MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A garden in Maryville is providing job opportunities for disabled young adults in Blount County. 

“We try to meet them where their expertise is, where their skills are strongest, and provide an opportunity for them to be extremely successful,” said Kent Davis.

Special Growers is a labor of love for Executive Director Kent Davis. The nonprofit began in 2010 when his son, Brad, aged out of school. Davis and other parents with special needs children decided to create a job training program that would help students leaving school enter the workforce.

“We just have to understand some of their areas of challenge, but we can overcome those things. This is an environment where I feel like we are proving that to happen,” said Davis. 

Special Growers employs 30 disabled staff members, a few managers, and at least a dozen volunteers. They spend time harvesting herbs, arranging bouquets, and maintaining flower beds. 

“It’s fun to watch the kids individually grow in their harvesting abilities. We might start off with something that’s a little less challenging and then we work our way up to microgreens,” said Sarah Delpy, the garden manager. 

Team members cut, package, and deliver fresh herbs to local restaurants in Maryville and Knoxville. 

“It’s a true garden-to-table process and we are proud of the fact that we turn things around in a 2-to-3-hour period from the time that we start on the order,” said Davis. 

Special Growers is also proud of its growing monthly flower club. Subscribers have a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers delivered every Thursday afternoon to their doorstep. 

Kelton Bloxham, a Bonner Scholar at Maryville College and Special Growers advocate, secured a grant through the University of Tennessee Haslam School of Business to buy a floral cooler. 

“It helps our staff have more hands-on experience with the flowers because they stay a lot longer,” said Bloxham. 

Special Growers’ inclusive work environment is a safe space where disabled staff members can gain job skills, confidence, independence, and a resume. 

“They are very dedicated, they are very focused on their work, they come with a smile on their face, they are very happy and productive individuals and so I would like for everyone to understand there’s more opportunities for them in the work environment, we just have to include them,” said Davis. 

Special Growers also offers a school work study. They partner with the four local high schools to provide a workday in the greenhouse for students in special education classes. 

Visit to learn more about volunteer opportunities or potential employment.