Love Grows Here

Welcome to Our Farmstead

Rooted in nature’s ability to nourish and regenerate, Alora Farm is a farmstead wellness haven for autist teens and adults to live and work as part of a thriving community. Through purposeful participation, the farm fosters a safe environment for self-discovery, learning and personal development by teaching vocational, artistic and life skills that can be applied on and off the farm.

Every individual plays an integral role in maintaining the welfare of the farm, from tending and harvesting crops to the care and raising of livestock, as they nourish themselves and the planet.

An innovative and soulful alternative to the current day activity center and group home, Alora Farm is a model for sustainable and dignified living and employment for autists, enriching their lives with love, acceptance and the healing powers of Mother Earth.

Yvette portrait

Yvette Bonilla, Founder & CEO, Alora Farm

Hi! I am Yvette. As the mother of an incredible autistic son, the concept for Alora Farm came to me when I thought about his future and what his life would look like after I was gone. Like other parents and caregivers of autists, we want to ensure our loved ones are safe, cared for and loved – and that they have an opportunity to fulfill their own sense of purpose.

Alora began as an idea to alleviate the loneliness that affects autist community members. An alternative to today’s group home, Alora is built on a self-sustaining model that leads to autonomy when it is time to live away from loved ones or caretakers.

Alora wishes to be a place for autists’ voices to be heard and their needs to be met, to gently support their process of unmasking and, subsequently, self-identifying. When they are ready, we provide access to the opportunities they’ll require to continue their growth.

This initiative is my life’s devotion, however, Alora is not about me. Alora Farms is completely about autists, for autists. We aim to have a future Board of Directors that is more than 51% autist-led and intersectionality diverse. My vision is that Alora will integrate into local communities, run autonomously, and will provide a safe haven in which every person and sentient being feels safe enough to support one another to live consciously.

I live on a small Texas Hill Country homestead (complete with a chicken farm!) with my husband and son (both named Keith*), two dogs and three barn cats. I love to spend my days gardening, dancing, taking webinars and educating myself about multiple subjects to build Alora. My interests are vast and include music, art, quantum physics, philosophy, psychology and esoteric studies. I am eager to take my background in finance, client and team relationship building & management into the world of Social Impact Entrepreneurship as the Founder of Alora Farm.

*Keith (my son) has given his consent for me to give you his ASD and just recently ADHD* diagnoses.
-Yvette Bonilla-Leach
@alora_fd

Nurturing Our Natural Ways of Being

We believe everyone deserves to live with a sense of purpose and fulfillment in an environment that feels like home to their soul. At Alora, we’re building a sanctuary where enrichment comes from fostering our talents and skills and giving back to the world.

Through meaningful activities that both heal the earth and ourselves, and provide for the community in which we live and thrive, we nurture a deep sense of peace and purpose. Surrounded by the serenity of the Texas wilderness, the natural rhythms and therapeutic powers of nature are integrated into daily life on the farm and create a low-stimulation environment where our stewards can emerge, flow and thrive.

Regenerative Farming

Regenerative farming is a system of principles and practices that serve to rehabilitate and enhance the ecosystem by restoring soil health using climate-smart methods. Alora Farms will use this method to support the vision of improving the land and its valuable resources. We are dedicated to instilling a sense of purpose for our Stewards. Helping fight the climate crisis is a wonderful way to do work that is fulfilling and changes the planet for the better.

CREATING COMMUNITY

Living in community offers a path to vitality and autonomy. We understand that many autists feel the trauma of being micromanaged their entire life and desire living in an environment that is built with their needs in mind. Alora is a low-stimulation, low-pressure environment. We’re creating a community that is built for you.

Our Stewards’ needs are taken into account in every single way. From job and life skills training, employment opportunities, wellness and creative expression, we’re building a community for individuals who live on our land, as well as a welcoming community for individuals from other residential environments. Here, our community members are invited to live an expansive, fulfilled life. At Alora, every member is accepted and celebrated exactly as they are.

Flower graphic that says 'Your Home in the Country'

Alora is based entirely around you – where your needs are met and you are fully seen.

All autist teens and adults are welcome at the farm, either for residency or for daytime activities and work. Free from the micro-management, over-stimulation and pressures of life in today’s society, the farm is a place that fosters the discovery of every Steward and the gifts they have to share with the world. A sanctuary where full human potential is nurtured through meaningful work, personalized living, a healthy habitat and genuine relationships, this community is for us.

Are You Looking to Feel Understood?

