people to rally around the cause," said Claire Stapleton, of Smile Farms.

"Now we're getting calls from people all throughout the country mostly from relationships, friends, who are saying, 'Hey can you help us do that?" Jim said.
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.