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Trabia Farms opens sensory garden, exploratorium 

Atypical Garden

North County special education students, along with their parents, teachers and friends, gather with Trabia Farms owner Ben Polando at Atypical Place’s earth day event on April 19. Photo by Heather Young

Atypical Place: an exceptional space for exceptional people

A volunteer from Glean SLO helps a student put in a pumpkin plant in the rainbow garden at Atypical Place in Paso Robles. Photo by Heather Young

A volunteer from Glean SLO helps a student put in a pumpkin plant in the rainbow garden at Atypical Place in Paso Robles. Photo by Heather Young

After spending many years working with people with cognitive disabilities, and running successful businesses in the Bay Area, Ben Polando started Trabia Farms, an olive farm, west of Paso Robles. Polando unveiled part of Atypical Place, a sensory garden and exploratorium targeted to those with autism or cognitive disabilities, on April 19. All proceeds from Trabia Farms goes to Atypical Place, a nonprofit, Polando said.

“We wanted to make the exploratorium a geo-history of the area,” said Polando, whose life partner, Liz Burton, has a PhD in geology.

“The idea of the exploratorium is learn, play, sensory development,” Burton added.

Atypical Place provides farm-based developmental programs both indoor and outdoor. The farm’s animals, gardens and orchards will provide interactive experiences, as well as toxin-free products. The exploratorium will be further along on Saturday, May 9 when “Redwood Kings,” an Animal Planet show featuring Daniels Wood Land of Paso Robles, shoots an episode on the farm.

The exploratorium includes a Tuscan-style playhouse that is accessible to children with physical disabilities, including those in wheelchairs; an Italian-style arch; Columnar Basalts; and a whale wall that will include a whale skeleton that looks like it’s part of a dig. The excavation site and Columnar Basalts will be installed when Daniels Wood Land films for “Redwood Kings” in May.

Ben Polando stands in the Tuscan-style play house that will accomodate chldren with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs. Photo by Heather Young

Ben Polando stands in the Tuscan-style play house that will accommodate children with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs. Photo by Heather Young

“It’s an exceptional place for exceptional people,” Polando said.

The garden includes a gazebo, grassy area, picnic tables and a rainbow garden. The harvests from the garden have gone to Glean SLO, which is part of the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, and to the families that visit the farm. Atypical Place entertain special education classes from Atascadero, Templeton and Paso Robles. In October 2014, Trabia Farms hosted its first October Fest, where students from those classes came out and more than 280 pumpkins were harvested.

At the earth day celebration on Saturday, students brought out pumpkin plants they had planted in class. They used seeds from last year’s pumpkins and were given the chance to put those plants in the grown for harvest in October. The rainbow garden has been producing produce for the last year. While it has so far been planted and maintained by Trabia Farms and Glean SLO volunteers, Polando envisions the students being part of the process from seed to table.

Polando said the farm will also offer equestrian therapy for those with cognitive disabilities, but that the therapy could also extend to all people. That therapy will be under the direction of Hans van Randwijk and Janine Asante.

“Bringing people together” is what Polando said Atypical Place is about.

For more on Trabia Farms and Atypical Place, go to www.trabiafarmsinc.com.

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