CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Raimee Sorensen, 24, is not letting his diagnosis with autism and epilepsy define him.
He works as a full-time farmer at Blawesome Farm in Chapel Hill, which he co-founded with his mother, Rebecca Sorensen.
Rebecca Sorensen opened the farm after Raimee's school shut down in 2015.
"One of the things that is really important to me as a social worker and a mom to Raimee, was finding something that he was really good at, but that would showcase his skillsets, that he could be a representative of folks with autism to the community," Rebecca Sorensen says.
Raimee Sorensen operates the farm with Social Care Farmer Lauren Blythe. The two have been working together for four years.
"I've taught Ray (Raimee), every flower is different, every stage of harvest is different, every way to plant stuff can be a little different, spacing is different, and over the years, I don't need to go and re-teach him that, he learns it, he remembers it, and he does a really great job at it," Blythe says.
The social care farm uses farming as a therapeutic way to engage in purposeful work, demonstrate understanding, and establish connections and foster growth.
“The message we are trying to share with the community is just because someone has a disability it doesn’t mean they don’t have something beautiful to contribute to the world, and it also gives Raimee a chance to recognize his value as a human being and his potential and that he has something meaningful and beautiful to give," Rebecca Sorensen says.
Raimee Sorensen lives on the farm with his caregiver. The goal is to eventually have another person on the spectrum move in with him, and together they can lead a more independent life and work on the farm.
"Every morning, I go down to Ray's house, and we write a schedule, and then we do a mediation, and then we do some breathing exercise, and we come up here. We’ll first check the germination room, move over to the green house, water the plants there and the plants that are outside, and then ray usually gets flower buckets ready,” Blythe says.
Rebecca Sorensen says flowers are a bridge to friendship and communication, having this vehicle for Raimee takes something that would typically be very difficult and makes it easy.
"Just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean they can’t work really hard and be amazing at what they do with the right support," she says.
Blawesome Farm creates custom flower arrangements and also offers a signature bouquet, Good Karma Bouquet. For each one that is ordered, a second one is delivered to someone in the community who contributes toward building a more inclusive world.
The farm offers a variety of more than 75 varieties of flowers.
To nominate someone for a Good Karma Bouquet, visit its website.