It’s difficult to feel heard and seen in a world that doesn’t fully understand the inner world of an autist. We get it. The purpose of Alora Farms is to help neurodivergent individuals intuitively develop and consciously connect to personal development – in a way that makes sense and is comfortable. Here, each member can socialize as much (or as little) as they prefer, in an environment that is built to meet their specific needs. At Alora Farms, rest assured that your loved one is in a safe place, is wanted and belongs.

Do You Care About A Neurodivergent Person?

As a family member of a loved one with an autistic mind, you might feel anxiety when you consider the future of your loved one after you are gone. You know how important it is for them to be surrounded by like-minded spirits and friends, and to live in a community that not only understands them, but cares about them too.

At Alora, we understand the challenges that autists feel in ‘masking’ themselves. Masking, the tendency to suppress a natural response in favor of alternatives that are perceived as more socially acceptable, encompasses a range of behaviors. These might include making eye contact despite feeling uncomfortable doing so, limiting body movements even if they are self-regulating, or avoiding certain discussions for fear of judgment. Often, these traits are seen as symptoms to be “cured” rather than understood or accepted.

For many autists, these masking behaviors oftentimes reinforce a disjointed identity, making it difficult to express their authentic selves. We are sensitive to the needs of every individual, and we are committed to creating and maintaining an environment that is supportive. Here, acceptance, understanding and meeting one’s own needs and regulation is consistently woven into our every day.

Alora Farms provides a safe environment for them to be exactly who they are, while cultivating real life skills that will help them feel a sense of connection and purpose.

Why Alora?

Alora is the future of alternative therapy and the traditional group home model. Our community addresses the common feelings of loneliness, isolation and dissociation felt by many autists.

Alora provides family members with reassurance that their loved one will live and participate in an environment that is safe, comfortable and instills a sense of connection and purpose.

Alora Farms was created to gently support autists’ process of unmasking and, subsequently, self-identifying, in a way that feels comfortable, safe and filled with ease. At a pace that works for them, the Alora community is there every step of the way to provide them with opportunities that will help them grow. We provide a path to vitality where each individual is an active participant in their own life and rewarded with a space in which they can authentically express themselves.

Here, inclusion is everything. We encourage fostering healthy relationships and ensuring every individual feels a sense of belonging and freedom of expression. By alleviating loneliness and providing the opportunity to give back to the world in a meaningful way, we aim to change the way autists engage with the world around them.

Testimonials

“Autistic masking has negative effects on mental health. It is exhausting and can cause meltdowns, anxiety, and depression. Autistic people who mask can feel that they are lying to others, which affects their self-esteem. They can also feel that their friendships and relationships are fake because they cover up who they truly are in order to be accepted by other people. This results in feeling isolated and lonely. When an autistic person stops masking, it is a challenging and scary process because many don’t even know who they are and how they will feel and behave without masking. There is a lot of research showing the benefits of nature on mental health and healing. Being in a supportive environment, in an understanding community, with opportunities to be outside and enjoy nature seems to be a perfect setting for dealing with the effects of masking, and for healing work.”
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Yulika Forman, PhD, LMHC
"People want and need to be authentic. Being forced to be someone you're not is soul-crushing because it sends a resounding message that who you are, naturally, isn't good enough, so you need to change. Unfortunately, we see this a lot with NeuroDivergent children and adults. Society is sending a message that NeuroDivergent people need to change and "be more normal" or to "blend in" and "be less of an inconvenience" to those around them. This harmful messaging creates a narrative that the NeuroDivergent person is "unacceptable" in society and must adapt themselves to "fit into" society, instead of asking society and its systems to flex and accommodate the person."
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Christa Holmans (NeuroDivergent Rebel), NeuroDivergent NeuroDiversty Consultant
“I’ve masked my whole life, far before I knew I was autistic, the toll it took was me in my late 40’s trying to figure out who I actually am, I’m happy my kids are seeing the real me. I believe that understanding and acceptance helps with masking recovery and prevent the next generation of autists from having to mask in the first place.”
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Jon Russell
“Masking, for me, feels like a fish being plucked out of water. It’s suffocating and I’m unable to freely breathe. Immersing myself in nature through gardening, hiking, and just being outdoors is like returning to the water. There I find a quiet warmth where I can release the burden and anxiety that weighs on my shoulders from wearing the mask that permits me to navigate a world not quite meant for me.”
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Mari Cerda BCBA, LBA
“Unmasking is like coming home to yourself after feeling like you are never welcome or at home wherever you go. It can be a long term journey, with some struggles and detours along the way. And that is okay. Understanding and accepting yourself will be worth it in the end.”
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Johanita Kirsten
“In my experience, nature helps to settle the unquiet mind. There is no criticism. No spoken language interfering with the input of sensation. And even amidst the sound of wind blown leaves, crickets, the hum of locusts, the occasional sounds of animals nearby, that ambiance is not separate from the beating of your own heart. The motion of life. True quiet. In nature, you are able to fully listen to the subtleties around you and inside you. Your inner voice. You can confront yourself and your thoughts. It becomes easier to hear yourself.”
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K. Day
Nature demands no mask; instead, nature offers us the space and stimuli to bask-in the behaviors which come to us naturally. It is a safe space for idea, creation and being. Nature creates connection and gives unconditional acceptance with no expectation. Here is where our true selves may exist, grow & create hand-in-hand with the true Earth... breathing, tasting, smelling, hearing, feeling, doing... a part of it all.
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Marc Bardon
To be in nature To unmask naturally and create naturally To create in nature To feel sun on the skin To listen to the leaves To smell grass under our feet To see the open and taste the freedom To be in nature naturally
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Marc Bardon

