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Purple Cat gardens flourish at Fair

September 22, 2011
By Kathleen Palumbo
Work hard. Be kind. Have fun. With this their mantra, the adults who make up the clientele of the Purple Cat enjoy every day to the fullest, finding pleasure in the simple things, and most recently, living off the land.

A day programming facility for adults with disabilities with a focus on teaching daily living skills and cultivating independence, Purple Cat has three locations, on Champion and Pearl Streets in Youngstown, and on the 52 acres that comprise Farmer Casey's Ranch on McCartney Road in Coitsville.

The vision of Jim Sutman, owner of ISLE and the Purple Cat, Farmer Casey's Ranch harbors no remaining signs of the former car showroom, as the ranch property has transformed into a working farm for the clients, amidst a haven of serenity complete with seven-acre lake, fishing dock, and an endless supply of Mother Nature's handiwork.

Both the Pearl Street and ranch locations are home to gardens that this year produced vegetables that earned numerous accolades at the Canfield Fair, where their awards included Best of Show First Time Exhibitor in a Commercial Division, and Best of Show Division II. The vegetable barn had more than 600 entries overall.

Incredulous over the success of their entries, "We competed against commercial farms," exclaimed Steve Horvat, staff member at the ranch.

Beginning with raised beds approximately four years ago, Horvat said they've added garden areas and increased planting a little bit at a time, planning to go a little bigger each year. With this year's harvest, "We're just kind of scratching the surface," he said.

Fortunately, the ranch has employee and seasoned grower Greg Boland on hand as well. With a history of gardening, and canning, Boland said he has had entries in the fair for many years, with his own personal entry of homemade pumpkin wine earning him an award this year.

Certainly not just for show, the lions share of the Purple Cat-grown crops are put to use for the facilities' healthy lunch program, the cooking for which takes place under the direction of Lynn Horvat, kitchen manager at the Pearl Street location, where client Rocco Romeo keeps a watchful eye on the garden and the commercial kitchen is used to prepare lunches for all three locations, as well as Purple Cat's renowned "Jalapeno Pepper Jelly."

With Boland sharing plans for a major addition to the gardens next year at the ranch property, there's no telling what the many hands at Purple Cat might propagate for the fair or the farm in 2012.

Always considering the ever-changing needs of his clients, with Farmer Casey's Ranch, Sutman has really raised the bar by providing the ranch as a facility venue.

Certain symmetry appears to exist between the growth fostered within the individuals who continue to benefit from the creative environments offered at the Purple Cat locations and that of the successful crops grown by those very individuals at locales Sutman once saw the endless potential in.

Article Photos

Photos by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Purple Cat staff members Steve Horvat and Greg Boland (far left and far right), congratulate Jerry Lyda, Rocco Romeo, David Filicky and Derek George on the successes of the entries into this year's Canfield Fair. They are amongst the numerous Purple Cat clientele who devoted much hard work at the gardens at Pearl Street and Farmer Casey's Ranch locations.



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