“I’ve had a garden every year since I’ve been an adult,” Kevin Hillman says. “My largest garden at home was 1,000 square feet.” After high school in Fremont, California, Hillman worked in steel fabrication for 24 years. He came to Oregon in 1978, found work at a machine shop in Springfield and lived in Cottage Grove. In 1985, he moved to rural Lane County outside Marcola. He left the machine shop in 1996 to work for the Springfield School District. He drove a school bus for a year then became a vocational assistant in the metal shop at Thurston High School. He got into special education three years later, doing vocational consulting and referrals with social service agencies. In 2009, with help from area farmers and nurserymen, Hillman opened the Transition Garden Project (TGP) on a 5-acre parcel in north Springfield, also home to FOOD for Lane County’s Youth Farm. “We have 2,400 square feet in two greenhouses and one acre of in-ground production,” he says. “We serve about 35 students. Most are special ed kids.” A wide variety of veggies is grown at the TGP, and they’re sold at the year-round farmers market Sprout!, held from 3 to 7 pm every Friday at 418 A St. in Springfield. Proceeds provide paid summer jobs at the garden for 13 students. “This farm teaches skills for employment,” Hillman says. “Students learn to show up on time, follow directions and work in a team. I work my ass off, but it’s all fun. The kids benefit from real life experiences.” Learn the latest on the TGP Facebook page.