Sustainable Living that Heals & Grows

A safe and modern farming and wellness center tucked into the beautiful Texas Hill Country, Alora is a place for autists to discover themselves and the world around them. A welcome substitute for the current group home and daytime activity models, we’ve built a holistic and sustainable rural sanctuary with the vision of fostering a sense of purpose for all who call it home. Through farming, harvesting, art and life skills courses, our model includes a robust variety of programs to serve each individual’s passions and needs, and inspires personal development and breakthroughs. By providing jobs to every farm steward, we also help resolve unemployment and underemployment among the autist community.

Our ProGrams

Our programs emphasize responsible farming and the use of green energy and sustainable practices in order to nurture the land our farm community lives and relies upon. At Alora, we honor every individual's desire and right to sovereignty, and always advocate for autonomy over their body and decisions.

Petting a goat

Land & Animal Stewardship

Connection to the natural wonders of the world is incredibly healing. Alora Farms is a place for our stewards to work together with their neurotypical peers to heal our earth and develop their own sense of skill and purpose. Strolling through pollinator-friendly gardens, learning about herbalism and harvesting nutrient-dense foods with our local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program are just a few ways to cultivate a deeper connection to the land. Raising and nurturing the farm’s livestock provides stewards with the healing powers and therapeutic touch of animals.

Gardening

Work & Learning Programs

We advocate for the lifelong success and autonomy of our stewards. Through purposeful training, we guide our stewards through the development of skills – in a low-stimulation, low-pressure, non-productivity focused environment – that are applicable both on and off the farm.

Working with clay

Healing & Holistic Wellness

Alora is dedicated to hosting wellness and art activities to support the healing journeys of our stewards. Ranging from music to goat yoga to ceramics, art and social events, we provide opportunities for our stewards to connect, expand, create and express themselves.

LIVING (PHASE 2)

Alora is a holistic, sustainable approach to living. In a safe, comfortable environment, surrounded by the peacefulness of nature and a community that sees and understands autists, the opportunity to blossom becomes reality. Our residences will be planned as micro-communities that share a permaculture garden and operate efficiently using green energy. Here, life is filled with vitality, color, music, art and nature. Our residents will live in tiny homes to call their own, fostering a sense of independence, support and community. Events, programs, work, classes and activities are curated daily to develop a strong sense of togetherness for all stewards. Partnership and teamwork are essential values that the success and longevity of our farm and community rely upon. It’s from this place of stability that our community can thrive by caring for the animals, the land and their fellow stewards. Alora approaches healing and living cyclically, tapping into the natural rhythms of humans and community, bringing awareness to our role in the world around us.

How You Can Help

We have created a strong foundation for Alora Farms and we need your help to make this dream a reality! We are looking to secure a minimum of 50 acres so that we will have ample space to build and continue to expand our facilities to accommodate our growing community. We envision the next 5 years as a period of growth on the land; our goal is to have 15 tiny homes with 30 individuals living at Alora by 2025.Alora Farms has met all local legal requirements. We are 501(c)(3) approved and your donation can be tax-deductible. Any donation, both large and small, will help us bring this vision to life. Please support our mission and become a part of this supportive community in helping autists live meaningful and fulfilling lives. Your support will help us provide scholarships so that Alora’s services will be available to anyone regardless of their financial status. Every dollar counts!If you’d like to learn more about us, please sign up to receive updates.

Bring Alora Farms to Life

Alora farm board

We are fortunate to have a dedicated and accomplished advisory board with a wide range of expertise, and we’re continuously seeking individuals who will help shape the future of Alora Farms. To support the vision and mission of our organization, we believe it’s important that neurodiversity is represented on our board.

Every day, we’re contacted by good people and are touched by the interest, hard work and enthusiasm from individuals who are interested in lending their expertise, skills, money and support to help Alora Farms come to life. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about joining our Dream Team.

Board Members

Lisa Furrow-Leiva, Treasurer

Lisa Furrow-Leiva, Treasurer

(She/Her)

Lisa serves as Alora Farm’s Treasurer, bringing many years of experience in Medical Office Management and Coding, Team Management and Accounting. Expressing her creativity in a variety of hobbies is deeply important to her and she advocates for creative therapy in the autist community. She shares, “I don't have any 'skin in the game' per se since I don't have a neurodivergent child. Since getting to know my godson who has an autistic mind, I see the importance of a place where autists feel no pressure. There are plenty of vocational therapies, now how about a place to chill and do creative therapy?”

Lisa is a fierce advocate and is committed to creating the change that is needed for neurotypical folks to understand and accept the neurodivergent community.

She enjoys life in the Florida sunshine with her husband, three dogs and parrot.

Michelle Bossert, Secretary

Michelle Bossert, Secretary

(She/Her) // IG @Michelle.Bossert

Michelle serves as the Board’s Secretary, bringing 29 years of experience in healthcare as a Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM) and in Medical Clinic Management. Michelle has a tender passion for working with children and adolescents with both high & low support needs, is a substitute teacher for SPED and runs an office of speech and occupational therapists for children. Highly detail-oriented and business savvy, Michelle (who says she may be undiagnosed ADD), has been pivotal in bringing the abstract idea of Alora to reality.

“I love all of nature and wildlife. It is therapeutic for me”, says Michelle. “I’m so busy at work, when I come home I just want to sit on my swing and watch the birds at the feeder and deer grazing grass, while my dog is on my lap. It all helps me to relax and center after a long hectic day and week in the city.”

Michelle lives in rural Fredricksburg with her husband and their teen daughter, two dogs and a rescue cat. She has an adult son who lives in Austin.

She is deeply dedicated to serving autists’ best interests. “My only hope and wish is to make a difference”.

Kathleen Day, Director

Kathleen Day, Director

(she/her) // IG @kathleen.day.official // @imaginarium.wonder.emporium

As Alora Farm’s Director, Kathleen brings a variety of experience from professions across diverse industries: businesswoman, professional model, actress and multidisciplinary artist. She also serves on the board of The Courier, a nonprofit organization for creatives.

As a neurodivergent (autist/ADD) person, she has chosen to lend her expertise and voice to Alora’s vision and mission. Kathleen lives in San Antonio, raising an autist artist son, Aiden, with her husband, Joe. Kathleen and Aiden, together and individually have their work published around the globe and continue to see daily success.

Alora has been created for the autistic mind, so it is an absolute honor to have Kathleen serve on the board.

Advisory Board

Mari Cerda, BCBA, LBA

Mari Cerda, BCBA, LBA

@the.bilingual.bcba

Mari-Luci Cerda is an Indigenous-Mestiza, late-diagnosed Autist, wife and mother of three children. She has worked primarily in the public education setting, educating both students and staff on how to support autonomy and values-driven skills for neurodiverse and disabled individuals.

Mari is passionate about transforming the behavioral fields currently serving individuals with disabilities. Her approach and belief is that systemic change and true reform (even abolition) comes by working within. Through her Indigenous cultural lens, Mari’s work has been influenced by a collective perspective, where community support and education is equally important in supporting neurodiverse and disabled community members while also encouraging development of autonomy.

Mari believes in helping connect individuals to a life that they value, moving beyond just simple behaviors, and helping to guide individuals on their determined path. Her goal is to positively and peacefully disrupt neurotypical practitioner norms, actively working toward a humane and neurodiversity-affirming system of support that other therapists and coaches of all disciplines will adopt. She is also working to address intersectionality within the Autistic and neurotypical professional communities, recognizing that neither is a monolith.

Her values drive her to teach what she loves rather than fight what she hates, and she chooses to focus her energy and efforts on educating neurotypical practitioners how to shift from a ‘fix-it’ mentality, to an ‘honor, embrace, and support’ approach.

Volunteer

Donations are vital to the future of this project, as are in-kind donations and volunteerism. We are a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit organization. We invite business owners, artists, professionals, graphic artists and social media content creators to contact us. Please reach out if you have experience with the following:

  • autism advocacy
  • regenerative agriculture and planning
  • animals and livestock
  • community planning
  • engineering
  • grand-writing and fundraising
  • wellness (ie., art therapy, sound therapy, yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, drumming)

Sponsorships & Partnerships

Our community is growing and we’re looking to build partnerships within the Austin community and beyond. If you’re a local business and would like to host a fundraising event on behalf of Alora Farms, please contact us!

Email Us to Get Involved